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Visa requirements are set up with many valid reasons . . . but reason aside, I still find it exhausting.
Pick a reason for travel:
- Going on holiday
- Visiting friends
- Business meetings
- Working abroad
- Joining a partner/husband/wife
THEN – give in your passport, your background, your family’s names and occupations, your travel history, your bank statements for the past three months, two passport-sized photos, your itinerary, proof of your itinerary, your sponsor letter from the people you’re visiting, your application (filled, signed, and dated), your fee (and that isn't small) . . .
And now wait.
Because there’s nothing else you can do.
Either they accept, reject or ask for more details. If accepted, great stuff. If you’re rejected, you may never learn why. If they need more information, then you start another scramble for collecting and submitting another part of your life once considered private.
I know about this because I had to help my partner submit an application back when Hungary was a visa-required country for visiting Canada. I also know this because now that I’m living in England, and my husband’s an EU citizen, I’m the one having to constantly justify our relationship and prove that I can live in the country.
It’s all right, mind you. I understand why the process exists.
But nevertheless, my sympathy extends to people navigating the visa system. It can be long, it can be revealing, and it can be – largely – a process that leaves you feeling helpless.
What happens next in your life suddenly relies upon the decision of another country, of the people working for their government, of the mood they’re in when they open your application.
That’s the price paid to visit, work, or live in another country (not all countries, but some). So while I know it’s necessary to reduce the amount of refugee claims at the Canadian border, I still feel a sympathetic sting for the legitimate travelers of Mexico and the Czech Republic.
Multi-tasking – it’s what the job agencies want.
“Must be able to multitask,” they explain, as though it's an elusive ability. Any reasonably functioning person who manages to pick up their groceries, wash the sheets, go to work, check their emails, make phone calls, attend meetings, and have a social life in the evening must, they must, be able to multitask.
Or maybe offices need their employees to do it all at once? Record the mail, make the tea, pull a file, and answer the phone before it’s rung four times. If we had a few more arms then yes, that sort of multitasking may be possible. But we don’t.
The best I can figure is that "must be able to multitask" really means "must be able to account for several responsibilities and manage your time effectively."
I suppose they might add “must be willing to multitask” because, while many of us have the capability to run our lives on several paths at once, it is damn exhausting.
Multitasking stretches the brain thin and often results in work of lower quality.
Why do I know this? Well, ever tried reading a book while having a conversation? I have and it doesn’t work. Either the book or the conversation gets suppressed – and a deep absorption won’t be happening toward either. Essentially it’s a waste of your multitasked time. Others agree.
It’s a bee in my bonnet as I go through all these job applications. Everyone’s looking for a multitasker. A buzz-word gone wild.
Not that I’m going to argue because, hey, managing my time effectively while prioritizing work is only a few shades away from multitasking, and the results, I dare say, are even better.
They’ll never know the difference. Or they wouldn’t anyhow, if I were actually employed. Back to the applications!
Until, that is, I spot a familiar face on the street carrying a baby and realize that the little girl with wild hair and who always walked on her tip-toes, the one I used to ride bikes with and lived a few streets away from, is now a mother, has a husband, a house, and a career. She’s all grown up, or at least, she’s come a long way since we were ten.
It’s incredible stuff. I suppose it’s easy to get lost in the everyday momentum of life; enjoying each moment means that there isn’t always time to realize what’s changing. For me it’s about living in the present. I don't want regrets or excessive reminiscing holding me back from moving forward. The past is there inside me, but I try not to dwell on it too much.
So when someone asks, "What’s new?” I have trouble finding an answer. It’s all new, but being in the thick of things can make that hard to remember.
Old friends are a good reminder. It’s a taste of the past with a surprise of how things have changed. I'm amazed at what people achieve and how much they've grown. And when they ask me, "how are you doing?" I actually stop and realize that yeah, a lot has happened since we’ve last met.
Anyhow, that’s what’s on my mind. Old friends and the way life moves on. Things always change, and I have no regrets over that. But it’s nice to look back occasionally, catch up on a street corner while the light turns green to red, stay for a drink after saying hello at a bar, or whatever it is that brings people together. It’s good to realize how far we’ve all come.
Accessibility is definitely an area where Twitter has Facebook beat, and in the case of Iran its consequences are powerful. News agents are looking to Twitter and other social networking sites like YouTube to find their reports. And while these sources may not be confirmed, it’s nevertheless a constant stream of opinions and experiences.
Looking at Twitter and clicking on a discussion titled #iranelection – there have been 219 new comments added since I logged in (5 minutes ago). That is incredible. People are discussing protests, closures, incidences, reactions, experiences, and more. One tweeter writes encouragement for others to contribute and keep Iran at the top of Twitter’s discussion list. They’re using this medium to ensure that their struggles are not forgotten, and it seems to be working.
I just checked again, and there are now 440 more comments since I began this blog post.
I can only imagine how the Internet may have impacted past protests and revolutions had it been available, but that’s speculating on something we can never know.
However, today it seems quite clear that sites like Twitter and YouTube are having an impact within Iran and internationally. They’re inspiring hope, discussion, strategy, and motivation. If the rapid addition of tweets to this single feed is any indication, Iranians have managed to involve people from all over the world in their fight. While the resolution is still unsettled, it’s clear that the people of Iran are making themselves heard. And that’s pretty incredible stuff.
One last check – there’s now 1,717 comments added since I first went to the page. Wow.
P.S. See the blog Iran protest resources if you want to read more on Iran.
Our discussion roams from here to there but always comes back to our common interest: putting words on the page. She has her perspectives and I have mine; we can’t always agree yet we don’t often argue. It could be fun to argue – in that way that isn’t actually about aggression, just a sort of determination and challenge – but instead we analyze and compare and try to derive a theory, which gives a more quiet satisfaction.
A lot of it is forgettable, yet that’s not the point.
Those late nights are about the high of sharing your thoughts and ideas with someone who gets it, someone who empathizes. It’s like an injection to the system that says “yes, you can” and “yes, I will.” It’s the reasons why friends, clubs, meetings, groups, and classes that match your interest are fantastic for the creative juices.
Birds of a feather flock together. In fact, I think they feed off each other – whether it’s arms out and shouting about their passions or hunched over in a quiet discussion. Introverted or extroverted, there’s still an excitement that wants to be shared. In fact, it grows the more it’s expressed.
I’m not saying a different perspective isn’t a good thing; it’s a great thing and very grounding. However, it’s fun to take off with a bird of my own feather and just fly around. It’s worth the effort to find people who match you so well. Sharing interests with friends can lead to more than conversation: ideas get sparked and enthusiasm is nourished.
I love the all-night talk. Drown that tea till another pot needs making, and then make another. I suggest Earl Grey with a bit of milk, no sugar. A cookie on the side wouldn’t hurt either.
We’ve moved through our education before a cold breeze hits us. Our transparent rainbow sphere breaks with a soapy "pop."
Next is the real adventure: move out, find a job, find a life, find a home, and keep chasing those dreams.
Keep chasing those aspirations – if you can afford it, if your student debt isn’t too heavy, if your parents are willing to support you, if you have any idea where to start, if you have the patience to continue – then keep chasing that ambition.
But I’m afraid it’s the money that really moves us. Sink, swim, or get a job at Wal-Mart. Just so long as you pay off that debt.
Example one: My friend (I’ll call him Bob for the sake of privacy) graduates with an English degree. Bob now wants to work in publishing. First, he moves back home because he can’t afford to live independently. Then Bob sends out resumes to almost every publisher in The Writer’s Handbook. Next, Bob realizes he’s more than broke, he’s seriously in debt. Eventually, he settles for a job outside of publishing and hopes the money hanging over his head like a blade will finally go away.
Example two: Me. I’ve graduated with an MA in creative writing and now want to write, write, write. I have no pressing student debt, thanks to my parents. Instead I have pressing rent, utilities, and taxes to pay. Every month there’s a slashing of bills into my bank account that bleeds it of the dollars I’ve saved.
I want to write, but I also need to live. Now that I’m married, my next step is to find part- or full-time work. Other authors have managed to build their careers while working other jobs, so why not me?
Why not me? Well it’s what I want, but deep inside I feel a sort of complacency that isn’t ambitious enough, isn’t desperate enough...and I’m not positive that my writing will make it.
I need to work and I’d like to enjoy my job. However, I’m afraid that, like Bob, I’ll throw me off track.
The money moves us...that’s scary to consider. It’s distracting, too.
Maybe I’ll go for a Ph.D. and stay in the bubble longer. But it’ll pop again eventually – you can’t hide forever, right?
I guess it’s time to step up to the challenge. Sink or swim.
Hopefully I’ll avoid the job at Wal-Mart.
How did a natural beauty like Niagara Falls become so tacky? And how is it that despite that tackiness it still holds a charm?
Driving our minivan down Clifton Hill, Canada’s first tourist trap after the American border, I’m cringing at the Louis Tussaud's Waxworks (a knock-off of the knock-off) and the giant Frankenstein holding a burger. What I see is carnival craziness. What I’d rather see is a national park with picnic tables, a few deer, and maybe a parking lot where families can pile out of their cars and take a photograph of the falls.
But – driving our minivan down Clifton Hill, Canada’s famous street in the Niagara region, I hear a chorus of "ohhs" and "ahhs" coming from my Hungarian in-laws who are stuffed into the passenger seats behind me. They’re saying things like "wow," and "beautiful" in Hungarian while the cameras are snapping and the DVD recorder rolling. It’s excitement compressed into a small family vehicle.
And it’s contagious. An hour later, my new husband and I are walking down Clifton Hill with his parents. Muscle cars are parading past, lights are blinking and spinning with color, and we’re laughing at the camera while posing beside the world’s tallest man...and even though I still think it’s one of the tackiest places on Earth, I also can feel the excitement and fun that thousands of couples may have felt on their honeymoon.
I suppose Niagara depends on the eye of the beholder. It isn’t my first choice (or my second, or my third, or even my twentieth) – but it has been fun to share in the excitement of others. It seems that despite myself, I might actually enjoy my honeymoon.
In five days I’ll be married. My fiancé and I decided to keep the wedding small, but it’s still crashed a powerful wave through my routine of normal life.
The in-laws are meeting, deadlines approaching, and our relatives are traveling across the country. Meanwhile, money is flying out of my bank account faster than I can say “budget.”
It’s all in the name of love.
But not just love. Since we allow ourselves to become so invested in the idea of "the wedding" (eloping is easier, cheaper, and probably less stress), there must be something more that it represents, something justifying the mental, physical, emotional, and financial investment that is given to that one day.
Couples who’ve lived together for years and feel deeply in love don’t throw themselves a party to validate their relationship. So the wedding must be about something else, something really important that’s worth everyone’s attention. Right?
For me there are a few reasons for choosing the wedding over elopement. Here they are summed up: family, family politics, the chance to wear a big white dress, family expectations, and...family.
All the brides I’ve spoken with (three) say that family was a key aspect in their wedding. For better or worse, these people are the ones who raised you, the ones you can’t divorce, and the ones with whom you want to share your life-marking events.
Weddings bring out tensions, arguments, compromises, gossip, and stress for families on both sides of the wedding party. YET – grandmothers live for this sort of thing, mothers jump on the chance to plan the details, fathers take pride as they give away daughters, and little nieces dream of walking down the aisle while scattering petals. It is a special day because of these people’s involvement.
I look forward to my wedding because I’ll be committing to a man I love completely, but honestly, I’d be doing that whether we stayed non-married partners or ran off to Vegas for quickie nuptials.
Getting married – that’s for me and my partner. But the wedding, that’s for my family. Maybe it sounds crazy, but if you’re a bride you probably know what I mean.
Maybe non-married couples should throw themselves a party to celebrate their awesome lives. Why not? My bet: by the time they finish with the planning, they’ll have invited the second cousins, registered for flatware, and learned a little too much about everyone involved.
But that’s what it’s about: sharing something great with those who have marked your life in positive ways.
So yes, wedding chaos is endured in the name of love. Family love.
So — in the name of my yet-to-exist writing career — I’ve decided to set up a Twitter account: CatherineClaire (finally my middle name finds purpose). Apparently it’s like blogging but easier. You type in a quick blurb, let it sit a while, and then — BAM — conversation erupts and jobs roll in.
But, well...I hate to be the one swimming against the tide, but so far I feel completely lost in the "potential." It’s like staring at a large blank wall.
After the interaction I’ve had on Facebook, Twitter feels like a downgrade.
Facebook I get.
Facebook — with its streaming updates, links to school and work friends, tagged photos, comments, messages, games and targeted advertising — that I get.
Twitter offers its own type of immediacy. Britney Spears speaks to her fans, Oprah shares her favorite things. Intimacy is turned up a level by this open-access concept.
But celebrity stalking aside, Twitter makes me feel pressured. There’s an expectation to network, promote, and engage with intention. According to the many online articles floating through the Internet, Twitter’s about attracting people to your name and product.
Is Twitter more hype than substance? If not, I’d be happy to hear why because so far I'm not impressed. But for now I'm sticking it out. Besides, my mom suggests it’s a path to worldwide success, and while that sounds like a pipe dream, it also sounds cool.
Looking for enlightenment, I logged onto Twitter and clicked a link called #whyitweet. Here’s a slice of what I found Tweeters sharing, but there’s more if you want to go read for yourself:
“At first I was like, “this is dumb.” Then I was like, “Oh! People can know what I’m doing...ALL THE TIME! I like this.”
“I want to be hip, avant-garde and be able to laugh at people who are not.”
“My friends and family need to know when something cool happens, immediately.”
“I don't know anymore, I used to have a goal.”
I don’t know, but like some spellbinder straight out of a Tolkien book, President Bush has worked his magic again.
Democrats were failing to muster the required votes in the House to override Bush’s veto of a war-spending bill last week, and given the sad state of anti-war assertiveness within Democratics on the Hill, it seems Bush’s desired no-strings-attached funding may not be beyond hope.
Despite polls vastly supporting the Democratic positions in the war-torn nation — polls like the April 26 Gallup questionnaire indicating 57 percent of Americans support setting a timetable for removing troops from Iraq, whereas only 39 percent supported Bush’s proposal to keep troops in as long as necessary to achieve victory — the Democratic leadership still appears weary to stake a stand against the administration policy of indefinite deployment.
As Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin told The New York Times, "There is virtually no one in our caucus who does not want to be associated with trying to get us out of this war. The only thing that is slowing some of them is the fear that somehow they will be accused of doing something that will put the troops at risk. The desire for political comfort is still overwhelming the best judgment even of some Democrats."
Translation: The Democrats are so afraid of making any politically exploitable misstep on Iraq or looking soft on national security that they are failing the American people and the troops.
Nothing “supports the troops,” to use the inane slogan the administration PR geniuses coined so effectively, more than getting them out of harm's way in an endless, goal-less conflict which has catastrophically increased instability in the region and continues to aid terrorist recruiters in finding new members.
I am with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. The Democrats should revoke the war powers granted to the president and send Bush a memo straight from the majority of Americans: The game is up. Add an end to this open-ended debacle and do what is truly best for the troops. Stop making their enlistments and tours of duty in Iraq longer.
The only thing Democrats would surrender by setting a withdrawal date from Iraq, after all, is another failed policy by what history will surely remember as one of our worst administrations.
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