Ah, but it has not been a fun day. Yesterday we spent 6 hours napping.. and then a little time in the pool and hanging in the hotel room. Today was Embassy day.
So here is my rant-of-the-day (hopefully not going to be a trend during this trip!):
I am American. I look stereo-typical 'American' (I almost glow for gods sake).. I have an American accent.. I have a United States of America passport with MY name on it. I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN!!!
Is it too much to expect to be treated like an American at the dam United States Embassy???
For those readers out there who will be traveling to India to pick up your child in the near future.. please read on and do not make our stupid mistake:
We arrived at the Embassy and were told to go through line 5. We take line 5, which is empty of other persons.. and walk to the main guard area. We're told that our needs mean that we must stand throught the 'homeland security' line and must go to line 4. Soo.. we walk back to line 4 and get in line. It is a short line - only one Indian family and one lone Indian man in front of us. And then.. we wait. And wait. It's hot.. it's humid.. we have a slowly-melting-down 3 yr old with us. I realize that I stupidly forgot to pull my long hair back into a pony. Uh oh. This cannot be good.
Finally after ~an hour, a guard comes out and walks up to me to find out what my needs are (I'm white.. no one else in line is light-skinned). He takes our info and then asks us to follow him. We do not enter the main Embassy bldg (which we sat in for hours during Maya's process).. we follow him to another bldg where CIS is housed. We wait in that bldg for ~20/30 minutes and then have our visa interview. It goes quickly and the man is very nice.. so no issues there.
We do, however, make a mistake at this point. We are too busy with the I-600 details to inquire as to whether we may use the telephone. We need to telephone our driver to alert him that we are finished and need to be picked up.
After our interview, the guard escorts us outside. Just as we are leaving, we recall that we forgot the phone call. We ask him if we can use a phone. He tells us we must go to the main bldg. We set off on our way, not worried - as we used the phone in the main bldg the last time we went thru this process and know where it is located, etc. We again go thru security and explain to ~5 guards what our need is. We are sent thru line 5 to the main bldg guards. And there.. they refuse to allow us into the Embassy. 4 guards reiterate over and over that there IS NO PHONE on the premises and we must use a public phone. The public phone is ~1 mile away.
We leave and start walking. Suddenly we think - what are we doing! This is not safe (the traffic is just plain scary).. I am holding a half-asleep and very cranky toddler in my arms.. it is darn hot.. and it's so humid that my hair, which I forgot to pull back, is 5x it's normal size!
We return to the Embassy. Again, we explain to 5 guards in the first security-check area what we are doing.. and then again to the 4 guards at the main building entry. And again.. they refuse us entry. One of the 'nice' guards gives us rupees to use the pay phone and they shuttle us out of the bldg.
I think we were so appalled by this process that we did not know how to react (and they had very large guns... haha). We start walking again.
After we walk ~50' down the road we become irrate. WHAT IS GOING ON! Yes they do have a phone! If not in the main bldg anymore, they can let us back in to the CIS area where we KNOW they have an outside phone line. It is not like we were not there filing paperwork.. we are not just visiting the embassy to USE THE PHONE!! They ALL knew who we were and what we were doing! This is ridiculous.
Plus my hair now has possibly grown it's OWN hair.. and the strands that aren't huge and creating a waft around my head, are now stuck to my neck and generating an unsafe amount of heat.
We stalked back to the embassy.. AGAIN explained to the guards.. who sent us through to the main bldg AGAIN.. and this time we were NOT leaving. We refused to leave when they tried to prod us back out the door.. and finally we wore them down. They made us promise not to tell anyone outside the bldg that there was a phone on the premises (like they would simply open the doors for someone else??).. and they finally let us into the main bldg, where we went directly to American Citizen Services and used the phone.
Um.. yes.. that's right. Needless to say, we were sooo irritated, overheated, and just plain mean by the time the driver picked us up.. that our day was pretty ruined. I could barely hold up my hair.
We ate a little food and now the rest of the fam is sleeping while I blog and consider raiding the mini-bar for something with a calming effect. arrrrrrgh.
So if you will be going thru this process yourselves - do NOT forget to use the phone when you are in the building! Lesson learned.
Anyhow.. let's backtrack a tiny bit. We have been a little concerned about this trip due to all of the bombings that have been going on around Delhi and other areas in India. We decided that we would stay away from touristy areas if possible, other than the beaches of Goa. The terrorists seem to be going after markets and temples (these are not anti-American bombings).. so we will try to avoid these areas.
So, keeping this in mind, we wake up in San Fran prior to our flight - and there is a HUGE amount of people protesting outside of our hotel. We leave for the airport early (b/c I'm paranoid).. and end up getting delayed b/c there are a zillion people, press, and security officials everyplace. Turns out that Sarah Palin was speaking at our hotel and was arriving at that moment. Luckily we were not delayed too long.. and did make it to the airport on time (obviously!). Yikes!
Our flight(s) were great. Maya was an amazing traveler!! She slept quite a bit, and was happy most of the time. I was very impressed! The flights (we stopped in Seoul and Singapore) were pretty calm - other than some storms around the Kolkata area. I think I may have been the only person besides the staff who was awake during that time. ..I assume they were awake.. ;) Actually I was impressed that the pilot alerted us (ok.. me).. that we were unable to avoid all of the weather and to prepare for some bumps. He came on the speaker twice to do that. Thank GOD.. as I am a very fearful flyer and it helped me to deal.
Our layovers were only ~15 minutes each and were timed perfectly! Singapore's 777-300ER planes had awesome entertainment setups even in economy - on-demand movies (a ton of them)/tv/music/video games on a 10.6" personal screen. This helped the time go by in an amazing way. Maya loved playing with the 'memote'.. tho I had to watch her, as it was also a telephone. We don't need any $100 phone call bills coming in from the plane!
We lost our stroller at one point. We were in such a hurry when we changed planes in Singapore, that we forgot to grab it before we left. Luckily (LUV Singapore Air!).. they worked hard to locate it for us once we arrived in India and realized what happened, and they called last night to let us know that they had located it. They offered to deliver it ~midnight last night.. but we told them that they could just please deliver it to our hotel today instead! Great service!
Our hotel in Delhi is fabulous also - the ITC Maurya. I'll try to get some pics later or tomorrow morning. There is quite a bit of art in the lobby by a famous Indian artist (sorry, I just forgot his name). The building itself is modeled after a Buddhist stupa (the architecture rises up in steps). The lobby recreates a Buddhist hall of worship - it is a panelled dome - which is painted with an absolutely amazing mural. I cannot adequately describe it - I must snap some photos. Stunning. The rooms are very nice also. Not too large, but very well decorated - trendy. I luv the waterfall showerhead!
Maya is doing pretty well. She did a great job of embarressing us at the Embassy. ;) I'm sure there were many Indians who were discussing the obviously Americanized little Indian girl. Sigh. She wasn't bad.. but she wasn't motionless and silent like all the Indian children who were in the area. I think she appalled many people by trying to 'take their order' .. and trying to share her stickers. :) Ahh.. endless entertainment! She unfortunately doesn't like any of the food so far - which has been a slight issue. Luckily she has eaten fruit and yogurt.. so she is not too famished! I think that the main issue is simply the travel and then our unhappy and hot morning. She kept begging me to take her 'to the hotel so we can warm up please?!'. Haa.. she keeps getting her hot/cold adjectives confused. ;) But she is having fun playing with her new toys in the hotel room. I had wrapped up a bunch of them for the plane, but she only needed to unwrap ~3. She kept herself busy! She also likes the pool at this hotel - it has a very large children's wading area.
Ok.. long post! Hope you don't mind skimming for interesting info.. I want to document all of our travel details in order to remember them in the future!
On to Goa in the morning. BRING ON THE BEACH!!!!!!!!!!