Tuesday 5 October 2004

Chief Immigration Officer: A Person You Don't Think You'll Meet

The eagle has landed and has 9 minutes left on the 'internet zone's' computer to try to describe my last 24 hours.

Let me sum up.
I almost didn't get IN the (and I use this quite by design) bloody country.

STUPID Carol packed her papers. And shipped them to herself.
So when discussing "Why are you here in the UK" with the immigation officer lady in her headscarf, I ignorantly and wisconsinly told her the truth that "I am here to take part-time classes, but was rejected for a student visa." After all, that was true and it was 2 a.m. in my brain and body, after getting off the plane. I was bleery brained and slow. And convinced that getting in was no biggie.

Needless to say. that put me in a whole other category of scrutiny. I went to the "other" line -- the one where you wonder what those people DID!

I was questioned.
Mark was questioned. (from the other side of course.)
Why do you not have any paper work with you? ( my answer that I was dumb did not go over well.)
Why do you have so many bags, madam, if you are coming back in 5 months?
Why did you ship 5 boxes to yourself?
Why do you have some many things?
Why do the cards from your friends anf family say goodbye to you?
Why did you not come over on a fiancee visa if you are here to be with your boyfriend? (I am sure Mark liked answering THAT one)
What proof do you have that you are going to leave the UK?
What is a life coach?

I realise this all is starting to look bad. They searched all 6 of my bags. I was truly embarassed for all my clothes and the fact that I packed cotton balls.

I waited.

They asked more questions. When my officer told me she has to present this case to the Chief Immigration Officer. That is when I started to blubber. And perhaps when she started to feel sorry for the pitiful ignorant American girl.

So I waited with my bags and my soggy kleenex. They had my passpert, my cards, my little notebook from my purse. I was naked. Mark presumably on the other side of the vast wall of baggage and customs, pacing and getting anxious as the time ticked away.

My headscarf lady (I had coined her) appeared and motioned me forward with my bags. A good sign.

I was going to be granted entry. And the angels at my Coaches Institute convinced her that indeed I really did need a visa to work too.

I am in.
I have a WORKING visa. (a total bonus -- this is what I was rejected for!)
I am in shock.

I take my crap and hightail it outta there and cross the customs line. Mark is there at the end of the line. I ran into his arms and cried.

Feels like I earned the right to be here.

1 comment:

Kid Radar said...

Why does every international expedition turn into such a fiasco? You're not alone in trying to make sense of all the chaos. I tried to relate some of my limited international travel experience to make you feel like you're not the only one. But I think I was blowing smoke when I was talking about blogging. What the hell do I know? Write whatever you want, use names, don't use names, who the fuck cares, just say what you have to say. This comment is a little long, okay, its very long, but it might give you some insight on my view of the whole blogging experience, and how out of place I felt in my travels, and so relatively speaking, you shouldn't feel too out of place, just try not to be as bitter and petulant as me when you write about it....

"Dublin Airport looks pretty much the same. And I have to say I prefer Frankfort to Heathrow which was a bloody fucking mess. And the babies were pretty well behaved on the plane, but Jesus Christ, I sat in the smallest airplane seat I ever sat in, smaller even than those fucking turbo props from Pittsburgh to Hamilton. I could not move my fuckig elbows it was so fucking tight. And I was in the middle seat which I think was narrower than the fucking rest and I was in the last row of the airplane so the seat did not go back. I had to sleep with my hands in my crotch. How am I supposed to eat by the way? And its more fucking yogurt wouldn't you know. I'm certainly not fucking flying Luftshansa to Ireland again. The junket on Aer Lingus on St. Pats weekend was better. And the flight attendants were cuter. The coffee was fucking deadly though, especially after I only got two hours of sleep. The German rye bread was fucking atrocious though.

And on my right was a lady who was wearing a Toronto, Canada sweathshirt, and I was tempted to talk to her, but she was a fucking armrest hog, and in addition to the attributes of my Hungarian friend, Mr. Elbows, she made snorting noises just like Rita, which was fuckig annoying on its own because that's exactly what I am trying to get away from, and here is someone on the plane reminding me of someone who works two cubicles down from me.

And I had almost forgotten how fucking annoying Americans can be when they travel abroad. We're in customs at Dublin airport. The EU citizens line is finished early because it moves more quickly. So the Customs offical calls out, "Any American Passports?"

Nobody moves.

So she says it louder.

"Any American passports over here please."

There's a whole flood of people. One says, "Oh, and here we all are." One lady was pretty fucking miffed because she had been in the same line ten minutes earlier and she had been booted out of it because she wasn't an EU citizen. Them's the fucking brakes, eh bitch? And then she starts complaining that this wouldn't happen in America.

And you wonder why I didn't jump into that line? And you wonder why people hate Americans when they travel abroad?

Then she starts in about how even Wal-Mart is better than this, and that she should bring the Wal-Mart concept to Ireland!

Are you fucking mad?

Wal-Mart is exactly what's wrong with America, and now you want to fucking export the pox abroad?

You're a dumb [radiot edit].

I'm glad the customs official made you go to the end of the line. It should fucking humble you as these things go.

My customs official asked me how long I was going to be here and whom I was coming to see. She told me not to drink too much Guinness. I didn't do the snobby American thing and tell her I only drink Killkenny."