Saturday, August 27, 2011

Red, White and Blue - Part 1

Yesterday, I was watching this video, when I thought of writing my experience traveling to The Land of Opportunities, i.e. The United States of Ambrikkkka.

I had never liked the idea of visiting the US of A. I don’t know why but I had always dreaded going there. Maybe because I see a lot of Hollywood movies where people are picked up at airports by some suited officials and then they disappear only later to be found at some government detention center. I had a kind of phobia of that place. My friends tell me that I over react and ask me to look at all those hundreds of Indians making big bucks in the Silicon Valley. Did anything happen to them? The answer is, No! They always insist it is the safest place of earth. I think otherwise. You never know when shit is going to fall on your head after hitting a tall building, if you know what I mean. And not matter how many people argue that this video is fake, I had always been skeptical about the people who live there.

But one fine day, my boss asked me to assist him on a work related trip to the land of Uncle Sam. I tried to find an excuse of being too busy and asked him to take my colleague instead. But he insisted and asked me to prepare for some presentations which he wanted me to deliver there. There was no way out. I had to go. With a heavy heart, I started with the first step of applying for a visa. I had to fill some forms, collect a load of documents and finally had to go for a visa interview in Frankfurt. I picked the first available time of the day at 8 a.m. When I reached the Embassy, there was already a big waiting line outside the main gate. I was pretty surprised since I had picked up the first slot and was before time but still a long queue. I also went and stood in the line only to find out that all these people were also for the first time slot. So much for people management. I waited for my turn to get inside where I entered a huge hall after a thorough security check. The hall was already full of people waiting for their interview. I was amazed at this arrangement. Usually in Germany, an interview at 8 a.m. means IT IS AT 8 A.M. I saw a middle aged German guy who was shocked seeing the same and started arguing with an official that why should he wait when his appointment was at 8 a.m.? Quite furiously he left the hall and the building spitting abuses. Wow, I said to myself and took a seat in the hall. My turn came at 11.45, after waiting for more than 3 hours! The visa officer, after asking me weird questions, told me that she had some problem with my second name. She will have to put me on further processing, which means a special screening which could take anything from 4 weeks to 6 months. I was delighted to hear that because this meant most probably my trip will be cancelled due to delays. What could be more fun than a company paid trip to Frankfurt on a Friday and then visit my friend in the same town to spend the weekend there? Ahhh … complete bliss! On Monday, I gave this delightful news to my boss who did not seemed very impressed. He asked me to prepare the slides and give them to another guy who would go with him instead. Perfect, I thought!

But life does not always go as planned. Three weeks after my interview, my administrative department got back my passport with the stamped visa. All hell broke loose when my boss asked me to prepare again for the trip. This time there was not way out. I started preparing for the trip. I started getting anxious and searched various online Forums on how to behave at US airports. I tried to prepare myself mentally for all the different things that could happen there right from the strip search to being locked in an unknown detention center.

Rest of the story in the next part !

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