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A Series of Unfortunate Events-Must Read

(When you really have no news to share, here's what you life-story. Hehehe!)

A Series of (Un)fortunate Events…How one small act leads to another!

The last few weeks for me have seen quite a few turns of events. I have a gut feeling it’s not over yet. So here it is for those of you who are interested in this kind of drama (I bet some of you have had similar experiences!):

Back in July, I was quite excited when my family supported my request to participate at this weekend’s Lomu and Losaline Family Re-Union in Salt Lake City. I quickly checked the online travel sites to see if I could find a cheap return air-ticket. Luckily I was just about to purchase one when I realised I needed to apply first for a US visa since my previous one expired last year. But then I checked to find that no appointment was available at the US Consulate office in Vancouver until late September. I was told then that the only way I could get one was to check online regularly for any cancelled appointment. I did this until two weeks ago when I got an open appointment for August 11. I was very happy to book my air-ticket right away as I knew that would give me enough time to get the visa. I purchased an e-ticket via Expedia and decided to add travel and health insurance into the package in case something happens like cancellation of trip, sick, etc.

Then came the visa appointment on a Wednesday (August 11). I went in early in the morning, and after a successful interview I was told to pick up my Tongan passport (with the visa) two days later. But when I got home, I got a phone message from the US Consulate to call back as there was a problem found in my passport (actually I didn’t notice this before). I found out then that the lamination had come off the main page (where my photo and personal info are). Because of that, the US Consulate could not stamp the visa into my ‘damaged’ passport as they believed the passport would not be accepted at any border. It had to be fixed or replaced.

I was then asked to send my passport either to Tonga or to a nearby Consulate for either proper fixing or a replacement. I called the Tonga Consulate in San Francisco right away and sent my passport over the same day via FedEx. They then told me that they had to await instruction from Tonga first; they couldn’t fix the passport themselves. So we both waited. It wasn’t until Tuesday the following week (I should have called Monday) that I called again to find that the Tonga Consulate office was instructed to sent me a temporary passport instead while my original one had to be forwarded to Tonga.

I was happy about that except it was now Tuesday, and the temporary passport would not be arriving until the next day (Wednesday). When it arrived I took the passport to the US Consulate and was told to return back early the very next day (Thursday). My flight was scheduled for departure that day (yesterday) at 2:30pm. When I got to the US Consulate I was then told there was very little chance, in fact, near impossible, for them to process the new temporary passport along with the visa within the 4-hours left before check-in time. But, with little hope, I was told to return before midday to check the status of my passport/visa. Well, it wasn’t even close to being done (potentially I may be able to get it later today depending on how fast the US ‘global’ visa system works). So I had no choice but to head straight to the Airport to cancel my flight yesterday, which I did with the air carrier, US Airways.

From the Airport, I returned home to call both Expedia and US Airways to see what will then happen with my cancelled ticket. It turned out that the two parties are now disagreed on their previous agreement/negotiation. US Airways claimed I purchased (via Expedia) a special ticket and therefore according to their own policy there was nothing to be done and the ticket no longer can be refunded or re-used in anyway. This is still to be settled; so I have to follow up with the two parties again today along with the Insurance Company that was supposed to cover my travel and health insurance. So you see there is certainly more yet to get through here.

But what do all of these amount to? Return air-ticket cost to Salt Lake City (which might not be refunded); a new US visa fee; FedEx two-way overnight courier cost, penalty fee if travel is allowed to rebook, and a possible top-up cost of a new ticket. In addition, instead of a 10-year multiple visa, I now get only a 2-year visa because of the (short) temporary passport, with a new appointment costs to cover in two years time, and not ten. I also got to wait longer for my new or fixed passport from Tonga. And in the middle of all this, I also got a call for help with another relative’s ticket, which almost backfired on me (although my family decided later to support both of us).

While I was at home making my rounds of phone calls, I chat online with cousin Atu (Aussie) and upon hearing my story he metaphorically liked my series of unfortunate events to “someone who goes down in a fight and yet s/he is continued to be kicked on the ground”. That sounds very true in a way! Well, I may be down but not out, which ought to be how we are truly measured, aren’t we all? So with the support of my family I try to stay positive here despite the disappointment of it all.

Anyway, there are lessons here to learn, that’s for sure, despite having to learn it myself the hard way. Rest assured: I’m not really complaining here cause I feel equally responsible for what has happened. Because, in my case, the most obvious lesson is that I could have avoided all of these if I didn’t have to wait for something to happen before applying for a US visa. I realised I could have applied for one (and got it) in order to visit those in US anytime, or for transiting through US on the way home.

But what did strike me as funny is that my previous 2008 passport (with only the loose laminated page) certainly looks better and much more official than the drawn-up, hand-written, non-laminated, temporary passport I got as a replacement from Frisco. In fact, the temporary passport is labelled only as a “Certificate of Identification”. Somehow I feel lucky to have those rare ones to keep. Since my first passport, which was issued in 1989, I now have in my possession a total of 4 different versions of the Tongan passports, with possibly another one on the way.

My best wishes to the Reunion in Salt Lake City, and I’m sure cousins Fatai and Monalisa (if she’s able to make it) will be there to share with us first hand what it is like to be there. Please send us updates and photos when you can.

‘Ofa atu.

Stan & family.

PS: Here's the real news...I was recently offered a job in Honolulu, Hawaii, but I had to turn it down this week since it meant (financial-wise) I will have to be away on my own. Despite the chance of experiencing Hawaii's lifestyle (along with the opportunity to be close to our relatives there), I feel right that I made the correct decision for me and my family. I trust there is still work to be found here. :-)

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