Saturday, July 23, 2011

the perils of missing Form A

“It’s 4:39AM. I’m sitting in the Delhi airport. This is a problem.

Why, you ask?

Merely the fact that I should be on a PLANE right now. I should have been on a plane for four hours, in fact. But things didn’t exactly work out that way…”

I started writing this post at the stated time on July 18. Exhaustion, however, quickly took over, and now it is July 23. A lot has happened since then, but the good news is that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. After a week of delays, roadblocks, setbacks, etc (and a lot of grace and God sends, too!), Maggie, Jim, and I will be heading home at 4:30AM on July 24. Our flight goes from Kochi, Kerala, to Qatar, to Washington DC. From there, we will split ways; I’ll be going to Tampa.

Many of you might’ve been following some of the events on facebook. Whether you have or haven’t been keeping up, a quick recap: We flew from Kerala to Delhi on 7/18. Attempting to pass through Immigration in order to board our connecting flight to New York, we were prevented from leaving due to missing some paperwork that we didn’t know we had to have. The result was a 24-hour circus in the Delhi airport involving figuring out what forms, exactly, were needed, being told “please wait 5 minutes” 24-hours worth of times, trying to leave the airport to obtain said forms at the Foreigners’ Registration Office, being prevented from leaving, finally getting out, etc etc etc, ultimately being told that we had to return to Kerala. Oh yeah, and meanwhile, my and Maggie’s visas expired.

That’s not even really the half of it, but we always tried to find the humor in the situation (“you are a selfish man”…”let’s hold hands and walk out together!”) and trusted that everything would work out. And it has—through the grace of God and the tireless work of the YAV Office and Thomas John Achen, all of whom were working around the clock to help us as best as they could. We came back to Kerala to get everything sorted out, and have now obtained the missing paperwork and booked new flights. …A week later than we were supposed to leave, yes, but there have been plenty of lessons and laughs even in what was, at times, an extremely frustrating situation.

I have learned…
-what it feels like to not be listened to (and because of this, the importance of listening to others)
-that sometimes it’s ‘insignificant’ people who can truly change your situation for the better. The employees of Costa Coffee in the Delhi airport, for example—our home for 24 hours—let us sleep on their comfy couches, and were truly kind and sympathetic to us. The operator of the nearby payphone let us use his personal cell phone to receive calls—SUCH a blessing when we literally had no way (other than limited emails to/from Maggie’s blackberry—yet another God send) to communicate with the outside world, the embassy, etc. And it was a clerk at the Kottayam police station who helped us to expedite our paperwork and solve the matter within one day…without him, we would be stuck until at least next week.
-how fortunate I am. I had the YAV office and others working hard on the problem…I had Jim and Maggie to navigate the bureaucracy with me…what if I had been alone? What if I didn’t have the money to book a return ticket back to Kerala? Or my new return flight to the US?

I have also experienced, for a small and insignificant amount of time, what it feels like to be in a foreign country without the proper documentation. To not know where to turn for help; to be told ‘no’ repeatedly; to not speak the right language; to be at the mercy of a system much larger than I.

It has been, in short, a humbling experience. An experience that has proven that the YAV Office can truly handle ANYTHING (they are champs!!), and an experience throughout which I was provided for consistently. And, it is worth mentioning, an experience that, while filled with ups and downs, has in no way detracted from my YAV year or been an all-eclipsing event. If anything, it merely makes a good story to tell at the re-entry retreat! ;-)

It also allowed me to come back to Kerala, spend a few extra days with Thomas John Achen, Betty Kochamma, Binu, Jim, and Maggie—and that’s nothing to complain about at all :-)

A huge THANKS to everyone who has offered support and words of encouragement to all of us along the way. With any luck, we’ll board our flight tonight and the next time I write will be from HOME!

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” –Thornton Wilder

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