And finally there is the tourist visa. You see even though I am a permanent resident of the United States, I still am a citizen of India which is considered a third world country and rightfully so. Therefore, for me to fly to other first world countries for any reason - except transit - I have to fill out lovely bureaucratic stationery and apply for a visa which costs extra $$. And then hope the application is processed correctly.
If I were an American citizen or first world country citizen for that matter, I would just have to book a ticket to Spain and show up. No visa application and no approval process. Not fair. Americans have it easy! And yes I would renounce Indian citizenship to be American in a heartbeat. Americans, please value your citizenship and its benefits. I know many permanent and temporary residents certainly do.
Since my trip was scheduled for Apr 15-Jun 3rd I decided that I would apply early. I called the Spanish Embassy, read their website, and got all the proper documentation necessary. On Dec 30th I went to the Spanish Embassy and turned in my paperwork. Unfortunately, they told me I cannot apply so early. Never been rejected for being the early bird to catch the worm.
So this morning - after emailing and confirming with the embassy that it was acceptable apply 2 months in advance - I got up at 5:30 AM and drove 3.5 hrs during rush hour to Vienna/Fairfax. Hopped on the Metro to Foggy Bottom and arrived at the Spanish Embassy. I was in and out in 5 minutes. I waited 2 mins for my turn in line, and 3 minute review of paperwork + $79 application fee (wishing I was American) and now I wait 15 days to get my passport back in the mail. Crossed fingers for an approval.
No trip to DC is fun without meeting up with friends along the way. I met up with my last roommate Jamie. He is a human rights lawyer (insert favorite heart melting awwwww sound here). Jamie is Canadian - so we shared common sentiments on the work visa/immigration system in the US. However, he does have the same benefits as Americans when traveling abroad - actually Canadians are better off travel wise due to being part of the Commonwealth and recognizing the British Queen in namesake only.
Funny story, one of the first things Jamie told me before he took his first class at W&L Law was that if we were ever driving together in Virginia and we got pulled over, and I was asked if I was a US Citizen and he wasn't, I could argue for racial profiling. I knew Jamie and International Law/Law School would 'goes together like peas and carrots.'
I love it when you are able to catch up with friends from where you left off. Hadn't seen him since Jun 2013. We greeted each other like old friends. Initiate rapport with the middle finger flip off, followed by a warm hug/embrace, and then every man's favorite two part question 'How are you bro?' and 'I'm hungry, where do you want to go eat at?' We settled for food truck lunch at a park bench on Franklin Square with the sun in our faces. Best lamb kabob salad ever! Zoom in the pic for the menu.
I headed back home at the perfect time to catch RUSH HOUR again.
RANDOM: Some driving observations noted on the way.
- Drive slower if you are not in a rush. I filled up and drove at 65 mph on a 70. Noticed the big difference in my left over gas tank. I usually drive 5 over but this time stuck to 5 under for most of the way. 350 miles traveled and relatively a quarter tank left.
- I need to be more patient with stop and go traffic - especially if they come to an abrupt stop and then go back to 30 mph repeatedly. I wonder if having a dressed up mannequin in the front seat would pass as a head in the HOV lane.
- Practice mindfulness when driving instead of listening to music. It is amazing how you can feel the road or sense your internal body movement when you turn off the radio and more importantly the inner dialogue and mind chatter.
- Buy a portable 2 gallon tank of gas for the road ... just in case.
- I estimate I got 33 mpg by going 65 mph. Wonder if I can cruise on 60 mph and a significant enough gas mileage to warrant the extra travel time - there by saving $$$. After all, I am planning to travel all across the US right??