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Returning Resident Visa…check! 

Quick update… I was impressed by the very efficient service when collecting documents: there were 5 people in front of me waiting for the office to open at 9am. They opened at 9:00 on the dot, within 6 minutes I had my passport (and my visa, thank goodness- sorry for the spoiler in the title) in my hand and was out the door again. 

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Waiting for UKVI

Just so you know, purchasing a priority service with a targeted time frame of 5 days does not mean you will receive any contact within the 5 day period. Just as, in Zambia, if someone tells you they will come back tomorrow, they don’t actually mean tomorrow, they just mean it won’t be today. Some point in the future, maybe, (if you are licky) but definitely not today and possibly not any time soon. 

I digress. 

In fact I received an email to advise that my passport was ready for collection after 9 working days (10 if you count the day I submitted the paperwork).  Considering that without Priority it can take up to 6 weeks I believe they quote, 9 days is pretty quick. 

They cannot and will not tell you what the decision is, even if you pay to call the enquiry number. The very pleasant young man did tell me the decision had been made on 12 June and that I could expect to hear something within 10 working days. It was in fact a lot faster than that, but they obviously have to cover their backs, ‘Don’t make any wild promises that might come back to haunt you!’, that kind of thing. 

So we’ll sit here in the 9th in a cool little extortionately priced cafe and wait for the collection office to open. 

It’s important to take time to slow down, stop and smell the coffee beans. 

(By the way, I think I’m allowed to take one of these coffee bean bags… “Open your purse…” – Sheila F. Remember that?)

More later when I have an actual decision to report. 

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Returning Resident 

Warning- unless you need a visa for the UK, this post is mega dull! This is my life right now, no apologies. 

So on to the next phase – applying (again) for a Returning Resident Visa. I applied at the end of 2015, and was granted one; it expired a year ago. 

I only applied at that time because I knew a return to the UK was likely at some point BUT a) I had no idea how long the process would take and b) I didn’t know that they only gave a validity of 6 months. Had I known all that I would have waited. 

I just hope it won’t hurt my application this time that I already had a visa and failed to take up residency. 

So off I went with more evidence than I probably needed, got as far as submitting my documents and sat in front of the person who would take my biomemtric details only to be told that the Immigration Expert who helpe me complete the application had purchased the wrong Priority service. Later I’ll have to apply for a refund, but immediately I had to exit the visa office to use their computers in the foyer area to buy the correct Priority service. 

€224 and 15 minutes later, I’m back in front of her again and we’re in business. 

On the plus side, instead of 15 days it should now take 5, which is excellent news when I’ve got travel plans on the 23rd June and they currently have my brand spanking new passport. 

Another balls-up with this application, I wasn’t aware til I got there today that you could pay extra to keep your passport while they decide. I didn’t feel the need to once I had to pay this new fee, as this way should only take 5 days, but when it was going to be 15 working days, it would have been good to know, I could still have gone away as planned. Like I say, a balls-up. 

I hadn’t anticipated quite how stressful this process was going to feel now that it’s such a crucial step. I’ve done what I can, there’s no interview in this process so you don’t get to explain face-to-face or argue your case. Everything you want to express has to be explicit  in the application form and the documents you submit. It is out of my hands. 

Now I wait. 

#visa4UK #returningresidentvisa 

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Passport Part II

So far so good – not only did I manage to submit my passport application, the official I spoke to let me keep my current passport until the new one could be collected. That was a huge relief as I had booked a weekend in England to support Husband and Daughter, both of whom are clearly complete nutters and were running the Snowdonia Half Marathon. (They ran, they finished, got the t-shirt and TWO medals!)

Anyway, he (Nice Embassy Man) told me that it would take 2-3 weeks to get the passport back, and 13 days later I got the call. Hence I am back to collect it. 

I’ll report back once I’ve got it, but I must say so far my experience with the Embassy staff this time has been great. They’ve been helpful, someone actually CALLED to tell me it’s ready and when the call dropped before she finished telling me what to do, like a decent human being she CALLED  BACK! 

Emails have been answered almost immediately, and I mean like within 15 minutes. I think that’s quite impressive. 

Like I said, I haven’t actually got the passport yet, but I should have it within the hour. 

Meanwhile here’s a Frenchman in a kilt. 

Breakfast in Paris: you never know what you’ll find. 

Update: after just 1h40 mins of waiting this time, passport is in my hands. The fact that I somehow look like I belong in The Addams Family is somewhat unfortunate in a ten-year passport. But I can start the next step now…Returning Resident Visa for the UK. #iloveredtape

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Into the unknown…

I am about to disappear into the vast abyss that is the US Embassy here in Paris in the hopes of renewing my passport – that alone is a stressful event, I find (queues, paperwork, pictures, payment…take a number, hurry up and wait). 

I, however am in the unfortunate position of needing it expedited, hence the personal visit. Eek. 

They will take my phone away on the door, so here goes nothing. Wish me luck, y’all.   (Not sure where that came from, there must be a Texan nearby.)

No photos of embassy, not a wise move. 

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Montage of Seattle/Olympia Photos

Just in case you were expecting a travel log – it’s a photo log. Too much to tell, but what a great place. We LOVE Seattle (though we do NOT love the traffic!) and Washington in general. Olympia is a very cool little town, the downtown area is very arty and inclusive, has  a great vibe. (Did I just use the word vibe? Am I officially a hippy now?)

Enjoy. We did.

Posted in fitness, altitude, Uncategorized, Yoga

Yoga, hikes and a Bobcat

Not all at the same time, you understand, or even on the same day. It could have been, though. Had our hikes been less populated, I may have been tempted to strike a peaceful balance beside Snow Lake or on Rattlesnake Ledge (ooh, maybe not up there, actually. Bit scary. The ledge, not the rattle snakes. There aren’t any rattlesnakes here, or so I am assured). The bobcat was a bit of luck, and not at all what I expected to see in the back yard.

I’ve lumped them in, because they are my most interesting thoughts over the past few days.  No other reason. I could have labeled the post ‘Sunday – Tuesday in Sammaish, WA’, but would you be reading now? No, I didn’t think so. So here’s what we’ve been up to.

We moved from Olympia to Sammamish on Thursday night to take advantage of a house exchange we’d arranged through Homelink International. Great idea, we’ve got use of a local couple’s house for a week with no exchange of money.  They will visit our cottage at a separate time, all signed and sealed in our exchange agreement. If you’ve never considered it, I recommend it. This is our fourth exchange and we’ve got another one imminent in Sicily.  Leave me a message if you’d like more information – it’s a really cool way to travel to different places and often you can use your hosts’ car as well.

On Sunday morning, Megan and I did a Hot Power Vinyassa class first thing, (more about that later) and then we all set off  on I90 to the Alpental Ski Area parking, and headed straight uphill (with the masses) to see Snow Lake. It’s just over 7 miles round trip (up and back the same route) 1800 feet of climbing, highest point was 4400 ft.

The effort was worth the views, most definitely. If I had to give a future hiker advice it would be get there early and avoid summer weekends. Autumn might be a lovely time to go, midweek and after the kids all go back to school!

Unfortunately, on Sunday there was a scourge of loud, rather obnoxious people intruding on any peace there may have been – the hike was beautiful otherwise. A particularly loud group were shouting and doing cannonball jumps into the lake off a rock –  generally showing off to each other and disturbing the tranquility for everyone. Shame, as it was a beautiful spot.

On Monday we drove Megan back to Olympia to work (boo!) and back to Sammamish. A full day’s driving before 10:30, with a nice little break in the middle at our favourite breakfast spot in Olympia,  New Moon Cooperative Cafe , a really great little independent cafe in Olympia, excellent breakfast at sensible prices, wide choices available for meat-eaters and veggies/vegans alike. Highly recommend it if you’re in the area.

‘Where’s the bobcat?’, I hear you ask. Well, on Monday evening, we’d returned to our temporary home, and I was sitting on their back deck (facing the house for some reason) when Jack suddenly pointed behind me, and there, not 10 metres away, was the bobcat. I think I startled her (looking at photos, we think it was a female) and she trotted into next door’s garden. She didn’t go far, as my husband spotted her sitting under a tree next door. She started heading back towards us and then she spotted us again and legged it into the woods behind the houses.  Behind us is a small thicket and behind the trees is another close. It’s surrounded by houses, this area is wholly residential, a sort of commuter town for Seattle. She must have walked through multiple suburban gardens to end up in our back yard.

There’s a regional state park about two or three miles away, it’s only 600 acres but they do have black bears and bobcats so maybe she’d gone for a bit of a stroll herself. Checking out the domestic pet situation over here. I grabbed my iPhone (not the greatest tool for hastily snapped photos of moving wildlife, but it was all I had handy) and these are the rest of the pictures I managed to take.

I know – I’m no David Attenborough, but it’s all I have for you, folks. If you don’t like it, move along!

As for the yoga – as discussed in a previous post, I’ve been trying to fit more yoga into my life and after a pleasant first ‘hot yoga’ experience at Corepower Yoga in Seattle, I thought I would try the local one here which is Hot Yoga Experience. I’m not sure what they used to heat the studio at Corepower, but here they use far infrared to heat the room to 103°F which is the equivalent of around 40°C. They had a special offer going, so we signed up on the spot!

Not sure exactly what I feel about ‘hot’ yoga, compared to ‘normal temperature’ yoga – the heat definitely helps to warm up the muscles, much quicker than during a regular class. I felt more flexible and able to hold the postures in the heated room, and didn’t feel faint as I thought I might. But the sweat! Oh dear! I don’t know if sweating really helps with toxins or with yoga, and there are conflicting opinions about whether or not you burn more calories during ‘hot yoga.

It wasn’t why I went so I’m not really worried about that, but there was one article I read that suggested that, because you are abnormally warmed up, there was more danger of injury as you work beyond your natural limits, and push further into stretches or postures. So far this has not been the case for me, though just the act of going inside to an extremely hot room, when the sun is shining outside is kind of unnatural. However, I have a special introductory offer, limited time to use it and if left to my own devices I might only manage 30 minutes of gentle yoga per day. So. I went.

Today we wandered up Rattlesnake Ledge and the views were also worth the effort. It was only 4 miles round trip, and not at all steep. Lots of humans at the top again, but better behaved today 🙂

I’ll add a few pictures of that as well because it was a glorious day, and the return (same route again, not keen on those really) took us back down to the shores of Rattlesnake Lake, which proved to be a lovely spot for a quick swim before heading back to base.

That’s all for now. I am camped out on the back deck, waiting for my friend to come back. Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.




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Writer’s block

Full Definition of writer’s block

  1. :  a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece

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The most confusing places on earth

Government buildings in foreign countries seem to set out to confuse everyone, even (especially?) in countries where they speak English.

In Zambia the ‘official’ language is English, though it is not the language that most Zambian’s speak at home. However, you can expect to find out what you need to know if you speak English. Usually.

Collecting my work permit in Zambia would have been absolutely impossible without the assistance (hand-holding, really) of our local admin staff at AISL. It wasn’t a language issue, it was an organisation issue. Luckily, we were walked through the whole process, which involved standing in several unmarked queues for over an hour, being sent “over there ” with a vague flutter of the hand. Our school representative knew exactly where to go and what to do – she’d done this dozens of times before. We got the work permits, job done and dusted. Mine was valid for 2 years.

Fast forward a couple of years to France, 2015. I have ‘misplaced’ (i.e lost) my Carte de Sejour. This is effectively my visa and work permit, which is valid until 2018. So back in September,  I trundled off to the prefecture to apply for a replacement. I joined one queue. Once I got to the front I was told I was in the wrong queue, I needed to go to Window 9 and get a number. Then you wait until your number is called. I go to Window 9, there is no real queue, I am pleased to see, but a couple of people loitering nearby, I realise they are the ‘queue’. Meanwhile, a couple of dozen people are littered across the bench seats facing the service windows-  ‘guichets’ in French.  They appear to be waiting for their number to be called.

As there’s no real system, I smile at the man at the ‘end’ of the queue and stand a bit further back so it is clear I am also waiting.

A woman comes through a door behind me and marches up to the window.  She stands behind the woman currently being ‘served’. It is all taking a very long time to simply get a number, so I’m not really delighted to have a queue jumper. When she looks at me, I indicate the other two poor saps and myself and say ‘Nous attendons’.

This is when it got embarrassing. A very kind young woman came over to me – she spoke English thankfully or perhaps I would have been lynched when I still didn’t understand. She quietly told me (with dozens of, now I think about it, angry watchers sitting on benches facing the service windows) that she was also in the queue, as were all of the people now glaring at me with real hatred in their eyes.

As the lightbulb came on, my embarrassment multiplied. I wanted to run out and forget the carte de sejour – I don’t need to work in France, do I? Not really…oh wait yes I do.

No, I stood my ground, apologised profusely in two languages and went to the back of a very long slow queue. Once I got my number, I did it all over again.

Misunderstandings are a daily occurrence for me here – I waited for 5 months before chasing them- I was under the impression it would be sent to my house. Apparently I have to collect it, and the first opportunity I’ve had to do that is today.

Which brings us to another frustrating morning standing in queues.

When I finally got to the front of the line, to mystical Guichet 9, the woman puffed out her cheeks at the date printed on my paper. December? I explained that I thought they would send it to me. She took my passport (my photo is on the paper she just looked at but luckily I remembered to bring my passport ‘just in case’). She then garbled something quickly about paying something and wafted her hands toward the door to the street. What? Where do I need to go now? I heard ‘impôt’ – I have to pay a fine? What for? Because it was lost. Oh.

She sent me down the road to the centre des impots – except that it’s not called that and she only gave the road name, not the full address. She smiled like a great white shark as she told me I’d need to be back before 12:30. The oh-so -important lunch break. Oh, and she didn’t tell me, but I figured out that they won’t reopen today after lunch. Don’t be silly. It’s Wednesday.

No address, wrong sign- no big deal, I found it. I stood for a short while in a somewhat shorter line than at the Prefecture, after which I was told that , no he didn’t have any left. Any what? Timbre fiscale. Is that what I need?  A stamp? Apparently it’s not a rubber stamp on my paper to say I’ve paid, it’s a physical adhesive stamp like a postage stamp. But he didn’t have any, and not only that, he couldn’t imagine any shop in St Germain having one, so he sent me several miles down the road to the Bureau de Tabac in the next town, Chambourcy.

When I got there I realised it wasn’t THE ‘Bureau de Tabac’, which I thought had to be different to an ordinary ‘tabac’ where people buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. No, no it was exactly that sort of tabac, begging the question: there must be dozens of those in St Germain en Laye, why did I need to go to Chambourcy for that?  Ho hum. No idea, he didn’t tell me that, or if he did, I didn’t understand him.

Ok, funny little fine stamps bought, back to the Prefecture to stand in another queue. I didn’t dare jump the queue (again), even though the shark-woman had given me a number- it corresponded to nothing on the monitors calling people to the various windows.

A very self important man jumped the queue in front of me, not really asking, saying he was just coming back with his photocopies. When I showed him my number, indicating that I, too had already waited in the very long queue more than once, he turned his back and held his place in front of me.

He proceeded to cross two different ‘lines of confidentiality’, rudely pushing his body in front of other people who were being served  – because he was (obviously) much more important than they were. Luckily he didn’t try to get back in front of me again as I would have been tempted to kick him.

I waited and was rewarded, if not with a smile, then with my new valid,nCarte de Sejour. I am once again able to prove I’m allowed to live here and legally work as well- at least until 2018. I think that’s good news. Phew!

I look happy, don’t I?