Monthly Archives: April 2013

You’re kidding, right?

Friday was a tough day. On top of worrying about the whereabouts of my passport, I have both of my parents calling in a flurry to ‘check in’. The calls have no concrete purpose aside from hoping desperately that I have decided to abandon my trip to Central Asia. Keep in mind that I am 38 years old and have backpacked on trips since 1996, usually alone, spending time in ‘random’ countries such as Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Armenia, and the Republic of Georgia. Why this trip seems different to them is beyond me. Believe me, the treatment is not new apart from my dad getting involved, but they should remember that none of the previous pleadings had any effect. Once the ticket is purchased, it’s official. I’m going. End of story.

Well… this time HAS been a bit different in that the Central Asian countries are particularly fickle when it comes to processing visas. Yes, more so than Syria, which had been branded as a member of the Axis of Evil months before I went. I had no problems receiving my visa in a timely fashion, nor did I have a problem when I showed up at a border needing a third entry. Good people, those Syrians. Seriously. That was 2002, however. God knows I wouldn’t go there now, if I could.

Come yesterday afternoon, usps.com still shows that my mail has not been scanned. So, after a couple of attempts, I am able to reach the same gentleman that I spoke with the day before. No. They don’t have my envelope. He assures me that it was put in the mailbox on Thursday and that the mail is picked up in the evening. Doubt sweeps over me. Did I remember to place the stamp on the envelope? Is it going to be sent back to the embassy? I conjure backup plans should this slow motion debacle become inevitable. A couple of deep breaths and I decide a better use of energy would be to get answers from the USPS. The most calming information was learning that even if the postage is left off, it would be scanned and tracked. After all of this triangulation, I decided that my passport was NOT picked up Thursday night and would be that night. All I had to do was wait anxiously and hope that there would be a scan of my passport before I went to bed. At about 10PM, it was finally in the system. I could sleep well, at last!

From what I could tell from the tracking information this morning, I HAD placed postage on it and it was coming to Dallas! I ran an errand early and made sure that I was around for the delivery. At about 10:30, I get a call from my mail carrier. “Hi! Is this Mark M…?” Yes, I reply. “Uh, we got an express mail here for you, but it shows that you put in for a change of address. Are you still there?” I remind him that the change of address begins Tuesday April 16th. “Close enough for government work, right?” I didn’t laugh. I made it clear that I WAS home and waiting for the delivery. He said he would deliver it soon, and he did. Hallelujah! I have never been so happy to get it back! The trip IS happening and a huge weight is off my shoulders. I haven’t felt this good in days. Even so, it’s scary to think that had that mail carrier not called, it would be on the way to my parents’. Whew! I pledge to never cut it this close again!

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You can never be too sure

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This is a picture of the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington DC. Who knew that it takes 3 business days to get from one part of the building to another? Let me explain.

Unable to trust that everything would be processed normally, despite paying an extortionate $240 to rush the processing of my visa, I was unable to reach anyone when I called Wednesday. For some reason, this didn’t bother me much. So, I sent an email to the consular section asking for assurance that my passport was being processed and would be in the mail no later than Friday. It’s now Thursday afternoon. The hours (3-5PM) in which the consulate will answer the phone are upon me, and I still haven’t heard a response. So, I decide to call again. To my utter surprise, a person picks up the phone. I steady my thoughts to ask about the status of my visa in my most professional and cheery demeanor. He asks my name, spelling it out. “I don’t see you in the system,” he says. He asks for the spelling of my name again. No dice. I offer the number of my passport to cross reference. Still, not in the system. I start to get that sickening feeling that only comes when you see a reckoning coming without time to avoid it. He then offers to look for my application and returns in less than a minute, declaring “We just got it today.” I explain to him that the embassy signed for it on Monday. He retorts, “Yes, but we are the Consular Section.” At this point, I know that reminding him that they are in the same building won’t help me. So, I tell him that all I want him to do now is put all of my application materials, including the money order, in the prepaid envelope and send it back. “You don’t want me to process your application?” I ask him whether he can promise to process it and send it back Friday. He can’t, of course. So, I remind him to just sent it back to me. He then assures me that he is sealing the envelope. As disappointing as that was, I am happy that I know my passport is on it’s way and I will have it on Friday (today). It just means I have to go through the waiting process again while on my adventure. Not cool.

Given how smoothly things have gone, I checked the tracking number well after the information would have been updated. It hasn’t been picked up. So, will it take another 3 business days to get out the door? With Friday being the Muslim holy day, I’m not sure that I will have a chance to talk to someone to make sure that it has been sent. So, today will be a nerve racking day periodically checking usps.com for updated information. If it isn’t sent today, I certainly can’t leave Monday and who knows how expensive changing my ticket will be. Fingers crossed, folks! You know what?! Send your positive energy or something else. I have proof finger crossing doesn’t work. 🙂

Waiting is the hardest part

You can’t take mistakes back. You can only fix them… well try to, anyhow. Sometimes you can do so yourself. Sometimes, you depend on others for help. This time, unfortunately, I had to depend on the USPS for the assistance.

When I stared at the kiosk screen to send my passport to the Embassy of Uzbekistan, I thought it couldn’t hurt to see if I would get lucky and have it delivered on Saturday. It wasn’t. Common sense would tell you that if you paid $20 to send something express, another attempt to deliver it would be done on Monday. I don’t know how else to tell the postal service that this envelope is really freaking important and must be delivered ASAP. However, when I checked the tracking and see that it wasn’t delivered, I am told that I must contact them to have it REdelivered. Well, actually, the embassy is supposed to do that. However, I felt confident that the kind Uzbeks that work in the embassy could care less about my travel plans or the urgency in which the visa is processed. So, I took it upon myself to insure that my passport be redelivered Monday morning. After some confusion on the other end of the phone, I believed I had successfully done so because I had a confirmation number written.

This morning, I woke up to find that the tracking information hadn’t been updated at all. I called the USPS again to see if they could tell me whether the envelope is on a truck to be delivered today or not. Rather than put me in touch with someone in DC, I am given a customer service rep here in Dallas. While Libby was extremely helpful and professional, she was unable to speak with someone in DC, either.

Why not just chill and let things develop on their own? Well, this is the same USPS that chose to ignore my request to waive my signature when my passport came back from the Embassy of Kazakhstan, causing me to stakeout my post office until 8PM waiting for my carrier to return so I could get my passport. That’s after I shortened my rock climbing session paranoid that Mr Willis would shutter the post office as soon as that last carrier returned for the night. In the end, they delivered it at 1PM, but not without much concern whether it would return to Dallas or just sit in the post office in DC. Yes, these are extreme measures, but even with them, it’s likely that I will get my passport the Monday (as in the 15th of April) I fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan. I really hope I get it Friday or Saturday, but I have to be realistic here. Government bureaucrats from Uzbekistan are processing my visa. Fingers crossed, folks!