She Came To America

Sometime in the early 4am hour, we headed to the airport and, aside from the expected adrenaline rush, there was nothing remarkable about the hustle & bustle activity at the airport. We made our way through the throngs of people waiting for arrivals with our bags in tow, heading towards the Delta counter while longing for a seat on the plane and that first cup of morning coffee that was prevented with such an early awakening. Unfortunately we were denied both our objectives. We never made it past the check-in counter.

In the stack of visa papers for Jennifer’s departure, there was a small print form highlighting a very important requirement that was rather under-emphasized. Or should I say it was never emphasized? Better yet, it was never mentioned. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas, or CFO , requires all Filipinos immigrating overseas for work or residency to complete a counseling seminar. The seminar completion is marked by an additive in your passport that is duly noted upon your check-in. Lacking the passport stamp & papers Jennifer needed, we were going nowhere (at least not where we wanted to go anyway).

Jennifer felt horrible for overlooking the paper and I felt cheated by the (what I consider to be worthless) Philippine government obstruction that was preventing me from returning to the States with my wife. Adding to the stress, I was supposed to be back at work following my flight. Never, until that moment, had I ever missed a plane, train, boat, bus or other scheduled form of transportation and the break in my OCD scheduling habits caused me to smoke two cigarettes while I swallowed down the realization that it would be another 2 days before we could even begin working on the problem since Oct 31st & Nov 1st are holidays in the Philippines!

We are blessed to have In-laws in Manila so arranging a place to stay was a simple phone call. Granted, it was a pre-6am phone call but barring what felt like an emotional intrusion, knowing we had a place to stay was one less worry. We could have managed a hotel but doling out another $300 in expenses did NOT give me a warm fuzzy in the pocket-book area of my jeans. Besides, the in-laws are good company and they were perfect immigration trauma counselors.

When the Philippine holidays passed, we headed to the St. Mary Euphrasia Foundation – Center for Overseas Workers (yes, it’s a mouthful to say, aptly called SMEF-COW) and Jennifer took the next available morning seminar. I waited outside with a very frustrated Frenchman who, just like us, experienced the same problem on the same day with his wife. Any paperwork inadequacies that I felt were quickly removed upon meeting the Frenchman, knowing I wasn’t the only one gave great credibility to the fact that the process is very screwed up. While Frenchy and I chatted, we both concluded that it was just another way for the Phil government to make money: ph250 for the seminar and then ph400 for the passport additive!

After the seminar, we headed to the main Delta office in Makati to rebook our flights. Since our original flight was delayed by eight hours (D.E.L.T.A – doesn’t ever leave the airport), we were told there would be no re-booking fee. Frankly speaking, I do not put much faith in customer support claims and I had a lot of tension heading into the business district as I prepared myself to argue vehemently with the poor soul who was required by duty to put up with me. I know how people will say things just to get you out of the line so they can move on to the next angry customer and this fact had me conjuring up a great deal of word exchanges in my head.

To say that I was greatly overjoyed by the fact that Delta honored their word is an understatement. I was elated. I was ecstatic. I was a $325 re-booking fee richer! This truth seemed to make it somewhat acceptable that the flight was delayed by 8 hours (and yes, I’m willfully forgetting the fact that we couldn’t board it anyway). I was happy waiting for my tickets. And waiting … and waiting ….. and waiting. Ok, whatever joys I had gained from the hassle-less re-booking were a bit depleted by my Burger King attitude (you can have it your way) so I have to say that on my Customer Experience scale, Delta pretty much broke even.

All being said and done, we made our flight, made it to America and made it home. I live to tell the tale (another +1 for Delta) and the saga of my life takes another turn in the road, yet this time with Jennifer by my side. A years worth of immigration paperwork is done, the import taxes on my wife are paid and I can freely enjoy my wife’s company (maintenance fees excluded). Thank you to the in-laws for housing us, thank you to the TSA for not groping us and thank you to the Airport Customs officials for actually smiling this time (except for that one guy who yelled at us to change lines). But most of all, thank you to everyone for your prayers and to God for answering them: she finally came to America.

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