Our Last Day in Chicago

>> February 1, 2009

Now, obviously we are no longer in Chicago and haven't been for a couple weeks now, but I just want to share the adventure that was...Our Last Day in Chicago.

First let me explain some of the stress that had led up to that day.  Visas.  They are a pain.  All. the. time.  The visas we came into the UK on were ancestory visas thanks to Jeff's Grandparents both being born on this side of the pond.  This offers us a lot of flexibility and allows us to be here for 5 years before we have to worry about anything.  Yay.  However it is quite the ordeal to actually get them.  I talked about the start of it all here.  

After going through all the requirements and crosschecking with our calendar we figured at the latest our visas should be ready by Monday the 12th, Jeff had to be in the office at Oxford by the 16th so we booked out flights for Tuesday night, arriving Wednesday so we would have a couple days to adjust before Jeff had to go off to work.  It sounds like last minute, but we had been told by everyone who had gone through this before that while it said 5 to 10 days (the 10 would have been Monday) it usually went through in 48 - 72 hours. If you're doing the math along with me, that would have left us quite a lot of time.  To relax.

Hah!  What no one told us, in our myriad of conversations with all manner of people supposedly helping us get all our ducks in a row so there would be no problems is that because Asher is an infant and cannot have his biometrics taken (apparently fingerprints for a 9-month old don't hold up in court - ya think?) that it would take considerable longer for him and my visa as his mother would be held up for the same amount of time.  Weeks possibly.  

The problem is, is that we did not find this out until Tuesday.  That's right, the day we were supposed to fly out.  Not that we weren't trying.  When we got no email 6 days in, we sent an email inquiring as to the status.  We received an email the next day saying it would now be 5 - 10 days.  Starting to panic we thought we should try to get a hold of someone.  No phone numbers put us through to the people we needed to reach.  We send another email stating the nature of our panic and receive a simple line stating that they were currently processing requests from Dec. 29th.  Okay, that's not so bad, ours were in the bin for the 30th, we should be able to show up on Monday (the next day they were open) and pick them up.  Not that they've told us that, we just figure if we actually go down there and beat down...er, I mean knock on some doors that they're bound to help us out.  

So we show up Monday to find that anyone that we would need to talk to about such things had left at noon (golly, I'd like those hours).  And no, our visas were not ready.  We could show up at 9am tomorrow (yes, that's Tuesday for those of you keeping track, the day we are supposed to leave) and we might be able to talk to someone and they might be inclined to help us maybe.

Now, I have to interject here that when we were praying about these visas, Jeff thought it would be a good idea to ask God to maybe not have it all happen last minute.  I quickly prayed for peace should that happen anyway.  And then I just shook my head.

Jeff shows up at 9am the next morning (did I mention that through all of this Chicago is seeing the worst winter in decades both for snow and cold?) and I stay home to pack up the rest of our bags, pretty sure that it would indeed be all last minute.  Little did I know...

Upon arriving and finally talking to someone, we finally learn of this problem with infant visas.  We are told that they make the request to the London offices and then...wait.  They have no idea when someone will get to it or how long it will take them to respond.  She said there was one small thing they could possibly try but it was not likely to work and we shouldn't book our tickets until we hear from them.  Jeff stays around until noon and arrives just before hoping to catch them before they all leave.  Apparently that day they left early.

Jeff arrives back in Elgin, thoroughly dejected, not knowing when we'll be able to rebook our flights or how much it will cost or if he'll have to go on without us (his visa actually was ready) and how much of a bad first impression this might be making with the new bosses.  I, meanwhile have stopped packing all our little odds and ends since it would just end up getting taken all out again.  We call the airline to change the flights as it has to be done by 4:30 or we lose all our money.  After 45 minutes of fighting with a peon that was going to way overcharge us, we demand to speak to a manager.  One isn't available but he'll put urgent on the request and have one call us right back.  It's now 2:30.

At 3 the phone rings and we breath a sigh of relief, we were about to call the airline back to remind them of the urgency with which we needed to change these tickets.  It's the British Consulate.  Our visas are ready.  All of them.  Oh crap.

Jeff starts running around like a madman throwing everything into any suitcase that still has room.  We figure we're screwed on the weight allowance anyway, but hey at least we're going to get there.  Hopefully.  The big issue is how to get the visas and us to the airport by 4:30, the standard 2 hours before the flight.  I am on the phone trying to call anyone and everyone I can think of that might be off work, close to downtown, and could perhaps drop everything and meet us at the airport with our visas.  

Janet!!  The hero of our story.  What a great God we have.  I managed to do a bit of work with Janet last spring while I was hugely pregnant with Asher and because of that her boss, Janice, not only knows me but loves me.  Normally at 3pm Janet would still be at least ankle deep in payroll but they had just finished.  Wow!  So Janice releases Janet from work early to run down and pick up our visas and hop in a cab and meet us at the airport.  

Jeff is pretty sure we're not going to make it in time and phones the airline to see if we can check in over the phone since it wouldn't let us online.  We're packed up and in the car by now, having had to say way too quick a goodbye to Mary not to mention having interrupted Asher's dinner.  Poor little mite.  So Jeff gets a hold of someone at the airline and she says we've been taken off the flight tonight (thanks to the mildly hair-brained person we were talking to previously).  Ack.  She is in the middle of putting us back on when we drive through a dead zone and loose her.  I know right!  It gets better though.  Jeff is completely convinced that last minute or no we are now going to miss our flight and it won't matter anyway.  I phone back just to see if there's anyway we can manage...and I get the same lady.  In a call center of how many, after several minutes of panicking in the car, I get the same lady.  She's got us back on the flight, she can't check us in though.  It's now 4:28, how are we going to get there in time.  I tell her this and she says, "Oh, don't worry about that.  As long as you're there 45 minutes before the flight you'll be fine."  Really!  

Whew!  I'm exhausted typing all this up.  I have no idea how long this is, I'm sure it's ridiculous.  Anyway, Janet actually beats us there, we get there at 4:35 and the kind women at the check in counter doesn't bother charging us for the overweight bags, tells us that we actually get an extra checked bag for Asher, so we only end up paying for one extra bag.  Praise the Lord!  She also changes our seats to bulkhead seats so that we can get a basinet for Asher to sleep in during the flight.  (he was a little too big, but it gave our arms a rest for a bit anyway) 

The rest of the trip wasn't nearly as exciting.  We were a bit delayed in Dublin, but arrived at Heathrow mid-afternoon and Duncan was there to drive us on to our new home in Oxford.  The landlord gave us a quick tour of the house and all the little idiosyncrasies and then Jeff and Duncan took quick trip to the grocer for a few supplies.  I would love to say that we slept great that night considering how exhausted we were (neither of us slept really on the plane) but Asher was up several times throughout the night.  Fortunately though, it didn't take him long to adjust.

Well, I'll leave you with that.  If you've made it this far, Cheers!

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About This Blog

I love this adventure I'm on with my Rocket Scientist. The most recent addition to our expedition has me in awe daily. I can't wait to see My Little Man as a big brother. We started off by moving from Western Canada to Chicago and now we're in the UK. Will this Strange Mamma ever not feel like a stranger in the land?

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