Monday, August 2, 2010

Tickets Booked! Passport done!

I was more knocked about by the illness than I let on in my last post, and I am still in the process of getting over it. We got to Dunedin yesterday, which was wonderful, it was such a relief to get out of this place after the best part of two weeks being confined to barracks.

Special Occasion!
We had a special lunch at the cafe I mentioned in the last post, as it was our 29th Wedding anniversary on the 1st of August. Don't quite know where all the time has gone to..., but I am glad that we have spent it together.

The main purpose of the trip to town was to sort out my re entry permit for my passport, and to book my tickets to North Carolina. I need a re entry permit because, I'm not actually an NZ citizen, I'm a permanent resident and travel on a British passport.

In the Service of Her Britannic Majesty
I like my British passport, it has an impressive declaration inside the front cover in old fashioned curly script, which reads,

"Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary."

A statement like that gives me confidence that, if I should get into a spot of bother, Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State will receive my message of distress, put down his cup of tea, run long fingers through his mustache, put on his coat and trilby hat, bid a cheerful farewell to his house keeper, and stride powerfully to my rescue.

Seek and you might find....!
The re entry permit used to be straight forward to get. I think the first one I had was just a rubber stamp job by someone at customs, but the procedure is more complex now. I tried to find out what to do by looking on the Internet. Like most things on the Internet, if you know what to ask, you can get information very quickly, if you don't quite know how to phrase things, well.....

Maori Language Week... Kia Ora!
I eventually tracked down some information, and a phone number to ring. I rang the number and discovered that it was Maori Language week. To mark this occasion, the automated message greeted me first in Maori, and all else that followed was interspersed with cheerful Maori music.

Wild Thing!
I am never sure if music on automated phone systems is supposed to raise or to lower blood pressure. Some year's ago, I rang the Inland Revenue Department full of anger about something, and listened to "Wild Thing". When a real person finally spoke, I was so choked up with rage, that I could hardly speak at all, which may have been a good thing in retrospect!

Anyway, the cheerful Maori music was OK, I do have to confess (and I am so, so sorry...) I just wanted it to hurry up a bit, as I did want to speak to someone sooner, rather than later!

Well, I made it to the instructions about which buttons I needed to press on the phone in order to get to speak to a real person. Like a good restaurant, all of the menu sounded interesting, but as each new item on the menu is described, there is an alarming tendency to forget the ones that preceded it.

If in Doubt..... Press Button 4!
Eventually I pressed button 4. I have no idea if button 4 was what I needed to press, but all other options didn't seem to apply to my situation, and I had forgotten what the other buttons were anyway.

I must have selected the most popular course on the menu! All button 4s operators were busy at the moment which I am sure was good for their self esteem. It is, after all, nice to be needed and wanted.

Button Envy!
After some more cheerful Maori music, and two repeat exhortations to look at the Immigration New Zealand website, another automated voice told me I was number 21 in line. I wonder if the button operators have line envy! I wonder if they have hit counters like some blog sites do. "Hey button two, look how many callers I have today... I have 21!" And button two, on only ten callers, starts to feel anxious... and to deal with each inquiry more slowly..... What if button two's callers dwindled until there was no line at all! Imagine that!

I Gave Up!
I went through a few more exhortations to look at the Immigration New Zealand Website, and listened to the same cheerful Maori music until I got to number 17 in line. Then, my dear readers... I gave up. I knew that, in addition to having 5 employees and 10 public holidays a year, the Immigration Department's Dunedin office hours were 9am to 3pm (the website had informed me of this), and it was now 2.55pm!

To Find a Real Person...
All this was with this hanging over me that we set off for Dunedin, through drizzly rain and a fitful breeze. I determined that I would try to find the Dunedin office with its 5 employees and automated phone system, and try to talk with a real person... face to face. The first step was to find the office.

Well actually, the first step was to park the car! After some wobbly circles around Dunedin's bustling heart, a suitable spot was located in one of those highly collectible parks where the City Fathers charge $1 per hour, in stead of the $3 per hour that they like to charge elsewhere.

In which I am Robbed..
Anyway, I found a $1 per hour park. Put a two dollar and a one dollar coin into the slot of the beastly machine, and... a strange $3 per hour zone message flashed on its screen. Then, faster than I could reach forward to press the cancel button, it squirted out a ticket for one hour's parking instead of three hours, and it's inscrutable metal face seemed almost to smirk back at me. I checked the $1 per hour sticker was still on the side of the metal thief..., which it was, and I wrote down its number. Darn it..., I'd show it!

On the Prowl
Twelve year's ago I climbed some stairs to a small office that was in Dunedin's Princess Street. In a rather anonymous quiet room the necessary magic had been done to my passport to make it into something that would allow me to leave the country and also return.

I walked the street gazing into shops and doorways, once drifting in and out of a likely looking foyer, but no Immigration Department could I find. I prowled Dowling Street, and then walked down to the Exchange.

In Which I meet a Special Agent!
At John Whitcliff house I experienced a frisson (at least I think that is what I experienced). I took a lift to the 7th floor and found the Department of Internal Affairs right next door to a Dentist. The large and sophisticated wooden door of the Department of Internal Affairs was locked, but the dentist's door was open. I asked the receptionist, who encouraged me to press one of two buttons that were on the wall beside the closed door of the Department, and in a short while the door opened smoothly to reveal an immaculately dressed handsome young man, who welcomed me into his office. I wonder if he was a spy? Maybe he was in the service of Her Britannic Majesty, because he did "allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.."

Armed and fortified with the good guidance of this fine gentleman, I made haste to the third floor of the Norwich Building in Bond Street (Bond..., as in 007!). And yes, the Immigration Department was located there.

An Exchange of Dolleroes
Happily, payment of $80 and the gift of my nice new British passport to the pleasant person behind the counter, resulted in the return of my passport 3 minutes later with a shiny new label inside which allows me to return to these fair shores indefinitely!

Ah Ha!... Snuffles!
Bolstered by my re entry permit victory, and with 25 minutes remaining on the thieving parking meter, I entered the newly swished up Dunedin City Council one stop shop customer service area, and was served by a friendly girl with a slight cold. Her snuffles
were somewhat endearing (I after all was scarcely snuffle free myself), and any wicked thoughts of snarling aggressively to the representatives of the City Council were smoothed away by the light drip to the nose, and a friendly, helpful manner. After listening to my tale of woe and recording my particulars, I was advised me to park for the full time that I had payed for, and assured me that all would be forgiven if I was ticked by an official on a DCC motorbike.

I'm Out of Here!
After that I booked my tickets to North Carolina at The Dunedin Flight Centre, arranged travel insurance... and went home...

Well, I didn't sleep brilliantly last night. I probably had the dreaded, "What have I done now?!!!" floating around in my subconscious. The good thing about sleeplessness is that I have done lots of reading lately, and listening to book tapes. There are some really wonderful ones out there!

I've got lots of questions floating around in my head about my time in the States that some of you might be able to help me with. I'll post a few next time.

Tasks, Doing the Important ones first!
My next task will be to get my photo off of the pot that I will sell online as part of the Clay and Blogs exhibition. Then I will have to pack and send work to the exhibition. It could take 5 weeks for it to travel (it probably goes by bicycle from New Zealand... just kidding!), so there is only just time to get it there by the September 15th deadline! Eeeek! I have been getting so far behind with things because of not being well, but I'll try to remember to do the important ones first!

Sorry only one picture this time with the blog!!


Hannah said...

Fab fab story Peter. I found myself pulled into the screen and ended up almost with my nose pressed against it as each part unfolded. Glad you got the relevant bits and pieces now. I checked ticket prices, hmmm, if I win the lottery this next week or so then maybe but as it stands I'm afraid I won't be there.
Best wishes for getting yourself fighting fit and the pots sorted and off in time.

Peter said...

Hannah, you are lovely! I was feeling quite embarrassed about this post as it was far toooooo long, and I did contemplate not publishing it. My comfort was that people could simply not read all the way through if they were bored by it, and could do something more fun, like doing the dishes!

Anyway, I hope you manage to win the lottery, it would be fun to see you, but Laura and I are quite determined to get to the UK next year, so..., hopefully we will be able to meet up then! P :)

Linda Starr said...

I guess bureacracy is everywhere, can't wait to meet you in person.

Angie said...

Now where to start ...Most important ....CONGRATULATIONS more year and its your Pearl. I am also so pleased that you are finally sorted ...passport wise anyway but I had to smile over your journey getting there ...what is it about button 4 and canned musak ...Greensleeves was the one I killed many a phone over lol...face to face is much better.

Never worry about long posts as you write well ....just go with the flow.xx

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
I think there must be a secret international research organization that clones bureaucrats, especially the ones that design phone messages and declaration forms! Likewise, it will be so nice to meet up. At the Clay and Blogs opening, look for the lost looking balding old fellow that speaks in a strange NZ accent that no one can understand!

Thanks Angie,
Goodness... Pearls next year! I hadn't thought of that. I suppose it means that I will have to take up scuba diving or something to do the "manly" thing and harvest pearls to adorn my beautiful Laura! Alas, poor Greensleeves. That lovely song also became the musak for icecream vendors to play all amplified and tinny from their vans! I think that Henry the 8th may have composed that if I remember correctly...??? Maybe his several wives complained about it, which is why he had them beheaded! Just a thought!

Tracey Broome said...

Peter, you are so funny, you crack me up! don't worry a bit, we are very kind in North Carolina and will take good care of you!

Peter said...

Hi Tracey,
Worry..what.. me?! Well, yes I do..., but I'm really looking forward to seeing you all. Quite an adventure this! :)

cookingwithgas said...

Ha- your trip in many ways has already started or your adventure-I should say.
I too read it all- and I have to think- this is all really happening--- I need some hold music right now or maybe a pause button.
We look forward to having you here and hope your trip is one worthy of many tales!

Judy Shreve said...

I read every word -- what an adventure and you haven't even left NZ yet -- errrggghhh bureaucracy! I'm sure you'll get your pots to the states on time --

Dad said...

Dear son,
If all else fails, you can surely pack your spare socks in a pot, wrap it snuggly in other spare clothes, and take it with you!
Next Aug 1st we'll need to get the muzak changed from Greensleeves to Pearl Fishers won't we?

Yana Out East said...

I love the writing style where each chapter is described in advance. "In which I am robbed" was my fave. I hope all your snuffles are gone.

Armelle said...

Hope "the bearer will need any assistance and protection" that's so nice to be a subject of Her Majesty So, thank's Angie, I am listennig to "greensleeves", they dont choose such music in this part of the world, we often have "la peite musique de nuit" de Mozart, poor Mozart !!!
Je vous souhaite un prompt rétablissement Peter, et un bon voyage en Caroline du Nord. J'ai beaucoup ri avec ce post :D

Hi to L, G NS

jim said...

hi peter, hope you're on the mend soon. i loved the post, especially the paragraph of how the phantom british attache would come to your rescue. it's exactly how i think of the british in my stereotypical daydreams (although i really don't daydream of the brits often). i fear if i were to experience the same bout of bureaucracy here in the US and report it on the blog it would be severely lacking in the civility and restraint that you've displayed so well. bon voyage.

Peter said...

Hi Meredith,
I like the idea of a pause button too! Goodness, I don't know where all the time is going, but it is like it has sprung a leak somewhere!

Hi Judy,
My pots are on their way..., I sent them earlier today. We do have bureaucracy here, but ... the good thing is that most people that you meet in shops, businesses, and even in some of the Government agencies are really lovely in spite of it all!

Hi Dad,
The Pearl Fisher would make an exciting change from Greensleeves... Maybe you could sing the tenor and I could do the bass!

Hi Yana,
Glad you enjoyed it. I put all the headings in the story so that it was easier to navigate through. It really looked horrible when I first typed it out without them. I usually take advantage of putting in lots of photos to make little pauses for people to take a breath! Snuffles, coughs, and splutters are almost all gone now :)

Bonsoir Armelle,
It is nice to be looked after by Her Majesty! I hope that she remembers to send me a telegram when I am 100! I wonder if "la peite musique de nuit" helps to sell icecream as effectively as Greensleeves! I do remember the slow movement of Mozart concerto for piano number 21 being used to sell British Gas many years ago!
Je suis heureux que mon post ait causé le rire ! Merci du bon voyage, je suis tout à fait nerveux du voyage! Ma santé s'améliore vous remercie.
Best Wishes, P,L,NS & G

Hi Jim,
Almost mended! Glad you enjoyed the phantom British attache! I will have to keep a look out for a "guardian angel" with a waxed mustache, a suit, a bowler hat, and an umbrella when I am in the States... it might be the Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State protecting me! Mmmm... restraint..., the good thing about a blog is that it gives a chance to choose words more carefully and to find a funny side!

Hannah said...

Oh do come and see us Peter, that would be smashing, we'd all love that over here. Don't come in April though as me and Doug will be away all that month - fingers crosssed...

Peter said...

I'd love to. Thank you so much! We will do our best to come to the UK next year, and we will keep in mind what you say about April.. so we get the timing right!

Best Wishes,