If you follow me on social media, you’ll have seen that we spent a few lovely mid-April days in the City that never sleeps. The purpose of the visit was to meet with the Belgian Consulate to request residence visas for all four of us. It turned out to be a bit more stressful than we anticipated but… spoiler alert, we were able to get what we needed.
If you’re interested in the full story, read on:
We arrived at the Consulate a few minutes before our scheduled appointment. We were seated in a small waiting room where another couple was already talking to the Consulate employee. The Consulate employee sits at a desk behind a Plexiglas wall (after having been there, I can see why they do this). Anyway, there’s a small space at the bottom of the Plexiglas for you to slide pieces of paper back and forth to each other. And we needed at least 40 pieces of paper each. The woman, whom I’ll call Jane*, was NOT in a good mood. Apparently she’d been told earlier that morning that she didn’t have permission to process visas. As she was working on Todd’s application, she finally got the green light to process them. Once she had collected all of Todd’s papers, she asked us to return to our seats so she could complete the process with the couple who had been there before us. Their application was really complicated and it sounded like they’d already been denied once, so they were applying again in a different manner. There was a fair bit of “tone” from Jane towards this couple…
Once she finished their intake process and sent them on their way, she returned to us and it was my turn to submit my papers. As we were working, she asked when I was leaving New York. I responded “tomorrow night.” A few minutes later, she asked how soon we were leaving for Belgium. I again responded with “tomorrow night.” I honestly thought she was going to blow a gasket. She wanted to know who told us we could do that and we explained that our attorneys had advised us this was an option. Let’s just say she… disagreed. Strongly. She told us it would be “3 to 5 business days and then it will be mailed to you.” Well. That was going to require some adjusting of our schedule. She had our passports! She was really angry with our attorneys. I assured her that there was PLENTY of annoyance with them to go around. She asked me why I hadn’t called her directly. I assured her that if I’d known that was an option, it’s what I would have done. (I can also promise you that if we ever live overseas again, I’ll call their Consulate to see if they have a “Jane” there instead of using these lawyers). We had not called the Consulate because the company relocating us had given us attorneys, so we had followed the recommendation to let the attorneys do the work. If I’d had any idea I could just call the Consulate directly, I could probably have saved us a good 4+ weeks of headaches. Clearly this woman can get things done.
Anyway, she continued to be annoyed, but thankfully I was able to direct the annoyance towards someone OTHER than us. 🙂 This is key. She completed gathering my paperwork without incident. Then she gathered all of Isaac’s. Then she began to collect Laine’s. And here’s where the tide shifted. One of the last pieces to collect is a photo of the applicant. You face a small camera lens on the wall, which is surrounded by a reflective surface, so you can see what your photo looks like. She took a photo of Laine. Then she burst out laughing. Laine made a face at her reflection because she’d been sitting still for too long. We explained to Laine that she had to be serious for the photo. Jane took another picture. Laine made another face! The woman absolutely cracked up. The third time was the charm and we got the picture we needed.
Once she completed gathering all of our papers, Todd and I needed to go to FedEx to make copies of the FBI reports on us and then return them to her to include with the rest of our paperwork. (Fun fact: she had to open these reports so she could verify that they were unaltered. But then we had to go make copies of them and return them because she can’t do that). As she told us to do this, Todd and I both silently held our breaths waiting to hear about the self-addressed/stamped envelopes to mail our paperwork back to us. She sighed heavily and told us to come back at 11:00 the next morning and she’d have the documents available for us. I’m sure the aforementioned Plexiglas window is there for her safety. It was also to keep me from launching myself over the table and kissing her at that moment. WOOHOO!!! What a relief!
We were then able to enjoy the rest of our time in New York. Spring was in full bloom and the weather was perfect. I am sure there are people who can refrain from being in love with New York in springtime, but Laine and I are not those people.
We had quite a list of things we wanted to do in New York. We ate Tex-Mex for our first dinner in the City. Isaac and I were in heaven with his refried beans and my avocados. Yum!
We went to see both the Bull and Fearless Girl statues down near Wall Street. The 9/11 Memorial was moving. The subway entrance near there is now light and open and beautiful. We walked through Times Square, checked out the Empire State Building, and admired the ceiling in Grand Central Station. Laine really loves the Chrysler building. We all found Central Park gorgeous with all of its flowers and trees in full bloom.
Laine and I got to attend a service at St. Thomas 5th Avenue (my former church home) with my dear friend Helen. Afterwards, the 3 of us met up with Todd & Isaac for lunch/dinner together. The sushi place was so good that we returned to Nobi the next day for our last meal in the City!
We ended our whirlwind trip with a quick visit to Central Park. Literally everything was in bloom – I only took a few quick snaps because I was trying to enjoy the time. Then we took a taxi to JFK and bought Laine a new tee shirt…
* Jane is not her real name, but she helped us when she clearly didn’t have to do it, so I don’t want anyone to know her real name in case they get the wrong idea.