My US Visa renewal experience – Chennai Visa Application Centre

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Applicants and accompanying persons to the US Visa Centre waiting on the street blocking traffic and risking themselves from getting hit by a passing vehicle.

It is going to be 10 years since my first visit to the USA, the land of opportunities. I still remember the first trip when we took a taxi to the Best Western hotel, Chicago sometime in the evening and then I called my mom who just woke up and was making her morning coffee. It was exciting to see or feel in real that there can be day in one part of the world while the other part is sleeping.

Coming back to the renewal of my US VB1/B2 Visa, you can get all the information at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-visarenew.asp

This is what I did.

  1. Paid the visa fees using NEFT
  2. Completed DS-160 – http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-ds160info.asp
  3. I registered and created a profile at https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/?language=English&country=India to schedule a visit for today at 8.15am.

The system asks you a few questions to check if you are eligible for interview waiver and thankfully I was one of them. It would be good to renew your Visa before the expiry date. Though this is not the only criteria for interview waiver it would be helpful.

I reached the Visa Application Centre at 7.45am and while passing the building I saw a long queue in the road and I managed to find a parking spot in the main road. Walked to the gate and enquired with the security who informed me that 8am appointments are allowed inside. 8.15 would be next. I then went back to the queue and waited while autos and cars either zipped past us or cursed us for blocking the road. Not that we wanted to, but as you would understand no point explaining anything to Chennai auto annas.

The security allowed a few people and then the line stopped, I was curious and asked the gentleman in front of me what time is his appointment and he stated that his was 8.30am. I then went to the security and he allowed me to get in as I was for 8.15am.

There was a queue inside where two staff verified the documents and let us go into the main building where we were welcomed by the staff who once again verified the docs, let us pass to another counter who scanned the bar code and let us into another room – security check – switch off mobile – then to another counter who stuck another bar code on my passport and directed me to another counter where the staff gave me a token and the counter number to go.

The counters were free and the staff were professional and courteous. She advised me to read a paper which basically mentioned that by putting in the finger prints I undertake that whatever I have mentioned in my application is true and any false information would amount to perjury. Agreed.

She took a photo, scanned the prints and explained how I will collect my passport. Gave me the acknowledgement and off I go. I was out by 8.18am and on my way to office.

What could be improved.

  1. The waiting queue can be inside the building. There is lots of space. Only applicants can be allowed to enter this area. This way we avoid the risk of the applicants getting hurt/killed on the road or cause traffic jams and hardship to other road users.
  1. The mike/speaker setup in the counter is just too loud or echoing. I saw it was a very good brand (I forgot the name) but still I had to ask her to repeat the questions several times.

For the applicants and the relatives: We should understand that the most of them applying for the Visa renewal or whatever are mature adults and does not require the whole family to come. It’s not even the airport for heaven’s sake. By accompanying them you are causing them more trouble than any help. Off course this is my opinion. To one his own.

Overall the whole experience was good and very effective.

Marky’s first night without a diaper

Alarms were set to go every two hours and for the first two alarms I had to check with the easy nappy and then woke mark to check if he wants to go to the bathroom and every time I did his response was in the negative.

Surprisingly at 8am he got up with a dry mat. Looks like he passed on the very first day. Shhhhh. Let’s see today. Hoping for the best. 😀

Late night drive with Matt & Mark + Ice Cream

Dropped Village Ammachi & Trichy Tatha in the bus stand and drew around Anna Nagar, stopped over at the Ibaco Ice Cream joint around 10.45pm, had some ice cream, stopped by a old lady outside the shop requesting to buy some flowers for Rs.20 and then she wanted us to buy for Rs.50 and emptied her bag. Very old and feeble. Impressed to see her working so hard late at night to make a living. Matt offered her a blanket and we bid her farewell.

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Matt’s Second Surgery – Removing the implants

After so much confusion on the dates for the surgery considering that the Insurance guys are closed for Pongal which will make us stay another day in the hospital, the doctor confirmed in the morning that we can go ahead with the surgery by 12 noon on Jan 13 and we hoped that Matt slept through as he has to be on an empty stomach for 6 hours prior to the surgery. As destiny would have it he would up sharp at 7am and we had to plan on an emergency plan. Fed him a chapatti and a glass of milk and asked him to hit bed. Went to sleep along with him. Woke up at 11, drove with Matt and enroute asked Matt “When did you have your last meal” and his reply surprised me. “Last night – you know I need to be in empty stomach” 🙂  and checked in to the hospital and was given a swanky room which had Jaguar Bath fittings, SONY LED HD TV (Ya ya – all our money – or the Insurance money 😉 ) and was moved for surgery around 1pm.

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The most irritating part was the nurses having no clue of the surgery, prior history and asking me dumb questions like what’s his weight. Lost my cool after a few times and told her to get a weighing machine rather than asking me. Asking me to sign blank consent forms and blank anesthesia administration forms was pushing it.

The anesthetist was Dr.Manon Mani who was super nice. Spoke with Matt just to make him comfortable and Matt was super cool as always. matt.JPGAll set for the surgery and I stepped out while Matt bid me farewell.  The wait began. The Dr.Parthiban performed the surgery. Matt was out like in 40 mins. Still sedated but as always looking out for dad. 🙂

There was no stretcher and the asst doctor carried Matt to the ICU while the OT nurse was carrying his drips. The ICU nurses were fighting again as they did not get the bed ready, no oxygen in place, monitoring system was not set up and after few minutes under the threat that the anesthetist was going to come any minute the bed was set.

The implants (pins & wire) was finally out of Matt. IMG_0051.JPG

We had a visitor to see Matt immediately.

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Spent the night chatting with Matt for a really long time about his school, friends, Ambika Miss (his LKG miss whom he loves a lot) and how he will now go back to school and show his scar to everyone and brag 🙂 how strong he is now that the pins are taken out.

Two days later we went for a regular check up and dressing of the wound and all seems good so far. Get well soon Matt so we can do our bed fights like crazy. Love Ya, my boy!

A trip to remember – Paris

Papa was off for a conference in the US on May 2 and will be free by May 12. Momma planned in a way that we meet Papa in Frankfurt airport and go to Paris for a vacation. We reached Frankfurt on time and had to rush to catch our connecting flight to Paris. Nothing unusual, stupid papa booked a connecting flight with just 1 hour to spare and poor Fathima ammachi has to literally run to get to the departure gate. There was the idiot opps sorry papa waiting for us as always tensed biting fingers moments…. We were on time to save our skin and boarding started. With all the running around Ammachi was so thirsty that dad had to run to the nearby shop to pick a bottle of water for her while we boarded. While daddy tucked his jerkin on the overhead cabin I opened the bottel and poured all the water on the nice carpet while daddy just noticed it and says “Holy %%%%” 🙂 LOL. the air hostess was a sweetheart who gave daddy a few tissues and got mom a glass of water. It was nice to see dad after 2 weeks and I stuck with him fora while before I decided I move on to mom as dad kept saying “dont do this, dont do that” dad will always be dad. Phew! he never grows up.

We reached Paris on time, it was a long walk to reach the exit gates but Peo mama was already waiting for us there. It was an hour’s drive and we reached home to be treated with hot iddlis and dosas by Plumenna attai. Mario and Darshini (my little cousins) bunked school waiting for me and we had a great time playing with toys. Dad as usual went ahead to plan our trip to St.Lourdes the coming days.

Dad finally booked the TGV train tickets to St.Lourdes for May 15, 2012 and we left quite early to catch the train. Plumena attai packed enough snacks for our trip and I was looking forward to it. The train was super clean and dad had no issues leaving me to be on my own. The first move of the train gave me a bang on my head … and then I got used to it. There were two nuns a few seat away from ours and it seems they were from Little sisters of the poor from Srilanka on a mission. Since dad works with the LSOP in Chennai he picked up a conversation and were discussing missionary works among other things. We reached St.Lourdes around 3.00pm and we hopped into a cab who ook us on a 5 minute ride to our hotel only to charge us a whopping 10 Euros.

After freshening up  we decided to take a walk around the church and relax. While dad borrowed a nice pram rom the hotel, mom and ammachi did some window shopping. The walk to the church was cruel as it was really cold. Dad made the trip really short and decided to get back to the room quite early and we ate some Srilankan Cuisine and hit bed early for the big day ahead.

First car trip alone to ammachi’s place

Got up early as usual and was bothering mom who wanted dad to take me out. As dad was planning to go meet CTSJ thata he decided that he takes me along if I behave. 🙂 So he put me on the front seat and locked me on the seat belt. Pretty safe now huh! The ride was smooth except dad yelling at a few idiots on the road… Josua’s friends were there and I had a great time with them. Ammachi gave me some superb ice cream (2 cups for me) and came back home for lunch.