November 11, 2004
We have five weeks until we leave on our big trip around the world trip. Things are a little crazy right now. Three weeks ago we moved to a new house on the other side of town. We are living out of boxes, not wanting to get too settled since we will be packing much of it before we leave. The good news is that we have renters for both the main house and ohana (mother-in-law apartment) while we are away. Cheryl is currently in “Hell Week” at her job at the hospital foundation – before the big annual golf tournament fundraiser. Proceeds go to construction of the new cancer radiation therapy unit at Kona Community Hospital.
A couple weeks ago I set up a post office box in town and we have arranged for a friend to pick up (and go through) our mail while we are away. I have spent more time on change-of-address notices than I ever thought possible.
I knew we would need some vaccinations before we left the States, so I did some research on the Internet. I learned that there is one required shot for our trip and several recommended shots. Yellow Fever is required. Typhoid, Tetanus-Diphtheria, and Hepatitis A & B are all recommended. I am still researching to see if we need shots for Measles, Rabies, and Japanese-Encephalitis. I learned that there is only one place in Kona that offers the Yellow Fever vaccine and that is Kaiser Permanente. And I found that we could get the other shots at our family doctor. I made the first appointment at Kaiser.
I grew up overseas and am used to shots. I have no problem with them especially when it means we will be traveling someplace interesting. Don’t count on children to have this same perspective. I was most concerned about Katie, the youngest in our family. She will be nine next month. The last time she got a shot was when she entered kindergarten four years ago. I remember that day clearly because I have felt bad about it since. Katie resisted, so the nurse and I had to hold her down while she kicked and sobbed. Though she got her needed shot, I came away from the experience with some guilt. This time I decided to prepare her, so I spent two weeks counseling her about the benefits of shots. I told her they would save her life; I told her they didn’t hurt (or just a little anyway); I told her we all had to do it; I told her Mommy and I would go first. And it worked. At Kaiser, with all four of us there in the room, I held her hand, she held her stuffed animal, she was calm, and she took her Yellow Fever shot.
Lauren, our eleven-year-old, was another story. When the needle came out, she panicked and started hyperventilating. I thought she wanted to jump right off the examination table, so I held her still before she could make that decision. The nurse took a step back while her mother and I both tried to reassure her. Lauren then closed her eyes and repeated “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.” The nurse moved in, the shot was done, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Two weeks later we had an appointment at our family doctor for the other shots. Since we had the Yellow Fever under our belts (and survived), there was a measure of confidence, and it went much more smoothly. At this point, in preparation for the trip, Cheryl has had five shots, I have had four, and the girls have each had three.
When Cheryl and I divided up responsibilities for the trip, I took on the task of researching visa requirements. Right away I went to the Internet and learned that of the 23 countries we will be visiting, five require a visa before arrival for US citizens (traveling as tourists). The countries on our itinerary that require a visa prior to arrival are Brazil, Australia, China, India, and Ethiopia. For the other 18 countries, we need only a US passport, and most grant a 90-day visa on entry.
For those visas that we must have before arrival, I learned that we can apply for almost all after we have left the US. For example, in Hong Kong, before traveling to India, it will be easy to go to the Indian Embassy and apply for visas in one afternoon, rather than taking weeks or months to do it by mail here in the US. And what better education for the girls than being in a foreign country and going to the embassy of another country to get a visa – sounds like a field trip.
Since Brazil is one of our first stops, it became clear that I had to take care of that one before departure. So, I went to the Internet and looked up the visa requirements for Brazil. I was surprised at how much they make you go through. Below are the visa requirements for tourists visiting Brazil:
1. A passport that will not expire less than six months from the intended arrival date in Brazil.
2. One visa application form, filled out, dated and signed by the applicant (parents must sign for minors under 18 years old).
3. One recent 2” x 2” passport-photo, front view, white background. Snapshots or computer pictures are not accepted.
4. A copy of a round-trip ticket or a booked itinerary showing travel to and from Brazil, confirming purchase of the ticket and passenger’s name, itinerary, flight number and arrival/departure dates.
5. US passport holders must pay a processing fee of $100.00. An additional fee of $10.00 will be charged for any application not submitted in person by the applicant. No cash, personal or company checks are accepted, only money orders, cashier’s checks or certified checks, made out to "Consulate General of Brazil".
6. For minors under 18 years of age, an original birth certificate and a copy must be presented. Copies presented without the original birth certificate must be notarized.
7. Submit a self-addressed, stamped envelope along with the application, with the applicant's name as sender and recipient. (This is how your passport and visa will be returned to you); use United States Postal Service only. All FEDEX, DHL and UPS mail will be rejected.
The most interesting part of the Brazilian visa process is that US passport holders are “exempt” from the normal visa fee, but must pay a processing fee of $100.00 in “reciprocity” for an identical fee paid by Brazilian citizens who apply for a visa to the US. Hmmm, the last time I checked the word “reciprocity” is a relationship of mutual benefit, not what they are doing.
Anyway, I finally pulled together the required documentation for the Brazilian visa and sent it off to the consulate on November 22. The website said it would take 5 to 10 business days to process. I tracked package on the Internet and learned that they received it on November 26. So, I figured we would have our passports and visas back by December 10 at the latest.
Today is December 10 and they are not here. One week until we leave for Seattle. I’m getting nervous. Cheryl has mentioned that I probably should have sent them off in early November, but I am vigorously defending myself by blaming the Brazilians for being slow.
Have I mentioned that this is about the craziest thing we have ever done? What on earth were we thinking that we could just uproot our lives in Kona after five years and take an eight month trip around the world? We put one job on hold; we pulled the children out of school, rented out the house, and saved, begged, borrowed and stole money to pay for it all.
We have so much to do before we leave that I am almost jittery right now. Fortunately I have Cheryl around to help me prioritize my life. Three days ago we had a discussion that degenerated into a small argument. It turned out that she had no idea how I expected to get everything done at the house before we leave. I told here to leave me alone and that I would get it all done. That did not go over very well. When the dust settled, we were in complete agreement (Cheryl was right). I decided to set goals for each day until our departure. I immediately eliminated items from the list that were not high priority. Below is part of my “To Do” list:
We check into a hotel tomorrow and we leave Kona for Seattle in four days. Our passports have not arrived back from the Brazilian consulate.
Okay, we have not gotten the passports back from the Brazilian Consulate, but we are not nervous because we have a plan. Our friend Christine has agreed to pick up our mail at the post office every day after we leave and she will send them to us in Seattle via courier. Cheryl will give her the key tomorrow.
Our Hawaiian Airlines flight arrived safely in Seattle at 10:00pm Friday night. It was foggy and a cool 41 degrees at the airport. Cheryl’s parents were there to meet us with their Chevy Suburban. Thank goodness as we filled the back-end almost to the ceiling with luggage (we really must pare down). Then we drove back to their house with a stop the family summer cabin to pick up the Volvo (stored in the garage). We got to their place at 1:00am, tired but glad to be here.
We got a call from Christine back in Kona and learned that the passport arrived from the Brazilian Consulate on Friday. She has already sent them via Express Mail. Should be here Monday. What a relief!