Saturday, 25 September 2010

Heartache, headache and hassles

My last few hours in Auckland were decidedly unpleasant. Firstly there was the last minute tossing of things from my life that would not make the 20kg baggage limit. It was quite peculiar wearing clothes one day and then throwing them out only to start over with another set the next day. This went on for five days. Stephen's rubbish bin must look rather weird with women's clothing in it.

All the while I suffered a very strong headache brought on by tension, no doubt. We called in to to my best friend Yasmin to say good bye and drop off my car. She and Muhab have kindly offered to sell my car on my behalf. That is immensely helpful, a burden removed from my already overstimulated brain. It was even sadder than I expected. I have never seen Yasmin cry before but as I sat in the car while it backed down her driveway we both lost our struggle. "I miss you," I choked out and then we were both inconsolable as the distance widened. How ironic; they came to NZ from Iraq for a new life and now I leave for France for the same reason. We didn't see each other often but each time it was always as if no time had gone by at all.

Ahh, the airport. It should have been simple enough. I checked in. My booking was in the system. Not enough, you must present the very same credit card with which you made your flight booking. This was impossible for me as I had been the victim of a phishing attack weeks earlier and had needed to contact my bank and get a new one, destroying the old card too.

Two days earlier I had gone to the bank and explained that the info I had downloaded from the bank's internet system did not give me much information on my flight purchase. They tried too. They could not generate a bank statement for the old card. Information was in the system but not all would integrate into one document. Eventually they wrote a personal letter to qualify my credit card use regarding the flight, on letterhead no less.

Checkin staff were sympathetic but the flight booking system was uncooperative and would not complete my boarding arrangements. Time marched on towards my boarding call. Finally a supervisor worked some magic, but wait, there was to be more anxiety ahead.

Checkin then informed me I could not be cleared for boarding as I had no return ticket. You what? I was incredulous! What's the problem with me, I asked. They smiled nervously and said I was somewhat unique. How so? people leave NZ all the time. Well the system was saying that I had to be cleared by the French Embassy. They would have to be contacted before I could receive my boarding pass. But I have a Visa-sorry, it's the rules. Time marched further.

I was told the embassy would ring the airport back after a decision had been made about me. I lost it, I must admit. After all the crappy experience of obtaining a visa to then be possibly turned away still was just too much.I was in tears. In the meantime, poor Stephen was wondering what on earth was going wrong at checkin. We spoke via mobile at Departures. So I continued to stand with my extremely heavy laptop bag and camera bag and even heavier heart. The clock was ticking loudly now. I thought a calm checkin and shouting Stephen a hot chocolate before departure would be good for our nerves and a nice way to say goodbye. It wasn't happening.

Finally the supervisor came back saying the woman at the embassy didn't know me but if I could prove I could support myself in France it should be OK. What? The supervisor waited for proof. I said the embassy had a copy of my work contract, documents from the university detailing my salary-this is how you get a visa in the first place.The supervisor looked embarrassed and said OK, here's your boarding pass.

Stephen and I bolted down a hot chocolate and an afghan biscuit to calm our nerves and then it was goodbye to a man who knows me better than anyone, other than Laura.
Not the sort of farewell NZ experience I'd wish on anyone.


Alison said...

What a totally unnecessary drama, but I'm not surprised! I didn't have anything quite like that but certainly had Visa problems which included all the documentation arriving on my doorstep about a week before I was due to fly out, saying that I had to apply in person and there was a 6 month waiting list! And as for the carte de sejour en France - HA!! Anyway, bon courage et bonne chance. :-)

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