This post is an update on what I’m doing, and why you might see some new recipes with unfamiliar ingredients on my blog soon. Fiancé and I decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime and make a big move from Portland, Oregon, USA to Cape Town, South Africa for a while. He’s dreamed for a long time about studying at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and we decided this was the year to take the plunge.
Moving to another country is a seriously involved process. To even get our visa applications going, we had to order and collect a slew of certified personal documents, find a place to live in Cape Town, and buy our plane tickets. In fact, since we didn’t buy return tickets, we had to pay a hefty deposit just in case they have to kick us out of the country. It’s awfully scary to secure a flat (not apartment, not apartment, not apartment) and sign a lease without a guarantee you’re going to be living there. Not to mention, letting go of a package filled with documents like your passports to be shipped isn’t fun.
So, after about a month and a half of jumping through hoops and collecting documents, we were finally ready to submit our applications. We gave ourselves almost two months to get our visas, which is ample time considering the process can theoretically be done in 5-10 days. I made sure that package had zero chance of getting lost with Priority Shipping and a tracking number.
Before this point, we had had a few minor panic moments, but nothing with real consequences. The original apartment we wanted fell through, we thought we messed up Fiancé’s financial aid (we didn’t), some documents were hard to get our hands on, wire transfers were difficult to execute, blah blah blah. Nothing that wasn’t solvable, just a lot of frustrations and time-suckers.
This is when the really crappy, horrible, stress inducing things started.
Obstacle 1: The package with our applications was delivered on a Saturday, even though that supposedly couldn’t happen, and no one was there to sign for it.
Did you know if the post office tries to deliver something and can’t, it doesn’t just go out for redelivery? We got the opportunity to learn this lesson when, for some reason, the tracking info on our package wasn’t updating. Luckily this was a relatively easy fix and I was able to request redelivery online, but we did lose precious time.
So we were able to confirm that the South African Consulate General did indeed have our precious applications in their hands, and better yet, they were complete. Then the waiting begins.
Obstacle 2: I messed up the prepaid return envelope.
I have no business mailing precious things. Don’t let me do it. Because I’ve never mailed anything of importance (what can’t we do online?), I didn’t realize that tracking numbers were assigned to parcels themselves- I thought they were assigned upon shipment. When I mailed off our applications, my number one priority had been making sure that package was iron-clad. I hadn’t given all that much thought to our return envelope, other than to make sure it was another Priority Shipping envelope so we’d get it quickly after they’d sent it back.
We got a call about a month after we’d applied letting us know that we’d been approved for visas and asking for a credit card number to pay for shipping back. Fiancé let them know that we’d included a prepaid envelope and they used that. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a tracking number because I’d messed up, but we figured it wouldn’t be an issue since it was Priority Shipping.
Obstacle 3: Our visas should have come already.
Five days later, our visas hadn’t arrived, which was odd because they should have arrived in three at the very most, especially since they didn’t have all that far to travel. A little bit of panic. Maybe they hadn’t gone out in that first day’s mail? A call to the consulate confirmed they had gone out on the suspected day.
At this point, Fiancé asked me how much postage I had put on the envelope. I said that I’d weighed the envelope, our passports (visas are a stamp in your passport, so that’s what we were waiting to have mailed back) and a couple of extra pieces of paper to make sure. He was concerned that they’d be sending more back than just our passports, and I may have shorted the postage, hence the delay.
At this point, we had about three more days before we’d be moving out of our apartment (which the prepaid package was addressed to), and the package would be put through even more delay because of mail forwarding to one of our parents’ houses.
Obstacle 4: It’s Thursday, we leave Monday, and our visas still aren’t here.
We’d waited over two weeks for a package that should have taken 2-3 days to arrive. We’d called every post office we could think of to make sure it wasn’t being held and checked back with the consulate multiple times. At the time, we thought these visas were our one shot and we’d just have to wait it out.
At this point, it would have arrived, we should have gotten a notice of due postage, or it should have been sent back to the consulate. Since none of these things had happened, we figured it was lost in the mail.
Friday was our absolute last day to accomplish anything, so early Thursday morning we decided to take a new approach. After a few phone calls, I found out the consulate actually could issue us new visas the next day. After getting brand new passports to stamp them in, of course. Yikes.
So, we spent the next couple of hours booking a flight for that afternoon to LA, finding a hotel, and getting everything together that we might need.
Obstacle 5: Our visas finally, finally came while we were flying to Los Angeles to apply for new visas.
We knew this was a possibility. Fiancé said the entire way to the airport: “They’re going to come today because we’re doing this.” And what do you know, they did. Unfortunately there weren’t any flights that were affordable that flew out after the mail arrived that day, so we had to take the chance of leaving before.
We had a stop in Phoenix on the way, and I turned on my phone at the airport to find texts from our moms letting us know that it had indeed finally happened. Even better, we found out it would cost us more to just fly home, so we spent a night in LA at a skeezy hotel and all day Friday, one of our last days in the states, killing time at LAX. Poor Fiancé had to put up with at least a month’s worth of whining in just a few short hours.
Obstacle 6: Our flight from New York to Johannesburg is cancelled.
We finally make it to PDX, completely packed, visas in hand. After a lovely farewell dinner with our families, we got on a red eye to New York. After a five hour layover, we were ready at our gate.
Our flight was delayed as the engineers attempted to find a part that needed replacing on the plane. After a few hours of waiting, at which point Fiancé and I had slept about 4 hours in 30, they announced that the flight is cancelled.
This was incredibly discouraging, but luckily they put us up in a decent hotel (although the food was horrifying- I can be quoted as saying, “This might be chicken parmesan, or some kind of fish…”), got us transportation, and gave us a few vouchers for snacks at the airport.
We got the highlight of our travels while waiting in line at the hotel- we realized we were in line behind very famous South African golfer, Gary Player! He took the time to chat with us for a few minutes and even let us get a picture. Unfortunately we started a picture-taking frenzy, but the man’s a gentleman.
Obstacle 7: We miss our connecting flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
The airline rescheduled all of our connecting flights, but unfortunately only gave us about an hour and twenty minutes to get through customs, get our checked bags, recheck our bags, and get back through security. We managed to get to the point where we’d recheck our bags with time, but for whatever reason it took a very, very long time to confirm we’d been rebooked and issue us new boarding passes. We got them though, and ran through the airport to get to security. We had 10 minutes to get through security and to our gate before it closed.
While waiting in line at security, Fiancé asked me what seat I was in.
“*pant* 20 *pant* E *pant*.”
I need to work out more.
“That’s weird, me too.”
He’d printed us two copies of my boarding pass. The man at security told us we’d have to go back to the airline desk, at which point it was clear we weren’t making that flight.
The flight that our checked bags had already been put on.
We got boarding passes for the next flight and the man who’d misprinted our passes walked us to baggage claim where they’d help us get our bags on the right flight. They kind of did. One came on the earlier flight, one came on the correct flight, and the other came on the next flight. All in all, though, we got our bags.
Now, we’re finally moved into our apartment and getting settled. I actually wrote this post in Evernote while we were waiting for our WiFi to get set up, but we finally have it! It’s slow and unreliable, but it’s a connection. My next couple of posts will be about our adventures in Cape Town, but soon I’ll have some recipes up!