Friendliness, good fortune and my own personal brand of gregariousness often allow me to accomplish things others deem impossible.
Entering the Consulate
It is 9:40 AM and after making a pit stop at a near by ATM, I’m ready to meet the Greek consulate.
I approach the door, and unfortunately for me, it’s started to rain again. I ring the bell and the door starts buzzing. Eagerly I pull … and nothing. I can’t get it open. The door continues to buzz as I pull on it before backing away in confusion.
Nearby, another man seems to be waiting as well.
A second man walks up and ask me, “Did you ring the bell?”
“Yup, but I can’t get the door open.”
Right then the door begins buzzing once more and he reaches out and … pushes the door open.
“Oh,” I say as I enter because, like a gentleman, he allowed me to enter first before he and his friend follow me inside.
A Greek official greets the two men and their female friend in Greek as they begin discussing paperwork or something. As time passes, two other women come and go from the room all speaking in a language unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.
As I sit listening, I’m nearly overwhelmed with my first experience being surrounded by Greek culture and language. Hearing the different sounds and seeing the Greek constitution in Greek lettering beside the same document in English was eye opening. It made me realize what a culture shock it will be when I actually arrive in Thessaloniki.
Meeting with the Consulate
I wait for about forty minutes before a tall man in a suit calls my name and escorts me to a tiny elevator. We ride up to the top floor and I dutifully hand over all of the requested papers as he asks for them.
He points me down a hallway where I pay, in cash that I obtained about five minutes before entering his building, for my visa. The man with the giant safe was beyond pleased that I had almost exact change for the $95.40 visa fee. He smiled as he handed me back a dime before shooing me back to the consulate.
The consulate took my photo and then I escorted myself out of the building.
[For those of you who are curious about exactly what materials are necessary to obtain your student Greek visa, click on the link below.]
Leaving the Greek Consulate
Now, you may be thinking that everything went smoothly up to this point. But I assure you that it was anything but smooth. For example, I had forgotten I needed cash and had originally only brought about $60 and some change – that problem was solved fairly quickly with a quick Google search and an ATM card.
However, problem number two was that I had forgotten to print off my itinerary. Fortunately, I had a copy on my phone and the consulate had me email it to him right then and there. It was kind of fun to hand the Greek consulate my iPhone as he can check to make sure I hadn’t spelled his email wrong – and for the record I had.
My final problem was that – while I had brought a self-addressed envelope for my passport to be returned – I instead needed a self-addressed UPS envelope.
This problem was solved easily enough due to my prior planning.
As I left the consulate building, I texted my friend the taxi driver. He was waiting outside and drove me several blocks over and agreed to wait for me – without running the timer – as I ran inside and bought an envelope.
Ten minutes later I dash back outside and he drives me back to the consulate building. This time I know to push the door after it buzzes.
Leaving the Consulate ... Again
I’m back in the taxi and my new friend rushes me to the airport so that I can catch my 1 PM flight. I breeze through security and plop into a chair near my gate.
Not a single one of my friends from the Chicago area had any faith that I would make my flight. But I can tell you for certain, that I did indeed make it back in time to jump aboard my plan and return to Omaha.
However, I can say for certainty that without my faithful friend, Mr. Taxi Driver, I would not have been able to leave the Greek consulate building in downtown Chicago after 11:15 AM and make it back to the airport an through security before my 1 PM flight started boarding.
The stress was worth it. I am now the proud owner of a Greek visa! My favorite part, the picture on the opposite side foreshadows one of the classes I'm taking while in Greece.
Until next week, I'll leave you to try and guess.
Coming up next week: My Study Abroad Class Schedule