Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A DAY AT THE OSAKA U.S. CONSULATE GENERAL

Am due to present a paper in a conference at Hawaii in late May...

Needed to apply for a visa at the US Consulate General at Osaka...

The last time I applied for a US visa was in 1997...

There was no interview and I only had to post all documents including the passport to the Consulate General...

Was then pleasantly surprised that I was granted a B1/B2 visa for 10 years...

(This visa expires on 14th May, just about a week before I depart for Hawaii).

Compare this to the visa granted by Taiwan when I applied to go there for a conference...

The Taiwan visa took up one full page of the passport, just like the US visa...

And the permitted length of stay was a mere 14 days... arrgghh...

The Canadian visa, just for comparison sake, also takes up one page and is valid for 3 years...

Back to the US visa application...

Expectedly, the preparation for the documents took up a great deal of time...

Along with the 'normal' documents such as CV, letter of invitation by conference organizers, publication list, etc., they also ask for father's name, mother's name, wife's passport, and marriage certificate...

On the appointed time and day, I arrived to see a queue of about 20 people.

Parked by the roadside were three buses with tinted, mesh wire-protected windows...

Standing on guard around the buses and the entrance to the Consulate General were several security men...

I presumed there must be tens upon tens of more security personnel waiting in the buses, ready to pounce on the tiger just in case someone tried to be funny...

Once inside, applicants had to undergo airport-styled security checks...

For those who brought bottled drinks, they had to be declared and left outside the building... plus, for my case, I had to leave the piece of bread I brought just in case I needed something to chew on...

Prior to the interview, dedicated staff checked the documents and only those who had compiled the full list were allowed to proceed for the interview...

Had expected to be seated for the interview but it turned out to be more like talking to someone who is sitting on the other side of the counter, protected by a glass screen...

The lady was very polite and sweet, and super fluent in Japanese...

She asked a couple of questions and when I showed my marriage certificate that was issued in Texas, she exclaimed softly 'I love Texas'...

And then, 'Ok, we shall issue you the visa and it will probably take about a week to reach you... Have a nice trip'...

And yours truly: 'You too, have a good day'...

Was happy that the whole process took only about an hour...

Walking back to the subway station, I could not take my eyes off the unagi kabayaki (grilled eel) shop... the flagrant... ooh...

But no... it was too early for lunch... I thought...

Decided to walk around the area to take some pictures of Yodoyabashi...

And whoaaa... in no time, my stomach began to growl...

Without a second thought, I rocketed back to the unagi shop and rewarded myself with a una-juu lunch...

The Japanese folks sometimes ask me what my favorite Japanese food is...

Ever since I discovered unagi kabayaki many moons ago, it has remained my all time favorite Japanese food...

Wooh... heavenly it is...

The next morning at university, I received a telephone call from my missus...

The package from the Osaka US Consulate General has arrived...

Impossible, I responded immediately...

Perhaps they needed me to send in additional documents...

It turned out that they were super-super efficient in my case...

Never had I expected to receive the visa the following morning after the day of the interview...

Again, the visa is valid for 10 years... nice...

So folks, I am, Hawaii-bound in a few weeks... and I intend to enjoy the trip...