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.
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.
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.
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!!