Sunday, 18 May 2008

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down....

It's 5 weeks today until I am on that plane on the way to the US of A! My excitement is building especially as I have done my celebrate project and handed that in which is one of the hurdles for this term (I think it was pretty rubbish in the end, especially in comparison to lots of other peoples projects but meh... whatever!) and also today I have just bought my medical insurance!

After watching a programme on telly yesterday about holidays that have gone wrong and people not being able to claim their medical expenses I realised how important it is... one guy had nearly a million dollars of medical bills! It's obscenely expensive in America for medical treatment... *new found respect for the NHS* So anyway, eventually I decided to go with Diamond which I think specialises in insurance for women but I have my car insurance with them which is part of the reason I went with them.. they're pretty decent. The policy I have got for Florida covers £10million of medical expenses plus lots of other bits and bobs such as lost luggage, delayed flights, curtailment of the trip etc etc. I had to phone them up to check it was alright for my to work with this insurance but they said it was fine as long as I wasn't operating heavy machinery or working at great heights! It came out to about £80 in the end (including a copy of the certificate to be posted and the excess waiver) which is pretty decent for 70 days of cover.

I only have one more thing to pay for now which is the housing assessment fee... all $86 of it... another extra cost however I think it pays for my bills and internet and stuff once we're there which is good. I was going to go ahead and pay for it today but I went through several stages online before realising they didn't accept Maestro cards... meh. I have just applied for a Mastercard though for emergencies so I will probably wait to see if I get that in the next couple of weeks and then pay for it. I think it's the kind of thing I could pay for months ahead or just a week ahead really.

It's getting quite exciting, preparing for the trip... I have to make another trip to Primark and invest in some new shorts and pyjamas!! Oh, and get some suncream!


Thursday, 1 May 2008

It's a Disney kinda day...

Well, today was embassy day! I finally got all my visa stuff through from Disney and so about a week and a half ago I called up the US Visa people and got an appointment for 1st May at 2.30pm.

So, I woke up at 8.30am. Lazed about a bit.... checked email... etc... then realised "Oh darn! (LOL I have decided to try and not swear too much on this blog therefore all swear words will try to be changed to something non offensive... haha!) I only have 20 minutes before I have to leave!" I had forgotten I would need to park my car and be there 10 minutes before the train left as well... so I ran around like a headless chicken for the 20 minutes, trying to get ready and get all the numerous visa documents together of which there were about 10 different bits of paper plus my passport. After hopefully grabbing everything I jumped in the car and prayed I had enough change to put in the car park machine.

I got down to the car park by the station and it was completely full. So, I found this 'overflow' car park next to it and bought my ticket for £2.50. Got all my stuff and went off into the station. The train came on time which was good and I sat down for the boring journey to Waterloo. Because in the embassy you were not allowed any electronic items, all I had was my phone (which I later handed in) and so therefore no iPod to keep me busy on the train. Meh. Anyway, all was going well until we got to some rubbish little station near Surrey which I can't even remember the name of. And we sat there. And we sat there. For an hour! Apparently, some lightening had struck a signal thingy and so we couldn't move. However, apart from the journey taking about 3 hours, I had a lucky escape on the train because I had forgotten my young persons rail card and the ticket person didn't even ask for it!! Wooo!!

Eventually got to Waterloo and I was starving at this point because all I had eaten was a chocolate croissant at Bournemouth station. So I went and got a fat off Maccy Ds which was soooo good!! Cost me like £4.40 tho - what a rip off!! Then I made my way to the Embassy which was interesting because I pretty much didn't know where it was so cue lots of aimless wondering around until I found the entrance. I got there at bang on 2pm which was the earliest I could get into the Embassy as my appointment was at 2.30pm.

First you go through some security where they take your phone off you and you have to take off your watch (?!?) and belt, jewellrey etc. A bit like an airport but tiny! Then the scary American security man said I had to empty the pockets of my coat because I had something in them. I didn't know what he was talking about and for one minute I was really worried I had something stupid like a pocket knife in my pocket... but what did it turn out to be? A dead pocket torch which was from SJA and I had been meaning to give to James (runs our unit) to chuck away. Panic over!

Then you go into the actual Embassy itself. Now, all the other Embassies which are around Grosvenor Square are posh and have pillars and stuff. Very grand. The US Embassy is a huge, manky grey concrete beast of a building.. bit rubbish compared to the Italian one which had a proper canopy thing with pillars outside it! Anyway, went into the embassy and the only way to describe the process is a bit like buying something from Argos but with a longer and more boring wait!! You get assigned a number and you have to watch the screens until it comes up and you go to a little booth and get your documents checked. Then you sit back down and wait for it to be called again before going through to a different booth and have your actual visa interview. The first bit of waiting was alright, it only took about 20 minutes. However the second part was soooo boring... I must have been waiting over an hour easily... maybe even 1 hour 30 minutes?! I didn't have my watch or phone so...all guesswork. Anyhow, I was one of the last people left in the room to be seen, was starting to think I had been forgotten! Finally got called through and asked the briefest interview... must have only been 30 seconds long! All she asked me was what I was doing in America, what course I do and when I finish my degree!!

Then another queue to pay the £14 for the courier return of my passport in a few days which was a bit of a Mickey take (LOL... Mickey... gettit!!) and I left the embassy pretty much 2 hours to the minute after entering it. So, all in all it was pretty painless really!!

Then I headed off to Oxford Street because any trip to London HAS to include a trip to the immense Primark near Marble Arch. Having said that, it was mayhem in there. Like the Magic Kingdom on a hot August afternoon... same crowds, same annoying people who stand in the way, same heat!! I bought a tshirt, a dress (which I'm taking back... the concept of the changing rooms did not appeal to me... I think it was the mile long queue which lead from the entrance of the changing rooms practically to the back of the shop... decided to try it on once I got home instead..), 2 pairs of flip flops (also going back.. one didnt fit which was my fault - wrong size, and ones aren't very comfortable), a couple of things for Tom and I almost bought some sunglasses but there was a lack of mirror so decided against it.

After being exhausted by Primark, I ambled around Green Park/Buckingham Palace for a bit... got really bored. Realised that being in London on your own with no aim is a bit pointless and does get a bit dull. So decided to go back to Waterloo and see if I could scab my way onto an earlier train than the one I was booked onto (which didn't leave til 8.20pm!). It was only about 6.30pm at this point and Waterloo was packed!!! Absolutely heaving... you could hardly move. Turns out it was those pesky signal failures still causing loads of delays! So, went to the platform where a train to Bournemouth was due to be leaving very soon and the guard let me straight on even tho my ticket wasn't theoretically valid!! He didn't even come along the train and check them in the whole journey so got away with the Young Persons Railcard situation again! Got back home at about 9pm which is great because if I had got the train I was supposed to have, I think I would have only just got back about now!

All in all, it was a day of very lucky escapes. Lucky that I had the right money for the car park, I didn't forget any of my documents even tho I was in a rush, the train was on time, I was only in the Embassy for 2 hours, I was let onto an early train.... but then the ultimate lucky escape occured.

As I walked back to the car in the "overflow" car park... I saw a little yellow thing on the front. "Oh...flibberdigibbit..." As I walked round to pick up the parking ticket I realised it said on it "This could have been a penalty notice" and as I turned it over it said "This is just a warning. This is a permit only car park. You must not park in it unless you have a permit." WOW!! I got away with not getting a parking ticket!!!!! I thought all traffic wardens were evil! Maybe it was because I had properly paid to park there and everything?

Anyway, a good end to a very tiring and boring day!! Still, this is the last big hurdle to get over before flying to Disney!! Just my 'Celebrate' and Summer Projects to deal with now and then... zip a dee doo dah!!! :D

Cat x