Sooooooo, we’re not in India.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so bear with me as I take a rather circuitous route to the explanation.
September and October were rather busy months for us, travel-wise. For my birthday, we took a little trip down to Milan, Italy, because hey, we were nearish (actual reason: I wanted to try real Italian gelato and pizza. Yes, a separate blog post is forthcoming.)
We flew back to Berlin for about 3 days, and then we headed out again, this time to Berrien Springs Michigan, U.S.A. for about a week as Bjorn had a speaking engagement at his alma mater over the weekend. I was excited as this trip was my first to the Midwest and I had the chance to see some really related relatives (Filipinos understand) and snuffle some very cute kids. (Post is coming, blah blah blah.)
We returned to Berlin, Germany, but only for 2 days. Then we were off to merry old England.
V is for visa problems
Now before we left Berlin, it had come to our attention that we needed visas to get into India. Between my American passport arrogance and Bjorn’s smugness in his Swedish one, we had blithely assumed that we would either get a visa waiver like we had in
Bangkok and Berlin, or could just pay a fee at the airport, like we did in Buenos Aires.
Nope. Turns out if you don’t have a visa, you can get deported. Some people said they were sure we could probably bribe our way through the airport. However, as we didn’t know the language or anyone there, I didn’t want to take the risk, especially after reading about the Indian prisons in “Shantaram,” which some well-meaning friends had loaned to me. And you know, all that stuff about bribing being illegal and immoral.
Instead of an hours-long layover in London, we decided to stick around and try to get our visas in England. Unfortunately, we lost the last leg of our round-the-world ticket as British Airways couldn’t seem to comprehend that we wanted to leave later, nor would they give us any credit for the flights we didn’t use (why British Airways, why??)
It was Oct. 2. We set about the task of getting our visas to India from England, only to discover that we had to mail our passports in and it would take 15 working days to get them, not including mail processing and delivery time. This proved to be a problem, as we were attending a wedding in the United States (in Georgia! My first time in the South!) and were planning to leave on Oct. 17.
We decided not to apply for the visas in England after all, as we didn’t want to chance mailing our passports in and then not having them for our trip to the States.
We spent a few pleasant weeks in England with Bjorn’s family, taking brisk walks which did nothing to mitigate the vast amounts of food we were consuming. Then we were off to Hotlanta! (Forthcoming post, yadda yadda yadda.)
After a spectacular time in the South that included copious amounts of Coca-Cola sodas and a wedding assistant marveling at my multiple plate, double-fisted eating style at the wedding buffet, we jetted back to England.
Looking for a shortcut
We had learned that it only took 6 days to get a visa to India from Bangkok, Thailand, so we bade a fond farewell to England and arrived in Bangkok around the end of October.
We went to the visa office the very next day, after spending two hours filling out forms online and another hour and a half spent in getting our visa photos and traveling to the office.
The very first thing we were asked: “Have you booked your hotel and flights already?”
Well, no. But we did have the numbers for the flights we would like to take and the details for the hotel we would book when we got our visas.
But it wasn’t good enough. We countered with, “If we book our flights and hotel tonight and come back tomorrow, can you guarantee that we will get the visas on the sixth working day?”
Well, no, she couldn’t. In fact, she couldn’t guarantee that we would get a visa at all.
If we did get one, she told us it might take up to 10 working days.
If we booked our flights and hotel with the 10-working days timeline In mind, it meant that Bjorn and I would only be in India for a week before we had to catch a flight back to Bangkok and England.
By this point, we were plenty fed up with all the hurdles and hassles, and couldn’t see how we would be able to find and do meaningful service projects in that amount of time. Why not stay in Bangkok where we had connections and could pick up where we left off on our previous service projects?
So we did.
The best-laid plans…
Our plan to live in four world cities that begin with “B” is ending up more like 3 1/2 cities (I have to give Bracknell, England, props as we did spend a good amount of time there), but one thing I’ve learned about international living and travel: You have to be determined enough to move, but flexible enough to stay.
Besides, there’s a Little India here. Maybe that will be close enough. (I’m kiiiiidding. Relax.)