Thursday, 28 February 2008

Nearly there

Well, I got my visa. Whoop woop!

I was so incredibly stressed and nervous on the Thursday night, staying at my Great Aunt's house in Surrey, that I slept barely a wink and couldn't converse with family I haven't seen for months. I wanted to see them, but I was so overwhelmed by anxiety I could hardly speak without crying. It didn't help that work had been particularly stressful that week.

The next day I went with my parents to London. They had driven me down to Surrey straight after work the night before, as we had decided they would provide me moral support getting my visa, and then take in a bit of the big smoke in the afternoon.

Another reason I wanted them to be there was just in case something went wrong at the Consulate, I would be able to call on them to drive me to and from Manchester at the last minute to pick up some vital piece of documentation or such like. Ok, I am a paranoid wimp, but sometimes you just need your mum when you are a bit scared, don't you?

The Consulate is in Uganda House, on Trafalgar Square. You have to buzz through the Ugandan Embassy to get to the Ecuadorian Consulate on the first floor. The Consulate, or what I saw of it, consists of a couple of rooms with a small reception area. All doors are left open. I was met by the lady I have previously nagged for reassurance about the validity of my documents over the phone. I still don't know her name, but I recognised her voice. She had tight ringlets and dangly earrings. I was terrified.

There were two desks in the room, and another man who shufled in and out talking to the ringlet woman. Next to his desk was a stand with Ecuadorian mobiles dangling from it, some wrapped up and some unwrapped, like an advent calendar. I will find out if this has significance, I thought.

There was lots of asking for documents and copies, and each time I handed them over my heart sank in case they were wrong; in case my bank statements didn't show enough solvency (thank god my student debts didn't show), and there was lots of me sitting very straight trying to look both competent and innocent, and not visa-unworthy. I could feel my parents sitting on the sofa outside, and imagined them watching discreetly to see how things were going, and I just looked out of the window onto the National Gallery. What an amazing view.

I was still scared when she started stamping things. It could be a permanent denial, my peripheral paranoia told me, and my passport will be scarred forever. But then she started to stick shiny holograms to my passport, and it was nearly over. When she handed me back my documents, I felt like I had been released from custody, and couldn't feel relieved until I was completely out of the building.

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