Little did I know the Pandora's box of bullshit it was about to open for yours truly.
I have a criminal conviction. If you want to know all about it then read here.
I rarely think about that shit time in my life anymore. I never went to jail & I paid my dues. Where I am now, compared to where I was all those years ago, couldn't be more of a contrast. And it's never stopped me from travelling in the past, because it was never an issue.
However, travelling to the US has become a whole other ball game.
My husband, mother in-law & I have to stop over in Los Angeles for ONE night on the way to Cancun, then one on the way back. Sounds pretty simple right? Unfortunately for me, it's not.
I had to apply in person at the US Embassy in NZ for a travel visa. Due to my criminal conviction I am not automatically eligible for a Visa Waiver so I had to go the long way round.
Now I could have lied on the Visa Waiver form & quite possibly got through to Cancun with no problems at all. But I'm not a liar, & chose to go the honest route & put all my shit out there. I didn't want to risk being stopped in LAX & sent home. Worse case scenario, I would be put in jail for lying in the visa waiver form. I am not jail material, even though I can roundhouse kick like a machine.
I have spent the past 2 weeks getting together every piece of documentation possible to take to the interview.
I was a Girl Guide once. Albeit a bad ass rebellious Girl Guide. But the one thing I took away from it was to always be prepared. That, along with the fact I am a ridiculously organised person in my normal everyday life, & have busted my ass the last 8 years of my life doing everything I can to redeem myself, I thought I had this in the bag.
It's protocol. I get it. And I have been extremely willing to do whatever I have to do, to go on my holiday to Cancun.
I paid $200 for the visa application & paid another $400 for my return trip to Auckland.
My appointment was yesterday morning at 8:45. I didn't really know what to expect because I haven't had to go through this sort of thing before. I had spoken to a number of people who had been through it, many with convictions way worse than my own, & they'd had no problems. Easy. Based on all the info I had to present to them, I should be a shoe in.
The interview with the American consulate officer took about 3 minutes. It went something like this.
Him: 'Rebecca Brooks, come to window 2' (Brooks is my maiden name & name on my passport).
Me: *walks to window
Him: 'Why are you wanting to come to the States?'
Me: 'I won a trip to Cancun & it requires myself, my husband & my mother in law to spend a nights stop over in LA on the way there & back'.
Him: *looking at my Ministry of Justice Criminal Record report...'What was the reason behind your offending?'.
Me: 'I had a gambling addiction'.
Him: 'Do you still gamble now?'
Me: 'No I haven't gambled since the day I was arrested'.
Him: How much money did you take?
Him: *stamping my application.....I am sorry to inform you I will not be granting you a visa today. Thank you.
Me: *standing there like a stunned mullet.
WHAT THE FUCK MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He didn't even look at any of my supporting documents. And the guy before me had been granted a visa no problem with several drug convictions. (You have an attentive audience of potential visa holders sitting behind you the whole time. They can hear everything you discuss with the officer).
I walked out, went & sat at a bus stop down the road, & I cried like a baby. Not ugly crying pounding the ground with my fists crying, more like silent I feel real fucking sorry for myself tears.
I did everything I could. I've been through a roller coaster of emotions in the last 24 hours ranging from blind hate rage to shrug my shoulders defeat. What can I do? The answer to that is, absolutely nothing.
I can apply again, & hope for a different officer, but to be honest, I just can't be fucked anymore. I don't want to spend the money & the whole thing has been a cluster fuck of disappointment. And I am quite frankly emotionally drained from it. I am going to walk away, much to the dismay of my husband who believes I need to fight this, & get on with my life.
However, as you can imagine I am feeling a bit poo today. I am taking a couple of days to get my head together before I crack on with life. I am allowing myself that much at least.
Looking at the big picture, what have I really lost? Apart from $600 & a large dent in my pride, I haven't lost a dam thing.
I have a great life. I have kickass job. I am healthy & I am married to the love of my life. There are people out there going through horrible tragic stuff right now. For example, I can think of at least 5 people I know, 2 of them family members, who are attempting to fight the crap out of cancer & not winning. That right there is BIG SHIT. My problem in comparison is nothing.
This post is not a cry for sympathy. However, from the depths of my heart I want to say thank you to all those that have supported me through this. Whether it be by text, a Facey/Twitter comment or a phone call or just a big ass hug (anti hug ban has been lifted temporarily), thank you for caring about me. It feels nice.
I may be able to travel to the US in the future, but for now it's not going to happen. So BlogHer 2012 is not on the cards. And if any of my hookers from the US want to meet me, for now, you gotta come to my hood, or meet me halfway. Literally.
Johi, if you want to go wild striding with me through the neighbourhood, spreading our awesome magic with our horse/unicorn head masks on, we will have to do it in NZ ok? It will still be good here & if we get lost in the wilderness we don't need to worry about having our faces eaten off by one of those bears you folk have lurking on your forests. Although I am quietly confident with our powers combined we could probably beat his ass anyway.
Johi & Bex. Horse friends 4 EVA.
People have been asking me a lot of questions. I am going to answer them here.
Q: Can you not go another route & avoid the US altogether?
A: Yes I can but it will cost me a fortune & will take me about 60 hours flying time all up. Two words, Bugger that. And I would have to fly alone as Blake & his mum will still fly via the US. AND I would arrive about 2 days after them & only get 3 days in Cancun. Again, no thanks.
Q: Could you get an exempt Visa Waiver processed through Washington?
A: Yes I could. But it takes up to 60 days & I don't have that time. There would still be no guarantee that I'd get it & we have to go on April 12th. There is no refund for the accommodation in Cancun & it's already been booked & paid for.
Q:Can Blake & mother in law still go without you?
A: Not sure at this stage. Waiting to hear back from the Brewery we won the prize through. Will find out on Friday whether they are going to re-draw the prize or whether Blake & Bibs can still go & someone that I nominate can go in my place.
To be honest, I am in 2 minds about this. Part of me wants him to go. At least one of us will get something out of it. The other part of me doesn't want him to go. It was something we were looking forward to together. I won the prize. If I can't go then neither should he.
Q: Do you hate America now?
A: No. I have some beautiful American friends. This in no way reflects badly on them. However if they want to write a letter to Obama telling them that one of their NZ US Embassy Consulate officer is a judgey judgerson twat then by all means, go ahead.
Q: Can't you just go anyway & risk it.
A: No. I must have some sort of Visa. Even if I scrapped the layovers in LA & just transited through LA. I could fill out the application form online for a Visa Waiver & wing it but now that I've been denied a travel visa my passport will be red flagged in the US customs database. There is only one of twos places I will end up. On a plane back to NZ or in jail being finger assaulted by tattooed butch lesbianess (I'm pretty hot so that's inevitable really).
Q:Can you sell the trip?
A: Nope. It's in the terms & conditions that I can not do this. Otherwise I would.
Q: Can you go somewhere else instead of Mexico?
A: No. Fleur, the travel agent has been amazing. She has tried everything possible but it's now out of her hands.
Before I was called up for my interview, another one of the consulate officers started his shift. Please note this is not the officer I had my interview with. Anyway, he came over the microphone & said the following....
'Right we have a lot of applicants to get through today so I need everyone to go in order from best conviction to the worst. So if you robbed a bank you need to go right to the back of the cue. And I've just taken my medication so you will probably all get a visa granted today'.
While I admired his attempt at humour, the whole application process is dam stressful. Even getting in to the embassy is a gigantic song & dance. Not funny bro.
And when I walked out of that embassy, defeated, I wanted to march back in & punch that not funny man right in the mouth. But the law abider in me thought no we don't want assault added to our criminal record. So I fantasized about it instead. And it was just as satisfying.
Adapt & overcome. On it.
Peace & love,