Thursday, May 24, 2007

A trip to Europe?

I'm supposed to leave for a two-week trip to Europe this weekend. But until now I still have no visa.

My dilemma: There's this embassy located inside a posh village in Makati where I was supposed to apply for a visa. The village guards would not allow me in because my name is not on the list of people who are scheduled to visit the embassy. The guards, who were just following orders, said I should set an appointment by calling the embassy, which I did of course several times already in the past weeks. The one who answers my calls always referred me to the number of the visa section, which nobody answers.

So what to do? I sent an email twice already to the email address on the embassy's Web site. No answer. I also sent a fax message to the number of the consular department, still no answer. I already have an invitation from the Foreign Ministry of the said country, but the guards refused to recognize the letter.

(One thing I appreciate about the American Embassy in Manila is they will either say yes or no to any visa application and will not hold you in suspense.)

I am also very grateful to the people at the Norwegian Embassy, the other country that I am going to visit for another conference. The friendly Norwegians immediately accommodated my request for a visa after I showed an invitation from no less than their prime minister.

Actually, I always have mixed feelings every time I'm invited to travel to another country. One, I don't really have the financial capability to travel. I'm not really that excited to travel because I know that all I do abroad is stay in my hotel, attend meetings and walk around the block or to the nearest park. Except of course if there are generous sponsors who shoulder my needs, including allowances for excursions or outings.

The last time I went abroad was to Jakarta. Except for my trip to my hotel from the airport and back, and for the short trip to a park where a protest action for missing journalists was held, I just stayed in the hotel, consuming cups of free coffee.

Travels are exciting, but for a Filipino "promdi" like me who can hardly afford a trip out of Metro Manila, it's a sacrifice.

Abangan na lang natin kung it's a go or not this weekend.

My thanks, of course, to my dear friend Carol who, upon hearing of my ignorance about traveling abroad, went out of her way to look for an agency and get my travel insurance, although it's not yet sure if I would be able to leave. Ha, ha, ha. Thanks, Carol dear. Sabi nga, you know who your real friends are in times of need.

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