Thursday, November 09, 2006

In which things get better

Okay, so yesterday I went to the consulate, at 10 am this time. When I turned up, there was already about 6 people crowded around the gate in front of me. It took about 15 minutes before anyone came out of the consulate, during which time more people turned up and started pressing up around the gate. During this time, just to set the scene it was drizzling slightly... When the gatekeeper finally came out, rather than letting people in in any kind of fair-seeming order, he would point to people he wanted to come in. What??? As (I think) Scotty said, it was like waiting behind the velvet rope at a nightclub, except at this 'nightclub' I was slightly worried the crowd would turn vicious - you should have seen everyone pressing forward whenever the gatekeeper approached, like at a rock concert or something. Actually, it put me in mind of those photos of the last helicopters leaving the American embassy in Vietnam... Anyhoo, whenever the gatekeeper came out, people were shouting out (in Russian) what they were there for, which seemed to sway the gatekeeper somehow, although I couldn't tell whether he was just letting people in for new passports, or for visas, or what was going on. Some people were waving little slips of paper, which panicked me slightly since I didn't have one. After about 45 minutes of this, I worked my way up to right before the gate and summoned the courage to bleat 'visa' the next time he approached. No result. However, on his next trip to the gate, I was given the nod. Sweet! Once I got inside, I saw that there was some method to the whole affair - there were different queues dependent on whether you were getting a passport, applying for a visa, or picking your visa up, so whenever he escorted one person out from a particular queue, he would try to pick someone who needed to go to the same counter. Even so, have the Russians not heard of waiting rooms or something?
Once inside, I was (as I had been all week) wracked with anxiety over whether I had all the requisite documents and whether I could actually afford the visa fee. When I got to the counter I said in halting Russian "I need a visa..." I was planning to go on "by tomorrow, how much is it?" but the visa guy cut me off (in Russian) with a sarky "I know you need a visa, can I have your documents please?" Okay, fair enough, I was at the visa counter, but come on, I wasn't actually just being Captain Obvious (another Laurie-ism) I did have a point if he'd let me finish... Anyway, to my relief, the forms were fine, no AIDS test required, and the visa fee was about NZ$120, which I had, and which I thought was fairly reasonable for next-day service.
I couldn't really relax up until this morning, when I picked up my visa (woohoo!) because I was nervous that I'd turn up and they'd be all "we've found an irregularity in your application, Miss Gwan", but no such problem - I'm off to Russia!

Yesterday I also booked my flight, out of Berlin, and today I picked up my train ticket. So Monday morning I leave Prague for a 5-hour train ride to Berlin, then spend the night there before flying out to Moscow Tuesday morning (it is much cheaper to do it that way - lets say, with the train ticket and hostel etc. 200 euro as opposed to about 500 euro to fly direct from Prague).

I also arranged for my replacement credit card to be sent to me in Moscow, and today I picked up some emergency cash. Mum promised the guy at the bank that I would 'give him a plug on my blog' - yes, since I have an audience of millions who look at me as their god, here you go. Bruce from the National Bank at Auckland University is a star. Sarcasm aside, he really was great - called me about 5 times to talk about various options to get me a card and cash and always friendly and nice... Well done, Bruce.
I have a sinking feeling that I'm going to be absolutely stony broke in Moscow (and there's nothing like being in an unfamilar city to drain one's funds) but I will have a place to live, which is the main thing, and I suppose I'll just have to tighten my metaphorical belt (although good news, my literal belt needs tightening as well... pity it's on the last hole and I can't tighten it, so it really does more to weigh my pants down than to hold them up) and stick it out as best I can until whenever it is I start getting paid.

I definitely have mixed feelings about leaving Prague. I've really come to love the city, and most of all, the friends I've made here. I've been running around extorting promises from people to 'try' to come and visit me in Moscow, and I'm sure we're all going to have a good time this weekend, my last in Prague :( But, at the same time, I'm going to be living in Moscow, which is by far the coolest thing I've ever done in my short life to date! Stay tuned for Muscovite adventures soon...

7 comments:

  1. anything I can do to help? being a bit closer than the olds n all..
    Jess

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  2. Hey, less of the "olds", "mature but well preserved", please.
    Mx

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  3. Thanks Jess, nah I think everything's more or less sorted, knock on wood...

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  4. Well I never! Fancy Prague having Tesco!!!

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    1. Best of luck with everything. Ive been reading your praha blogs, and look forward to reading the russia ones. Dont know if you've heard, but im coming back to Prague in Jan! Whooo!

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  5. Hey good to hear from you Lauren. Yep, I heard you're over Milk, best of luck back in Prague. Hopefully I'll be back to visit some time...

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  6. Lookin forward to the next instalment.

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