Well, we made it to Dubai anyway, let’s hope we don’t get sick

I would say something really witty here, but I’ve been awake for 2 days straight…2? 3? Yes, I think it’s 2, maybe. Well, I mean it’s 8:30pm Central time and 6:30pm Pacific Time and it’s 5:30am in Dubai, but we don’t get to sleep until later at some point…Which I think is still today. Today being Saturday. Friday didn’t actually exist for us. It wasn’t a day. It was like it was a ghost…or something. Needless to say we are tired, but we received our passports 2 hours before we left for the airport (though minus a marriage certificate) and now we are in the midst of our 15 hour layover, which was actually made shorter by our plane running out of fuel and into a sandstorm. Sounds exciting, right? 

Oh…and we don’t get to have health insurance yet….awesome. In the words of one of our friends, we will “not eat anything bad, not drink anything bad, and not step in anything bad”….or at least we’ll try to.

I wish I could write more, but we only get 30 minutes of wifi and we’re running short on time. More later. Stay tuned. The next time we post, the world really will be upside down (the toilets will flush the other direction and everything!).

Love from Dubai!

Katie and Will

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WE ARE LEAVING THE COUNTRY TOMORROW!!!!!!…….probably

Happy August 27th, everyone!

I know you have all been holding your breath waiting to know what will happen next in our terribly exciting soap opera, “As the World Turns Upside-Down”. And don’t you worry, we shall not disappoint. In our last episode, we had no health insurance, no visas, no passports, no marriage license and were getting on a plane heading in the opposite direction of all of these vitally important papers with no inclination that we would see them before we had to leave for our year of endless summer. 

Early Tuesday morning, Will and I were taken to the airport by the lovely and inestimable Elizabeth Emery (my wonderful sister) where we found out that our two checked bags together weigh 99.7lbs. We probably could not have packed any better if we would have tried. Go us. Because it was too early in the morning in Central time to call the South African Consulate, we were going to have to call them as soon as we got off the plane in Seattle to see if we could figure out what in the world was going on with our…everything. Will, gratefully, did this because I probably would have screamed or said something vastly inappropriate which would probably not have helped our case at all.

During the conversation, we came to two conclusions: 1)the consulates and the embassy must not be on speaking terms and 2) the website doesn’t mean what we think it means. We had thought that when the website said that we could not have our paperwork overnighted to us unless we were mailing everything to New York what it meant was that we couldn’t have our paperwork overnighted to us unless we were mailing it to New York. Instead what the website means is that you should include a pre-paid envelope with all of your other paperwork when you submit it, no matter which Consulate you send it to, and they will overnight it to you. 

After learning these very important lessons, we made our way from the airport to a post office to buy an overnight envelope to put inside another overnight envelope to be overnighted to the consulate in Chicago which they would get today before 10:30am and could then put our paperwork in said overnighted overnight envelope to be returned to us by 12pm tomorrow, right before we leave for the airport at 1:30pm tomorrow to leave the country. We were even given the tracking number for the envelope that is being returned to us so that we could follow it. Unfortunately, we’re pretty sure that, though our overnighted overnight envelope made it to Chicago this morning before 10:30am, it may not have been mailed back to us as we cannot track it. But, who knows?, the tracking number may just not be activated yet. This is all very exciting, no?

On a side note that is completely related, I must give a huge shout out to Rep. Dave Reichert in Washington, Will’s congressman, and all his staff. We called him a couple days ago and his staff has been calling and getting and giving updates to us, giving us their cell phone numbers and emails so that we could give them updates on how things are going. This is why we have representatives and I am super proud to see our democratic process and elected officials actually serving the people they represent. Well done, Representative Reichert. You and your staff are gentlemen/women and scholars and we appreciate you caring, even if you can’t make our paperwork get to us any faster. 

So, in conclusion, in 18 hours, we are prepared to leave the country for a year. However, we are still very much in a similar situation as we were 48 hours ago when I last updated this blog. 

Let the drama continue (or perhaps end…ending would be okay too…at least for a while)

As always, stay tuned, it’s bound to be exciting no matter what happens next.

Prayers, Blessings, and Popsicles are greatly appreciated at this moment.

 

Katie

Hello. This is Peggy.

So, have you seen the Discover card commercial where there is this customer service phone operator that doesn’t speak English very well? And he answers the phone “Hello, this is Peggy. How may I help you?”?  And the conversation continues on with him being completely unhelpful and finally hanging up the phone? Or at least that’s how I remember it.

Anyway, that sort of progression of conversation is exactly how every conversation about anything important has felt in the past few months in preparation for our time abroad. It doesn’t really matter if we are talking to a governmental agency or a heath insurance representative or making an appointment or…whatever. If something needs to get done in a timely manner it seems as though the person on the other end of the phone line is completely oblivious to what our needs are or how to speak our language. In some ways it feels like there is a conspiracy against our going to Africa or leaving the country at all. I have even wondered if God is trying to tell us something and we are just not listening. But, whether it is my own stubbornness at wanting to make things happen at any const of time and energy or my laziness at not wanting to back out of so many things that we have invested ourselves in (and given up to do this), I’m not sure.

What I do know is that Will and I leave our cozy apartment on Selby and Snelling at 5am tomorrow not to return for a year. We’re not really sure of the specifics of how it will all come together-as of now, if our visas are mailed today, we will probably get them in Washington on Thursday morning, the day we fly to Dubai. But, so far, we are assuming all is going to go according to plan until it doesn’t. And we’ll cross that bridge (or burn it) when we come to it. So far we are leaving Minnesota in 15 hours. So far, we are leaving the country on Thursday evening. So far, we are still holding on to our sanity with our fingertips. So far, we are arriving in South Africa on Saturday. If any of this changes, we’ll be sure to let you know.

 

Stay tuned for the next episode of “As the World Turns Upside-Down”

Katie

GPF, USPS, and FBI

We leave for Africa in 5 days!  The craziness has continued from the time of our first post.  Here is an update on the last week or so (as well as a tidbit about the fellowship), with a more than adequate number of acronyms.

The GPF (Graduate Preaching Fellowship) I was awarded is a one-year study fellowship abroad.  It was entirely open-ended, and the information you see on the “Fellowship Proposal” page (and will soon see on the “About” page) was an entirely new creation, formed and molded through many conversations with people.  The GPF is awarded to one Luther Seminary student each year – members of the faculty judge the applications and choose one to accept.

Now, back to the past few days.  We sent in for FBI background checks (BC) at the beginning of July.  The website noted a turn-around time of 28 days – not too bad, we thought.  Four weeks passed, then five.  We noticed our payment had been processed at the end of the fifth week – and we thought that maybe the BCs would come in the next few days.   Then six weeks came and went, and we had to leave (without the BCs) to go to Wisconsin for a Re-approval Interview for Katie, then fly out of Madison for Santa Fe, NM, to visit her Dad, Aunt, and Uncle.

At the very end of the sixth week, we received a text from our roommate that the BCs came – and he went to the USPS office to next-day them to us in NM.

Katie’s aunt and uncle use a PO box, not a box at their address.  So when the USPS driver arrived at their house with the package, he couldn’t deliver the BCs because there was no box.

So he sent Katie a text that said “This is your mailman i have a express piece for you.”  It was, in fact, from the USPS mailman for her aunt and uncle’s house in NM.  After many texts, and driving back down the mountain we were on, Katie, her dad, and I met the mailman on the side of the road in Tesuque, NM.  We finally had our BC’s!

We sent the applications in under the “Research Visa” (RV) section, on Monday – they arrived on Tuesday.  I received a call on Wednesday that they would not accept our applications as RVs.  To them, it seemed there would be no research taking place.  I had been assured in a conversation with the SA Embassy in DC in June that an RV was the way to go – I tried to explain that to the person on the phone, and that Luther Seminary was sending me to do research on social change and preaching and the intersection of these in society.  After a long-winded – and verging on emotional – explanation, the vice-consul said that she didn’t think that was research, and that she couldn’t accept our application as an RV.  She said they might be able to accept it as a long-term visitor’s visa, but I would need to get back to her about whether the church was registered with the Department of Education in SA.  If it was registered, it may be a Research Visa.

I called multiple times on Thursday – the first time I called the number I was given Wednesday, but was told that that number is longer being used by the SA consulate.  After finding the correct number online, I reached a receptionist but was only able to leave a message.  The person I spoke with Wednesday never called back. On Friday morning, amidst the joy of moving our lives into a 10×10 storage unit, I called back again, only to find that the woman I had talked to on Wednesday and tried to contact on Thursday was not, in fact, working on Friday. (Gah!) Hopefully when I call on Monday I will be able to talk with the vice-consul, and get this all figured out…

Until then, we wait and we pray.  God is good, and has brought us this far – just a bit further and we’ll be there!

Will (with some important edits by Katie)

 

 

16 Days and counting…

Well, the first post on here had to be about something….so why not about the fact that after literally 6 months of planning that seemed like an eternity, in a little over two weeks, Will and I will be leaving the country to actually begin this yearlong adventure that is the Graduate Preaching Fellowship (GPF)? Sounds like a great topic to me!

Perhaps I just didn’t realize how quickly it would come up because the first four months after we found out about this honor, we were planning a wedding like mad men…mad women?….mad persons? Whatever. We were absorbed in the craziness of wedding planning and, being that the wedding was first, it was the priority. Then when the wedding festivities were finished, the trip to Africa was on our doorstep. And now it is nearly here! 16 days and counting. 

Actually, 14 days and counting because we are spending two days in the Seattle area for an extended layover with Will’s parents. So, two weeks from today, we will have to have all our paperwork in, all our things packed, all our other things in storage, [most if not] all of our goodbyes said, all of our affairs in order, and our passports back….two weeks….from today….ACK!!!

As if this were not exciting enough, the FBI is a bit backed up and we have not gotten our background checks back so that we can send in our paperwork to the South African Embassy and get our visas. Time is ticking away on that…and we will not be back in the cities until August 20th. So, we need to have them overnighted to us in New Mexico, where we will be for the next week with my Dad and Aunt and Uncle and hopefully all will get in and get back to us in time….stay tuned. If it doesn’t work out, who’s got a place for us to crash while we wait for it to get back to us. 

Fortunately, none of this is stressful so Will and I have nothing to worry about. 

 

16 days and counting….

Katie