India Visas: A Long, Cautionary, Long Tale with Two Extended Intermissions, pt. 3

Note: You might like to read part 1 and part 2 of this saga. Or, you can get all three parts on one long page here.

Just over four hours remained for Sophie and I to procure Pennsylvania’s drivers licenses with which to complete our applications for visas to India, and I’d again been foiled by my own personal Officer Dibble, the Bottom of the Page. It chortled in my face as I sat in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation waiting room and through a mouthful of Brazil nuts explained that to get licenses Sophie and would I need a second, and completely unobtainable, proof of address. Then it toddled off to the conservatory, humming the overture to The Yeoman of the Guard. Moments later, Sophie gently took the application form from my quivering hand to see what had led to my sudden urination on the portrait of Governor Rendell. She looked it over and with a whistling whoosh deflated and flew in loops across the room, eventually snagging on the bus schedule rack.

In truth, my anger at this new development wasn’t because our situation was hopeless. In fact, I’d known for several days that we had a perfectly viable alternative for getting our licenses–one that was legal, required no complex machinations, and could probably be finished in under an hour. But it was an option so utterly distasteful to me that I’d sworn to under no circumstances, with the possible exception of having my head locked in the jaws of an alligator who demanded I buy him a pack of Camels and a bottle of Yellowtail, ever resort to it.
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India Visas: A Long, Cautionary, Long Tale with an Extended Intermission, pt. 2

Come back with me, dear readers, to a simpler time. A time eight months ago, when Steve Martin had not yet heard of Twitter, when movies about talking owls were just a magical fantasy, and when I had yet to finish living the story about which I would begin writing a month later and then forgot about until today. I resume our tale where I left off, with less than 24 hours remaining for my wife Sophie and I to acquire two forms of proof of address to use to acquire drivers licenses to use to acquire visas to use to gain entrance to India. We have just discovered, to our horror, that the Indian government has capriciously added a requirement that we include copies of our birth certificates with our visa applications. More precisely, I have just discovered that. Sophie would discover it a few minutes later when awoken by the sound of my loudly inventing ethnic slurs.

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India Visas: A Long, Cautionary, Long Tale, pt. 1

You might remember that Sophie and I returned to the US not only because we were exhausted and had gone just far enough past the edge of sanity that we had named our luggage, cameras, and hairbrush, but also because we needed to facilitate getting visas to India. Just before arriving in Turkey, we discovered that our original plan to apply for visas at the Indian consulate in Istanbul would’ve led to us being denied and redirected to the embassy in Ankara. Which in turn would’ve led us to spend a week in a town the tourist highlight of which is something called the Monument to a Secure and Confident Future. So we opted to go home and get them the good ol’ ‘MERican way.

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We’re Still in Pittsburgh

My observant readers will have by now noted that we were supposed to have taken off back for Istanbul a week ago today but have been curiously quiet about whether or not we actually left. Those observant readers would then be able to confirm that we have not actually left by checking their spare bedroom and noting that all of our crap is still spread all over it and that my old model of an X1-class TIE fighter has not been returned to its box. But for the rest of you: the “Where are Seth and Sophie?” map is correct. We’re still in Pittsburgh. There are a bunch of reasons for that, which I’ll lay out in some separate posts over the next few days. For now, here’s the summary:

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A Slight Detour

I’m exhausted. In the two days Sophie and I have been in Istanbul, we’ve been able to bring ourselves to see a grand total of two sights. Today we sat on a bench in front of the Topkapi Palace ticket office for 20 minutes trying to will the energy to go in, but in the end we went back to the hotel to take a nap. This trip has been wearing us out like an old rechargeable battery that runs for a shorter and shorter time after each charge. So for that and other reasons, after days of talking about it, yesterday we made plans to come home for a two-week break.

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Happy Phileas Fogg Day!

It’s day 80, and while Phil has us beat in the amount of ground covered, we’ve had to kill fewer pagans to do it. Otherwise the last 80 days have gone largely like I expected. The biggest surprises have been how exhausting this whole thing really is, and how much it’s costing. The budget’s saying we might have to come home a month sooner than planned, unless we’re willing to live in our storage locker.

The blown budget’s due mainly to two things: first, we’re not getting off easy on any of the costs that I thought we might get off easy on. Second, and more significant, the dollar is worth slightly less than Showbiz Pizza Place skee-ball tickets. For most of the trip a dollar’s bought about €0.67, making a Euro is worth $1.50. It’s impossible to maintain a sensible budget when there’s a 25-50% mark-up on everything.

So, we’ll probably shave a few days off of India, a few off of southeast Asia, a week or two off of New Zealand (which we’re okay with because we originally planned six full weeks for a country the size of a handful of Fritos) and a week or two off of Australia, getting us back in the USA at the end of May. Though once we leave the Eurozone things might improve financially, so we’ll see.

Right now, we’re down to our last week in Europe, and we’re getting very sick of doing things. So we’ve decided to stop doing things. We’ve rented an apartment in a fishing village in southern Portugal for a week, starting Thursday. We’ll sit around and play house — cook our own meals, catch up on this blog and the hundreds of photos I have to post, and hopefully rent a PS3 at one of the local video stores oh please oh please. Then on Christmas Eve we’ll climb on a boat for Morocco and say good-bye to Europe and the first third of our journey.

Shift-option-2 for the Euro symbol, by the way. And did you know that in most European countries there are so many diacriticals that the keyboards have an extra option key to allow for morw characters? The @ sign is usually something like extra option-?, which means that if I use an Internet café it takes me an extra 10 minutes to type an email address.

Bilbao. Bilbao Baggins. Bilbaoring.

Bilbao in the RainThe Guggenheim Bilbao is closed on Mondays. And yet here we are on Monday in Bilbao, a place that would be much better to take a day trip to then to spend three nights in. Unfortunately Bilbao is six hours from anywhere one would want to spend three nights in. Regardless, this isn’t an oh-fuck-it’s-closed story, because Sophie and I knew the museum would be closed. Which is why we planned to spend our extra day here in Basque country doing two other things: sleeping late, and laundry.

And so we arrived off the train from Barcelona last night at 11pm, walked the kilometer to our hotel, and told the guy at the reception desk that we had a reservation. He said, “No.” He seemed confident that settled things and turned back to his computer. Back in September I might have assumed that he was right and just headed back to Barcelona. But now I have 11 weeks of hardcore travel experience under my belt. So I replied, “Yes.”

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