Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Visa Application

I gave myself a mental note to not get distracted while a self-satisfied woman looked like she was letting her boobs bounce on purpose as she walked eagerly to the exit.

Guess someone's visa got approved.

I looked up again. The dot-matrix screen reminded us whose stub number was ready for interview. Above the shuffling of feet and the confused whispers, the usherette kept on reminding us that the stub numbers come up in random order.

"Ah, raandoom!" I heard someone say beside me.

What that really meant was, simply that some applicants finish their talk with the consul faster than others.


Honestly, in my head I thought the interview consisted of sitting down in some posh office. Some nice plants, a portrait, certificates hanging on the wall, maybe a golf club leaning somewhere.

And then I'd come in, nervously stammering and showing my papers to a stern old man who'd look like he never has enough time.

Of course, as with most of what I imagine, it was nothing like that.

The embassy probably gets a hundred or so applicants per day, judging from the long lines and the amount of seats.

So it all worked like a production line. Apart from the guards and the usherettes, all the personnel you talk to are behind windows, including the consuls. There's a chute at the bottom of the window where you pass down your passport.

The whole thing reminded me of computers and how they pass data around.


It was a long wait before my number lit up, so I had a lot of time on my hands.

Rummaged through my old passports. I went to Hong Kong when I was a kid? Oh wait, I did. I remember riding that World's Longest Escalator ride.

I didn't think much of it back then. But it turned out it really was the World's Longest Escalator.

Someone, at some point in time, thought it was a good idea to put SeaWorld Hong Kong on top of a mountain.

I looked at all those ink stamps on the pages. Departure. Arrival. They had different shapes, bright colors. I heard myself make a wistful laugh. They made my old passports look like stamp collections.

I saw my DS-160 form had the words CAPTURED stamped on it.

For a moment, the nervousness was replaced with disgust. Middle-aged guys ogling X-ray body scans of passengers behind the security doors of an airport. Videos of police brutality on Facebook. Why would anyone want to live there?

It makes me think getting into the US isn't as rosy and important as these hopefuls are making it out to be. Wearing smug faces, trying to display they know more than the guy next to them. Maybe it's just to cope with the nervousness? Validating all the hardships they went through?

In a place like this, you could tell who were the people who had actual character.


The guy beside me started saying out loud the subtitles on the instructional video playing in front of us.

Jeez... Practicing English just now huh?

More time passed.

I couldn't help yawning over and over. Well, I did take the 7:15 AM. I needed the earliest slot I could find. Russ had been bugging me already, and I've put this off for a long time.

Man... I found myself slouching in my seat as I thought, I just want to get back in front of a computer.

The instructional video even managed to be funny at one point:

Myth: Only cute people get their visa applications approved.

Fact: Non-models get their visas approved every day.


The next slide came up:

Myth: Single people get their visa applications denied.

Fact: Your honesty is more important than your marital status.

Ok, not laughing so much now.


When my number came up, I kept looking at it to make sure it really was mine. 2126. Probably took too long, cause the guy beside me caught my attention and told me my turn is up.

Looking back, the interview ended faster than I thought.

I just ended up talking about being chief technology officer, us having a booth in Game Developer's Conference, the game we're marketing.

"Games?", he asked.

"Yeah, video games.", I nodded back.

"Oh, cool.", he said.

"Our game looks like this...", I held up a printout of one of the screenshots of our game.

"So are you guys gonna put this out on... games..."

"Sorry?" I asked.

"I mean, are you guys like, will you put this out on the Xbox?"

"Oh," I shook my head, "Getting into consoles is a lot more difficult, so we're targeting... only Windows for now."

"Ah", he made a face as if he'd scratched a card that said 'Try again next time'.

"So how long do you plan to stay?"

"Oh about... 2 weeks maybe. My partner has a relative in Las Vegas so that's probably where we're staying--"

"Ok, visa approved. Thank you."

I saw him place my passport on a pile. Presumably, the pile of passports that would get visas.

"Oh, thank you.", I managed to reply, before leaving. I haven't even showed any of the documents yet, I thought as I left.

I didn't look into his eyes the whole time. I was told that it gave the impression of shifty-eyed liars to Americans.

I wonder if he didn't like that.


As I walked out, there was only one thing that crossed my mind.

I took out the cheap black ballpen I stuck in my left pocket a few hours ago, and stared at it.

Fuck, I got duped into buying this stupid ballpen! The old lady in front of the embassy was hawking ballpens, making them sound important. Turns out I didn't even need to write anything the whole time.