Wednesday, May 18, 2005

PERSPECTIVES

It’s official – we are official! Yesterday the family went off to complete the final step in our immigration process. My prayers were answered in that it was a different building to the one where we encountered ‘The Screamer’. (See earlier post STARS AND STRIPES, April 10). This time it was a totally different experience. Everything worked! We found parking almost right outside the building, the access was easy, the elevators were working, and everyone we encountered from the start to the finish of the process was polite, helpful and friendly.

As with most things we do as a family group, it was quite an eye opener to me and a reminder of how different each person’s perspective is from the others.

The teenager and young adult’s passports had been sent to the British Embassy for renewal. I called them on Monday morning to see if they would be arriving back in time for our appointment the following day. After holding on the line for close to 40 minutes, the lady told me that it would be at least another 5 working days before I got them back. I decided not to cancel the appointments for them until the following morning and Daniel confirmed that it was a good idea for us to proceed with our appointments. Based on his age, Ross does not have to attend these appointments; the process for him is automatic following on from the change in our status each step of the way.

I am not sure exactly what the lady on the phone at the British Embassy was doing for the 40 minutes that I sat listening to the piped music, but by 9am on Tuesday morning, the Fedex man had delivered the new passports that I had been told were a minimum of 5 working days away.

Daniel arranged to get the teenager out of school and soon enough the four of us were in the car and on our way to this important appointment.

When I received the notification in the mail that our permanent residence had been approved and the details of how I make the appointment on line that we were now on our way to, I wondered if making it on line was the only way to schedule it. When I got through to someone on the phone, she insisted that making it on line was the only way it could be done, and if people don’t have access to the internet at home, they had to go to a public library to do this.

When we got to the right floor, Daniel was directed to stand in line in the roped section while we waited for him in the seats. I wasn’t sure why Daniel was in this long line because it was just on 12 noon that we got there, and our appointments were scheduled for 12.15. I sat and watched and by 1pm, it became clear to me what happens to those people who did not have Internet access at home and were not aware of the fact that they could go do this at a public library. An employee announced to the people on line that those who did not have appointments had to leave the line and the building and could return the next day. This was quite upsetting for some people who had been there waiting for a few hours! I wanted to go to all of them and tell them they should go straight from there to a library to schedule the appointment for tomorrow, or whatever date the computer said they could return.

Just after 1pm Daniel got to the front of the line and we then all joined him at the window where our photo’s were handed in, our additional finger print taken and our signatures scrawled onto pieces of paper. We were then given a number and told to take our seats again. The gentleman behind the glass explained that our passports would now be stamped and they would call us when done. Daniel asked how long this was likely to take. The man explained that as staff members were now on their lunch breaks, it could be at least a minimum of half an hour. It was now close to 2pm. While we were waiting at the window, Daniel pointed out how much better it would be if each window was equipped with a camera, scanner for the finger print and how within minutes our cards could be created and come to us through a slot in the wall!

While we were waiting for the lady to come out of the back office with our passports, a very pregnant woman next to us nearly burst into a happy dance when her name was called and she kept repeating over and over to her toddler that “we can finally go home”. She explained to me that they had been there since 10am, their paperwork had been processed by noon, and therefore she was thrilled that the wait for her passport to be stamped was over given that it was almost 2.30pm.

Daniel sensed my panic at the realization that this wait could extend beyond the 3pm mark and he had a conference call scheduled for that time. The teenager was starting to pace the area like a caged animal and it was at this point where things do start to feel tedious. Daniel has really learnt the tricks of the trade when it comes to these situations. He went off and whispered something in someone’s ear, and soon enough a gentleman came up to us to tell us that he had “put the passports on the top of the pile and they would out in a couple of minutes”, and they were!

From here it starts to become obvious why I chose the title for this post. Going back to the car , Daniel expressed his joy at the completion of this process and what a meaningful day this was in our lives. Our Green Cards should appear in our mail box within three months, but to be sure, we have been given an on line address to look into it should we not receive them in the next six months. Daniel also spoke of how this stamp in his passport would prevent him from having to be pulled aside for checking his travel parole documentation at the airports when he travels internationally. This would reduce the time he spends in airports by at least half an hour.

I wasn’t sure how Alex felt about what having this stamp in her passport means to her as she tuned out and straight into her music headphones and her text messages. David was as quickly into his text messages and on his cell phone, which marks the moment the “pleasure” of a family outing started unfolding. He was due to have paid for his prom bid but having to leave school early without prior notice, the check and booking form were in his pocket. Seemingly, someone else had taken his place at the table he wanted to be at, and a string of phone calls started happening. I listened to his coping skills, which amounted to threats of punching people in the face, and then ending the same call with greetings of “Peace”. A contradiction in terms, but hey, I say nothing. In my head I was having a conversation with him about noticing the life lesson that things should not be left to the last minute and I couldn’t help wondering why none of his friends thought of putting his name down for him. When I heard him explain to one of the people he spoke to that he had been to “do something about his citizenship”, I realized that this day in his life held no meaning and it was just a pain in the butt that had made paying for his prom a complete hassle.

Citizenship is something that we will be eligible for in 5 years time. The process we had just been through is something that people in different circumstances risk their lives to attempt to achieve. They float on logs of wood in the ocean to get here. They stow away in trucks and die from suffocation in an attempt to get here. I did not launch into any kind of lecture as clearly, each person is entitled to his or her own perspective.

In a conversation with my sister on Monday night, I explained to her that while I fully appreciate what a privilege it is to gain this status, I personally was not feeling the excitement I had anticipated I was going to feel. What does excite me is that in five years time, if I so choose, I can gain the status that will reinstate my eligibility to vote. Because we have moved countries three times in the last ten years, I have never had the status to vote and this has given me the deepest sense of deprivation, more than anything else. Immigration is a grueling process, and you learn many things from it, about patience, about who you are and where you fit into the big scheme of things, you question your motives, you question your value within the structures of new cultures and communities. Unless it is something you have been through, it is hard to understand how demanding this process can be.

Our moves have always been motivated by a desire to expand our lives, expand our visions and to give our children the best possible opportunities in life to ultimately result in all of us being the best versions of ourselves we can possibly achieve.
Daniel has single handedly and single mindedly orchestrated all these moves which have been made possible by his commitment to our family and his ability to create a goal, focus his eye on the target, and for stopping at nothing until he got himself and all of us there by virtue of his efforts. Thank you, Daniel ~ thank you so very much for the magnificent human you continue to be. I love you.

 
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