|Image from b3ta.com|
The main methods Ben and I use to stay connected are mobile (cell) phones (quite pricey, obviously, but with the introduction of Android, iPhone and Smartphones, a lot of mobiles now have applications that allow you to send international texts for free using your internet package); Skype; Facebook/email/shared blogs/Twitter; and physical post - written letters, parcels of goodies and, of course, essential original visa documents being sent between the two of us.
So Ben and I have had our fair share of interesting postal dramas, the most recent of which was trying to ensure that the affidavit of support (I-134) and accompanying IRS tax returns from Ben reached me in time for my interview.* Suffice to say the transatlantic post service's proclaimed "guaranteed arrival date" (for which we pay an extra fee) did not fill us with confidence that the package would get to me by that day. Fortunately we have learned from our previous experiences, and so ensured that the documents were sent just over three weeks before they were needed. This is usually just about enough time, provided that you also pay more for special postage to speed the process up. The most interesting of our mail mishaps to date, to use a totally inadequate and rather too polite adjective, was when we were trying to get my letter of intent to him, as the USCIS need an original signed copy to accompany all the I-129F documentation. It did get to Ben, but this time the fact it took longer than we'd expected wasn't our biggest problem:
|I think Ben's face says it all|
You can't see from the photo, but that letter is dated 7th January 2011. Had that arrived in one piece, we would have been able to send off the initial I-129F visa forms at the end of January and I could possibly have been in the US by now (not that I am complaining too much; I miss Ben like crazy and I can't wait to be there, but I am grateful for the time I am getting at home with my parents, brother and sister-in-law and friends, as I have said in several previous posts). This is why our visa journey timeline shows the start date as being from the end of February: by the time the re-sent covering letter had reached Ben, it was already the beginning of the next month and, what with a couple of other admin-related hitches, the documents weren't marked as officially received and accepted as ready to process until the 2nd March 2011. Still, although there is pretty much no excuse for the state of the above letter (can you imagine delivering that in person?!), if all goes well and I get to the States as planned in October, it will still only have been 6 months between the USCIS receiving our petition and the US Embassy in the UK granting our visa. Obviously the faffing about with the mail added two months on to that, so in total it's 8 months, but that doesn't reflect on the actual visa processing time, which is really positive.
|Image from b3ta.com|
|I spend a lot of time on Skype...|
|*except for Ben|
I don't want to have a go at Skype overall though. Really! My levels of fury are entirely to do with impatience and bad discipline (and though I know this, I do little to stop it!). Skype itself is a fantastic service and without it, it's very likely that me and Ben wouldn't have a) been able to get to know each other as well as we did before we met and b) been in touch anywhere near as often during the time we've had to spend apart once we had become a couple.
So, despite the start of this post being written with every intention of having a good old (English) moan about things I'm actually very lucky to have, - although I still won't budge on that ridiculously mauled letter - I will finish up in a similar way to my last post by saying how lucky me and Ben (and so many others) are to live in countries and a world where international communication is now pretty simple. Here's to freedom of speech. And video.
|Skype having a "moment". Ben is not looking quite right.|
|But we love it really.|
*The I-134 documents actually arrived three days earlier than their guaranteed arrival date, but unfortunately this was spoiled by the delivery person not letting me know they'd tried to deliver them (they didn't leave a calling card), so Ben had to call the mail service on his side of things and find out where they were. The delivery person had left them at my local PO (apparently on the assumption that I would realise this psychically in the absence of a delivery attempt note) so, even though there was a bit of hassle, they're all safe and sound and ready to be presented at the interview. Phew!