Wednesday/Thursday – 146/147

Posted on 23rd December 2012

Today was the day to see a show and we picked one that was on the cheaper end for rush tickets: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. This was a light-hearted musical based off Charles Dickens’ tale that was left unfinished at his death.

But the first order of the day was obtaining breakfast from a nearby bakery (dual pastries for me, a pain au chocolat et un croissant) and the to pick up some documents I needed printed for my visa application from my cousin’s office downtown. After that it was a light lunch at a vegan/vegetarian fast food joint and then to the show!

The show opened with the warning that we would be voting on the ending for, as Dickens had let it unwritten, the choice would be left up to us as an audience. The show featured heavily non-naturalistic elements including partial narration and frequent breaking of ‘the fourth wall’ but this didn’t detract in the least from the audience’s emotive connection to the story, as frequently occurs. This is possibly because the strong character archetypes that Dickens employs are so designed to arouse a human connection that despite any theatrical additions, the core messages remained. Our audiences chosen ending was somewhat surprising and the actors did a find job of improvising the needed elements. Overall I highly recommend this show, especially given the price for which a student can obtain tickets.

The rest of the afternoon was spent collecting my belongings before eating a little sushi with mum and going to the Port Authority Terminal. Unfortunately with mum being slightly paranoid about me not missing my bus she accidentally ditched me an hour early after misreading the time! Thus, I decided to buy the paper, a book and, a magazine, to while away the two hours before the bus left.

Once on the bus I had a most unpleasant ride, with a large overweight individual of African-american ethnicity with large thighs and loud music sitting alongside of me, reducing my seat to more of a half seat and my sleep to null.

I arrived in Montreal at 5AM, greeted with frozen air and an icy wind that chilled my innards to stone. My nerves protested as I stood outside arguing with the taxis drivers over who would take me. Eventually I made it to 3527 Lorne, Ariel Z, a Melbourne friend’s apartment that he had vacated at the end of exchange just a day prior. His rent carried over for a couple of days and so he said it wouldn’t be a problem if I crashed there. Unfortunately the landlord was later to come and change that…

As I stepped over the front porch, I slipped on the sleet and landed in icy water that made my already burnt nerves scream, and the few minutes it took me to find the hidden key and open the door were painful. Finally inside, I was lost as to which room my key could open and after ten minutes of searching, I found the room, changed out of my clothes and crashed on the bed for a brief forty minutes of sleep I could allow myself before rising to get my visa done.

My visa appointment was at 8AM at the US Consulate in Montreal. It was meant to be a ten minute walk away, however with no internet and no map, it took me close to forty minutes to find the place. Out in the cold again, with not enough cover, this was made more difficult by the fact that I needed to hide from the cold inside apartment buildings along the way so as to avoid frostbite. Once at the consulate there was a line that formed and we were made to wait outside for around twenty minutes. The air was already warming and for that I was most grateful. After a good hour more of waiting I made it through consulate security, past the waiting line for visas and to my interview where I was charged over $300 in fees just to be assessed for the claim. I was then informed that my sponsor institution, the University of Pennsylvania had not paid the SEVIS fee, as was customary for host schools and, that they could not issue my visa until such was done. They took my passport, my I-20 visa application and supporting documents and was thus sent away with information on how to pay the $200 fee myself and also told to contact Penn to get them to pay it too.

From there I headed down the road to find a SIM card so I could call Penn, and a cafe with wifi, to make calls and pay the fee. During this period I was charged ridiculous roaming fees by AT&T. On the scale of $2/min of phone usage and $15/MB of data usage. This meant in 24 seconds of internet usage I was charged $4. Not very fair. I finally made it to the cafe and after calling Penn and being told they couldn’t help, I decided to pay the fee myself. However, on reaching the payment page for the SEVIS fee, was told I needed information from my I-20 which, if you recall, had been taken into holding by the consulate.

I thus raced back to the consulate, trying to make it before the 11AM deadline, only to be told by the security guard that without my documents I couldn’t be let in the building. The tears started to flow and I tried asking calmly if there was anyone else I could speak to about it and he directed me to another staff member who he claimed would tell me the same. She in fact told me to go right on through but the guard, on hearing this questioned her to the point that I was escorted from the building until such time as they could ascertain what to do. After a number of tense minutes, I was eventually readmitted, without any documents to the top floor, where a kind lady handed me photocopies of all my documents necessary to pay the SEVIS fee.

From there I found my way back to Ariel’s apartment and met with the single current resident, Leo from Melbourne Uni, a Bialik boy in my brother’s year and also a Melbourne High Old boy. We had a great many friends in common and hit it off fairly well. He then gave me access to the wifi in the apartment which was a great help and allowed me to pay the SEVIS fee. I then emailed the receipt off to the consulate and from that point just hoped they would approve my application without the 60-90 day administration period that they had told me could follow.

After that I fell right asleep, hardly waking up till dinner. At that point we went out to search for a place to eat. It was that evening that I had my first encounter with the cannabis plant, in this case, a delicious hemp-burger that was served at the vegetarian restaurant around the corner. Perfectly legal, perfectly safe and perfectly delicious.

After dinner I didn’t last much longer and was soon asleep again, finally a chance to relax a little after a somewhat harrowing 24 hours.


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