Alas, instead of going to the UK, I’ll be flying out to NYC for my training. I’m very excited about the trip, but at the same time I’m a little scared since I have never been to the States. And of all places, it’s NY Cthat I’m going to on my first visit. I feel like a child who’s being thrown into the water for her first swimming lesson.

Oh well, it would have felt just the same if I’d been assigned to the UK, which is another country that I haven’t visited yet and a place which I still wish to see. My mind was all set for London and I was already prepping myself up for what I’d be doing there when I’m not at the client’s offices–go to a gallery, watch a play, ride the double-decker bus or the Underground, ride the London Eye, watch the changing of the guards in front of Buckingham Palace. For all its charm, London *does* sound more exciting than NYC. Still, NY is NY and a US trip is a US trip.

Anyway, I should have already visited the UK embassy for my visa application last Tuesday. But since plans changed all of a sudden, I had to make another arrangement. And so I woke up at 4:30 this morning–the earliest time I woke up in bloody ages!

Good thing, our PSAs scheduled the company van to take me to the US Embassy at 5:30. Before 6:00 AM, I was already lining up in front of the embassy.

I submitted my forms, new passport and all the necessary attachments to the person in charge of checking all application papers. After going over my papers, she gave me a number which served as a ticket for finger print scanning. The wait for the scanning took the better of two hours, and I was glad I brought a book to keep me from getting bored.

When my number was called, I had my finger prints scanned and then promptly fell in line for the interview, the scariest part of the whole visa application process. A local worker assigned me to the farthest window from the door. The embassy officer at the booth was a stern-looking white guy who must be around 50. I got to the line just as he was turning down the application–probably for a tourist visa–of an old lady who’s accompanied by someone who must be her daughter. It was really sad and at the same time scary to witness the whole scene. Having one’s visa application turned down after going through all the hassles of preparing your papers which are not easy to get in the first place, being at the embassy as early as 6:00 AM and queuing up for 2 hours is bad enough. To add injury to the insult, the entire waiting room heard the “Denied” result.

The immigration officer explained to the old lady that she did not present sufficient evidence that she would return to the Philippines after her scheduled trip. Moreover, her closest relatives are in the US, which meant that they might petition her to stay as an immigrant in the States instead. I don’t know how it all works, but sadly, the presence of close relatives in the States (and declaring them in the application form) did not work for her. Maybe it would have been better had she applied for an immigrant visa.

The next guy at the booth was a software developer from Accenture who’s attending a “meeting”. The moment that he mentioned his company’s name, it was about 99.99% sure that he would get approved. The immigration officer said, “Oh, Accenture. Yes.” The developer dude was asked to explain briefly why he had to go there aside from the declared meeting. He explained the nature of his job and that he was really a developer, having a CompSci degree from UP. It took him about just a minute to get his application approved. When he left the booth, the guy looked as if Christmas arrived early.

Then it was my turn. As I was handing my application papers to the officer, he greeted me, “How are you?” I answered, “I’m good! How are you?” with the best sunshiny smile I could muster in spite of the fact that I was still groggy, hungry, needing to visit the bathroom and half-shaking from nerves. “I am fine, thank you” he answered. He then asked, “So your name is _____?” I confirmed it and explained that it’s supposed to be pronounced _______, but since I accomplished the form online, I used N instead of the special character. He said, “OK. That makes sense”.

He then proceeded to ask what I was planning to do in the States. I was straight to the point: “I am going there for training with _______”.

The embassy officer then asked, “What do you do at Headstrong?” I answered, “I’m a Technical Writer.” And thank god for Jocy who attached my employment certificate and the document that detailed the nature of my visit because he had to verify what I told him by checking the attachments. The dude then said, “Oh. You’re new at Headstrong.” I simply said yes. “What did you do previously?” he followed up.

I said, “I was also a Technical Writer at TW. I graduated with a journalism degree and I’m now working as a technical writer.” The dude suddently didn’t look convinced. When I mentioned that I did not have a strong financial background that was why I had to train, his face brightened up a little.

It was only then that he understood why I had to be there so he added, “Oh. You have to learn all the banking terms?” I said, “Yes!” while nodding vigorously. A green light suddenly lighted up in my mind. “You’re going to New York. Have you been there?” he asked. I said, “No” while still smiling.

I knew right a way that he was approving my application when he took the yellow slip from my application package and set the rest of my papers with those that were also approved for visa processing.

And as he was returning the yellow slip to me, he said, “Well, Karla, you are on your way. We will send your visa to you in a few days.” I thanked him a little too profusely for the good news, but who cares? He bid me a good day and I bid him the same. I took the yellow slip to register with the courier service that would deliver my Visa in two to three working days.

Good Lord, waking up so early and losing sleep over the papers and what-not was well worth it. I guess sometimes it’s just a matter of luck, sometimes of honesty and in some occasion just being confident, knowing that you’re getting a Visa for the reason that you actually stated in your papers. Yes, I’m on my way to NYC and I can’t wait. I’m very excited! Just getting assigned by the company to this project and getting the assignment approved by the client could not be attributed to my own efforts alone. I’m totally lucky!

I remember what Oprah once said to Josh Groban when the latter guested in an episode: “Luck is being prepared when opportunity arrives. If you have not been prepared, you wouldn’t have had the opportunity and you wouldn’t have been lucky.”

Now, all I have to worry about are the preparations for my travel–plane tickets (I’m booked for an October 8 departure); traveler’s checks while applying for a US bank account where the company would send my per diem; company AMEX card for hotel, transpo and winter clothing payments; my personal stuff. Jeez, I haven’t even bought a traveling bag. I was about to buy one but held back; I told myself that I’d get one only when I already have my Visa. That was three weeks ago.

Now what I have to prepare for as well is another interview with the homeland immigration officer at the airport in St. Paul, Minnesota. The last thing that I’d like to happen is to reach NYC and be sent back home because the airport dudes there aren’t convinced that I’d be entering the States for training. Jeez, for the short stay in the States, work would be the last thing on my mind (training is first, sight-seeing is second…hehe!).

So yeah, New York or bust. Start spreading the news…I wanna be a part of it, New York, New Yooorrkkk!!!

PS: During last Saturday’s badminton games, Cha asked if I was “mag-aabroad”. I didn’t deny it, but I said that I was still only applying for Visa and that nothing was final yet. I didn’t know who told her since it had been weeks since I last attended a badminton game. Must be the people from HS.