Expatriate

Well, I made it.

It’s been just under a month since I arrived into the ‘Land of the Free’, ‘Home of the brave’ and the state that despite being ranked the “Third worst in the nation for healthcare”, is home to two cities which according to Money Magazine are the best places to live in the USA, home to the safest city in America (forbes) and The best city in the USA to get rich (Dallas Business Journal) and coincidentally, where I now live.

Yup, I’ve made it to the 28th State that was once French, Spanish and Mexican in that order. Texas. Home to some 25.5 million people and me and yet despite the French ancestry I still cannot find a decent croissant. (Well, ‘Crescent Roll’. Apparently croissant was too complicated)

Despite the tearful goodbyes that were had at 2am when I left the journey itself was relatively smooth sailing. Security at Heathrow paid no attention to my envelope, and security at the gate thankfully left me alone. Despite horror stories of long wait times, I was in and out of Dallas Fort-Worth airport in a little over two hours (trust me, that’s quick for DFW).

So far, things have been smooth if rather busy. Everyone is friendly and BBQ really is everywhere. Fortunately I have a lot to carry on with in the run up to the wedding before an entirely new visa process and more moths of waiting begin. Hopefully though, this one will be a little easier to cope with since I won’t have to be alone for most of it.

For now I’m off to enjoy a little more of the weather. It might be cold for Texans, but it certainly isn’t for me!

24 hours to go…

Well, the boxes are packed, the two suitcases are full and predictably my last day in the UK is turning into a very cold and grey one. There are now 24 hours until my flight takes off and I leave the UK for the foreseeable future.

Nervous? Yes of course. For all the reasons I’ve discussed before and then some. Actually, I’m not really nervous about the move itself. Anyone can do ‘a move’ and everyone does at some point, it’s nothing special even if it is to another continent.

My nerves stem from the fact that rather unusually I have almost zero control over anything, and that if either myself or my better half have made even the slightest mistake it could make this entire move redundant and leave me facing deportation and a three year ban from the USA.

There’s also the fact that in my hand luggage is an envelope containing a folder that the US Embassy gave me. It’s sealed. If one overzealous security guard in Heathrow airport decides to break that seal, my journey will be over before it even begins and the US Embassy will have to re-seal the envelope at considerable cost to myself and there is no guarantee they actually will.

I’m sure things will be fine. There are some two thousand individuals and couples who immigrate to the USA on the K and CR visas every year from the UK and soon I’ll be one of them. Both myself and my better half have been planning and arranging for 8 months. We have huge folders full of information, bookings, contingency plans and more.

We’re ready and prepared right down to the last cent and second. We both know exactly what’s going on and where we need to be with a level of precision akin to most military operations. It is however still frightening that one little tear in an envelope could spell disaster.

Still, UPS will be here shortly to pick up my boxes and check-in for my flight has opened. Nothing left to do but walk the dog and wait.

Let us hope that military precision I was referring to more closely resembles the British or American military forces, and not the forces from Costa Rica or Pakistan.

 

Please go to Window 15

I should be sleeping right now but after todays activities it’s hard to ‘settle down’ enough to let the tiredness of a 1:30am start take over. Perhaps I’ll go in search of a hot chocolate once I finish this update, although I must apologise in advance for the lack of brevity thanks to the exhaustion. Normal service will resume shortly.

After all the buildup, all the anxiety, suspense, the medical examination and preparation, I was finally able to greet the day that I had been waiting for. Finally, after 7 long months,  today was the day of my US K Visa Interview and probably one of the most important days of my life.

Despite attempting to sleep last night, I found myself rolling around for several hours thanks to the anxiety I felt about the upcoming interview. It’s surprising just what the human mind can do to you when you’re worrying about something and, lets be honest here, it’s surprising just how evil it can be when it wants to use your minds eye as the worlds most prominent cinema screen to show you just how bad the worst case scenario is and exactly why it will happen to you.

Face it, your mind is the guy that no-one ever invites to parties because he always proves to you just why you never invited him in the first place.

Still, I did manage to get a few hours of shut eye before prising myself out of my bed and into the shower. Not the best start to what is one of the most important days of your life. Several cups of coffee and a final check of my documents later and my 1:30 wake up call had become 3am, and time to hit the road.

After a quick detour for some rudimentary breakfast (McDonalds sadly does not start serving until 5 am) I was back on the road, hurrying along the M4 to Heathrow to catch a tube into London. With every mile covered I could have sworn my heart rate increased by a beat. I felt myself getting more tense as I hurriedly went through my bag to make sure my interview documents were there, my minds eye once more playing host to the motion picture of paranoia that my brain had created for me.

By 6:30, the car was parked, and I was aboard the Underground, racing toward my doom with little else to do than to stare at the documents, stopping only to blink with the occasional arm pinch to stop myself falling asleep. I must have drifted off at some stage. The journey from Heathrow to Green Park in central London takes about an hour. I could have sworn it had gone by in less than ten minutes.

As I stepped foot in Grosvenor Square, the nerves kicked in to overdrive and the sweat started to run along with that cold chill of pure fear when you realise you probably aren’t as well prepared for this as you thought.

Once more I checked my documents, and once more time jumped ahead. This time, I was in the queue, handing over my appointment letter, before being ushered into a security hut.  Before I knew it, I was inside a waiting hall, staring at a monitor waiting for my number to be called.

Please go to window 14.

If I had stood up any quicker I would have fainted. My documents were collected from me and my fingerprints taken and I was ushered to sit back down and await my interview.

Please go to window 15.

And my interview began.

After all the buildup, the panic, the emotions and the utterly utterly pathetic amount of worrying, I was presented with just a few simple questions about my fiancée and then it was done.

I was approved.

Five minutes later and I was outside the embassy doors walking towards a park bench to finally get some air. Pathetic or not, I had ruined the shirt I was wearing, but I didn’t care.

After months of waiting, preparation, anxiety and uncertainty and one ruined shirt, my Visa was finally approved with the green light to start my new life in America.

In just over two weeks time, that new life will begin.

 

 

How much does your life weigh?

The trailer above is oddly appropriate. Two weeks after my medical examination and my entire life is being re-evaluated and reconsidered. Over twenty years of my life being stuffed into little more than a suitcase and a 20 inch cube. Not quite a backpack, but close enough.

The last time I wrote, I was sat aboard a train to London, and shortly after I hit the post button on my touchpad, I was greeted with a lukewarm microwaved bacon roll. I seem to recall saying I hadn’t been on that train for a very long time, I think I remember why.

The medical examination was, of course, perfectly fine. Save for one booster shot my medical exam was over in less than 30 minutes and I was free to do what I wanted with the miserable weather and a day pass for the London Underground. Luckily I was able to join a fellow visa applicant for a coffee, discussing our soon to be changing circumstances as well as our excitement and worry for the weeks ahead and as we parted company I think we both gave a collective sigh of relief that we were in fact one step closer.

I trekked on down to the riverside only briefly stopping by Taylors of Old Bond Street to pick up a few goodies, before meeting an old friend for a catch up. You might know him as the Scribbler-at-law. If there’s one person who always manages to inspire me more than my fiancée, it’s him. Chris is the kind of guy who can knock at deaths door only to look at the grim reaper in the eye socket and laugh, turn around and moon him. A kind of humour and reassurance I needed while looking at the daunting task that lay ahead.

It didn’t really sink in for a few days, weeks even just what I was doing. The train journey home was uneventful. I felt no different, and nor did I really realise just what was ahead. Even when I received my appointment letter a few days later, it still didn’t quite sink in that I was moving to another country. It was only when the empty boxes arrived that everything hit home.

It hasn’t been too bad. I recovered soon afterwards and promptly filled an entire box full of ‘stuff’ that I wanted to keep, and putting a large oversized rucksack in the next practically filled that as well.

I’m anxious, as anyone would be. August 15th is the day of my interview. No, I don’t mind publicising the day that decides my fate. At the end of the day there’s no reason why I would be denied a visa, yet I still find myself in a state of utter terror of what is about to happen, and terror does not even begin to describe the feeling I have knowing that one little 15 minute chat with someone at a counter will decide if I can go to the USA or not. Even typing this is making my heart race.

There’s always more to pack, but I’ve had to make some hard decisions on what to keep and what not to keep. Even though I’ve reduced everything down by half, I still look at the little nick-nacks on my shelf and wonder how on earth I’ll package them in a box, knowing full well it’ll get tossed around on an aircraft, or worse, what I would list it as on my customs declaration.

Small thing I found while walking around Cardiff, Don’t know what it is or what it does, but I liked it so I kept it

Still, another day is coming to a close, and that means another day closer to interview.

If all goes well, I will be leaving the UK in just over a month. Jetting off for Texas on a one way ticket.

I’ve always been a perfect flyer. I’ve travelled to most of the world, taken some 200 flights and have enough experience with travel to know that the business class kits in British Airways have gone downhill, and that China Airline serves noodles with soy sauce on short haul flights (with turbulence, and chopsticks). I’ve travelled. I have zero fear of aircraft or flights or even pushy attendants. I am completely comfortable with every flight I take, except with this one, I’m scared. Maybe it’s because it’s the defining point in over 8 months of waiting. Maybe I’m just afraid some pushy airline attendant will try and open my sealed envelope from the embassy.

All I know, is that I have to fit my entire life into a few boxes, and say goodbye to a lot of people in the next month. Some of whom I may not see again for years. Some I may never see again.

On the 15th, I’ll either be happy, or sad. And If I’m sad, I don’t know what I’ll do…

Let’s see how this goes