Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The trigger of a telephone

Image from b3ta.com
 As anybody who has ever been in a (not necessarily full-time) LDR (long distance relationship), or just separated from their partner for a while, the ability to keep in touch with each other via whatever means possible is pretty much essential. Regardless of whether you're the couple that will regularly speak for several hours each day (*cough*), or the pair that check in every so often to let the other one know you're okay and you miss them, it's important to have confidence in the reliability of services that help you to communicate.

Yeah.

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
Obviously a letter in this condition is not suitable to send as part of a visa petition. So, off we went again. I printed out and signed another letter, and this time sent it in a protective jiffy bag, rather than a standard A4 envelope. Honestly, I have no idea what happened to the one above - it's like someone went at it with scissors and all the precision of a toddler doing his first collage.

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...
It would be all too easy to rant about the regular instances of Skype's uselessness... so I probably will. I'd like to make the point that Skype is an incredibly useful program, and a free program at that, that allows real-time text message and video chat (computer to computer) and discounted international calling to landlines. It has recently introduced video conference calls, which is what allowed me and Ben (in the USA), Sam and Wren (in Australia) and Mum and Dad (in the UK) to all speak together at the same time on Christmas Day 2010, which obviously meant so much to all of us. Hmm, now I feel bad for having a go at this totally free, rather awesome service. Okay, when it does work, it's brilliant. Ben and I leave it on pretty much all the time, however, so we have a far greater probability than most of seeing how often it can go wrong. Admittedly there is the added complication of my living in an area renowned for its poor internet speeds and intermittent connectivity, so I don't want to lay all the blame at Skype's door. The essential problem is this: seemingly whenever there is an important point of communication (a hello, a goodbye, a conversation after a long absence, a pressed amount of time in which you can just have the briefest of chats before your respective time zones pull you back to your own latitude again), Skype suddenly experiences a problem. The call is dropped. There's too much echo or background noise to understand what is going on. The video freezes, or turns your beloved into a 32-bit character worthy of a Pac-Man game. The entire program needs restarting. These kinds of bugs and errors make me do this:
*except for Ben
I do feel sorry for Ben at these moments, as a combination of my deeply-felt need to be connected to him and my infamous inability to cope with inanimate objects not doing as they're "supposed" to (I tend to take it personally, especially with tangled jewellery/wires and anything to do with a computer) means that I lose all sense of decorum when technology prevents us from speaking. He then has to witness the hissy fit of the century (albeit intermittently, if Skype continues to not work) until everything is up and running again, and then has the delightful task of calming his fuming wife-to-be down. Honestly, I think I've been more stressed over the postal service and Skype than I have been about any of our wedding preparations!

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!

4 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, this all sounds so stressful!?! You have me really scared for when I start my visa process!

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  2. Oh, I am sorry Sarah, I don't want to scare you! It's not that stressful, I promise. There are just moments of annoyance, as with anything. :)

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  3. Adam and I have never used Skype. Considering we met online, I find it funny that he now says he has no patience to sit in front of a computer. But he's more into going outside and doing things whilst if I were to be left in a room with food and a laptop, I'd do just great. So long as the connection is good.
    Sarah, the journey from the US to UK was a breeze for us. And we really didn't know what we were doing, what with it being the first time round. We went and did a lot of it in person because we're not too far from Croydon and it meant that he could get everything processed that little bit sooner...at a price!
    One day the immigration journeys will officially be over for us ladies and I am looking forward to that day xx

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  4. That is pretty funny that Adam can't now contend with a computer for a long period of time. I'm the same as you: I can entertain myself for hours online provided the connection isn't painfully slow or unreliable.

    I am glad to hear that the US-UK direction is easier; obviously Ben and I were thinking about that for the future, if we ever decide to move back to the UK, so that's reassuring.

    It will be bizarre when I don't have immigration to think about - it's been in my head for so long now! I agree: let's look forward to it.

    For now, though, I'm going to write a blog about my upcoming interview. ARGH! xx

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Thanks for taking the time to write! I try to reply to everyone, and I love to read your comments.