Looking for an apparently non-existant office supplies outlet in the lunchtime rush-hour is a surreal moment when there’s a visa application to complete. It was already ten past noon and I still needed more documents downloaded and copied. The shop was no-where in sight so I needed to find my bank. It was blocks away but at least certain to deliver what I needed. The visa officer had kindly frozen my paperwork until 12.20 when the office would close. I couldn’t freeze now, this was my last chance to complete the task or wait for another month until the next available appointment. Adrenalin kicked in.
It was 12.18 when I slid the documents under the plate glass window. The officer smiled at my dishevelled appearance and added the papers to the pile. I’m still not sure how I managed to run those city blocks, get my statements printed, stamped and signed before reaching the office two minutes before closing time. Note to self: climbing the bureaucracy tree was a high but really, I’d rather be in a forest.
My resolve didn’t waver. I want to get back to Europe, in spite of the ocean paradise I’ll leave behind in Australia.
It was now 11.55am and the consulat general’s office closed at 12.20. I wasn’t about to wait another month for a new appointment so I firmly grasped the paperwork and rushed out the door with directions to find a Justice of the Peace and an office supply outlet. The elevator plummeted 26 floors to ground zero.
By the time I reached the pharmacy, it was was close to 12 noon. This lead turned out to be futile but the woman kindly suggested that I might find a JP in the tall building with the revolving doors. So I retraced my steps. I found a chartered accountant on the fifteenth floor. He was busy but I wasn’t deterred. Pleading has it’s place. By 12.05 I was out of there and hit the pavement running. I still needed updated bank statements. I had fifteen minutes left.
One drip at a time. Will it all fall into place?
My bedroom floor has been overtaken by paper over the past couple of months. It began with a soon to be out of date passport, gained momentum with the lost birth certificate and accelerated when I needed a police check. The carpet began to disappear as I fanned bank statements and travel insurance documents in easily navigable arrangements. I booked a one way ticket to Paris and added it to the pile. Then the french translations began to creep across the room. By the time title deeds and electricity bills had arrived from a friend in France, my visa application process had spread into the lounge room. My housemates generously ignored it.
Yesterday I loaded 1.015kg of original documents plus two folders of certified copies into my backpack and rode through the empty streets of Canberra as the first hint of dawn brushed the sky. By 6.45am I was on the bus to Sydney. The guy next to me slept for the entire three and a half hours. I didn’t.
By 11am, my date with destiny was staring from behind a plate glass barrier. As directed, I pulled the carefully prepared documents from their plastic sleeves, removed the paperclips and passed each page through the slot in the window, in the prescribed order. My folders were now strewn across the floor. The clerk slowly scrutinised each document. At ten minutes to 12 he looked at me directly and told me that I had applied for the wrong visa. He added that there was a more appropriate visa, however it required some missing documents. Could I get a statuary signed declaration and more bank statements before the office closed at 12.20?
My resolve didn’t waver. If the application wasn’t completed today, I would have to wait another month for the next appointment and by then, my documents would be out of date…
PS. Yes, I’d rather be at the coast instead of doing admin.
It was a good photoshoot. We hid the torn denim shorts that I thought were cool. Francesca, like so many women, preferred to keep her thighs under wraps. I believe that I nailed her vanity, her insecurity and her strength. This friendship was uniquely ours. Not to be repeated or understood. We came from very different backgrounds. Me, the wild Aussie girl. She, the American lost in France. We painted our world with ambition. Shared artistic passion was our glue. It didn’t make sense when Francesca wrote from her hospital bed. It didn’t make sense when she died. I only knew her full of life.