The internet. Aside from those needy vague Facebook status updates that drive everyone insane, and all that click bait shite which all end in “You won’t believe what happened next”, the internet is probably a good thing. At some point in the future my fridge will know that I have eaten the last six of something and will connect to my online shopping establishment of choice to order some more. If that’s wrong I don’t want to be right.
One of the huge benefits of the internet is that some weird folk share their lives and experiences all over it. What sort of idiot would do that? For Emily, and her long arduous journey towards being a Cast Member, reading the blogs of those who have gone before have been a huge help and at times a reassurance. Add to that the vast number of vlogs by those folk already out there working for Disney and there isn’t much that could surprise her now. However, one small chink in this armour of information appears to be the application process for the required Visa for her stay in the US.
We’ve always known this would be required but we journeyed down to London this week not really knowing what to expect. Emily had heard small snippets about airport style security, which unnerved her slightly, but beyond that we were clueless. So here I will attempt to fill that void a little.
I won’t bore you with the details of our journey etc beyond our pre-train Starbucks…
We got to London around 4pm and Emily wanted to go and see the Disney store on Oxford Street, so we did. We then wandered the clothes shops of the capital picking up some essentials for Emily’s year away. Two pairs of denim shorts and a “dressy blouse” for her Traditions training course, for which she needs to be in smart office attire secured and we then gorged on a very welcome McDonald’s. We re-boarded the tube and headed to Paddington, close to which our hotel was.
The hotel was fine. Basic, clean and relatively cheap…a bit like me. Disaster struck shortly after we pajamaed up and started enduring the Kardashian marathon Emily insisted upon. Her phone charger stopped working! At 4%, the matter was urgent. I put my pants back on and set out into the heartless metropolis to try to secure a new one. About four doors down from our hotel was a very dodgy looking mobile phone accessory, and if I’m not mistaken, based on the bongs they were selling, Hashish establishment where I got a new cable for a fiver. I got back to the room with Emily weeping over her now 2% battery and plugged her in. Success!
Not much sleep was had and we were up nice and early for Emily’s 9am appointment at the Embassy. We walked it down from Paddington, past Marble Arch and down into Mayfair where all the embassies live. Most are impressive enough large terraced town houses with flags flying outside. America of course have to do things on a bigger scale and as we saw their place for the first time it did look intimidating. Armed guards, enormous security fences and concrete bollards all fitted nicely around the enormous concrete behemoth which straddled most of the road.
Our preconceived ideas of popping into a small terraced house at five to nine for a cosy chat with some bloke in a suit where dashed as we turned the corner and saw not one but two huge queues up to a marquee outside the main building. With no-one to explain where to go I wandered off to ask someone and found that of course we had joined the wrong one. Once in the right queue we waited about half an hour to get to the front of that one.
We showed the required documentation, got ticked off a list, Emily was asked if she really was 18, which amused her greatly, and we were then sent to join the back of a second queue. Another half hour or so passed and I then left Emily, as only applicants can actually go into the building. She went through the security checks, which were airport style and I wandered off in search of breakfast.
About an hour and a half later I wandered back to the Embassy and luckily she appeared almost immediately. Once inside she had been asked to take a seat until her number was called and then went up to a window to be seen by what Emily described as “cute old lady”. She was probably in her fifties!!
So all this effort, huge amounts of paperwork, £130 for the Visa application plus all the travel and accommodation and she was asked three questions and then told her Visa was approved. How I laughed. Anyway, Emily was obviously relieved to have all that over with and we headed for Euston where Emily was fed before we boarded the train for home.
It was a tiring couple of days, and according to the app on my phone we walked over five miles on both days. So here are my top tips for anyone having to go through this process.
1. Check your paperwork a million times. Whilst in the queue we saw a few turned away for not having what they needed or indeed in one case not having booked an appointment!
2. You can take your phone in but not laptops. Don’t take one, or they send you to stash it in some lockers at a nearby Pharmacy but you only find that out after enduring the first queue.
3. If you don’t live in London, you seem to have two choices. Travel there and back in a day or do an over-nighter. To do it in one day you’ll be better with an appointment from mid-morning onwards. When we booked Emily’s appointment time after completing her application online, we were only offered 8am, 8.30 or 9am. There clearly were later appointment times as upon leaving, the queues were huge. It seems they only release those later slots after the early ones are full, so you may need to book your date just a few days before to get those. We booked about two weeks out so only saw early slots. If I were doing it again I’d book an 8am slot and be there about 7.30 to avoid all the queues outside. Luckily it was a sunny warmish day. Had we gone the week before we may have lost a few fingers in the cold.
So the last hurdle is cleared, we are a month away from departure, and it is really hitting home that Emily won’t be around for a year. It was nice to spend those two days with her, although I’d have chosen a different location and something else to do, but still, we made the most of it.
I recognise that I am a little like a stuck record with all these updates about Emily’s programme in WDW. If you are fed up, imagine how it’s been for us for the last 13 months since all this began. It has been a huge amount of pressure, some stress, lots and lots of waiting, really, a lot of waiting and a whole chunk of change to get to this point. All of that will be worth it for the incredible life experience she will have over there.
I haven’t decided how yet, but I’d like to start something online where anyone meeting or seeing Emily in the UK pavilion can post their photos of and/or with her. It will be lovely for us to see her of course and to know she is alive, eating, safe and happy and when she returns it will also be great for her to look back on. I’ll have a think of the best medium for that, but if anyone has any ideas please let me know.
Till the next time…..