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
As an extrovert, I’ve made it my mission in life to get to know everyone I meet. My mother says I've never known a stranger.
Flying from Omaha to Chicago
The campanile begins the chime at 3:15 AM. Well, not really. It's just my phone alarm that I've programmed to remind me of my favorite piece of Iowa state tradition even while I'm away.
My phone alarm sounds again at 3:20 AM, reminding me that I'm still in bed. Finally, I maneuver around the dog (who clearly doesn't want me to leave) and roll out of bed.
I pull on the clothes I left out the night before: navy slacks, a colorful tank top, and a purple suit jacket. They're all cute, semi-professional, and, most importantly, comfortable. I head downstairs and pull on my shoes: little black booties, and then steal a watch from my sister's collection.
My next alarm goes off, signaling that it's 3:45 and time for me to leave. Am I ready? Of course not.
I still need to apply minimal makeup, including mascara. Only, I have to sneeze. Instead of long, curly lashes, I have creative looking eyeliner. Sorry, I’m not including this photo.
Officially behind schedule, I scramble around for six or seven more minutes before grabbing my keys and heading out the door, phone flashlight in hand.
I drive from Ceresco, Nebraska to Omaha in pitch black. Next thing I know I'm in... Iowa? Following Google maps isn't always the best plan. However, I eventually make it to the airport and leave my car in daily parking.
Inside the airport, I head through security. My right heel sets off the full body scanner and gets a part down. I don't know what my heel thought it was carrying, but I had know knowledge of it.
The security woman also examined my watch (that Id forgotten to take off) and told me it was pretty. I smile and thank her rather than saying, "I stole it from my sister!"
Within the next hour, I'm sitting on a plane, asleep, and on my way to Chicago.
Adventures in Chicago
I arrive in Chicago at 7 AM and spend a few minutes charging my phone and Googling cafes near the consulate's office. (Yeah, I know. Probably should have done this before I left, but hindsight is 20/20.) After failing to find a cafe on Google maps, I search Starbucks. Guess what? There is literally one across the street from the consulate.
I catch a cab from the airport and make friends with the driver. He was from Asian and had been in America for two years. He arrived without knowing any English and was entirely self-taught, which was very impressive.
I work at the Writing and Media Center at Iowa State, meaning that I have a lot of experience communicating with international students, or in this case, taxi drivers. My best advice for anyone is to always be friendly and genuinely interested in other people.
Applying these beliefs to my own life, I was able to explain to my taxi driver that I had a meeting at 10 AM and needed a ride back to the airport immediately after so that I could make it on my 1 PM flight.
[Side note: not a single one of my friends from Chicago believed that I would make this flight. I love proving people wrong.]
After several minutes of conversation, my taxi driver agrees to pick me up after the meeting with the consulate. Grateful to have that dilemma solved, I run inside, kicking myself for forgetting an umbrella as it was pouring rain.
I then spend the next several hours stressing about every little thing that could go wrong during my meeting about my Greek visa.
Stay tuned for - Part Two: Meeting with the Consulate
My name is Hunter and this the blog of my worldwide adventures. The purpose of this blog is to show that you can be a traveler, not just a tourist.