Background: (this will come a little later)
Friday August 1, 2003 - Russian Consulate (part 1)
The reality of going to Russia in 9 days has begun to really set in. Today I spent time at the Russian Consulate, literally.
Having been informed to arrive early and get a number, I arrived at 9am, 30 minutes before the official opening, and got what appeared to be the 2nd number (#83)
At 9:25 we were allowed to enter the Consulate and sit in the Visa waiting area. In the room, there were about 20 chairs circling the walls, and in 1 corner was a desk behind a 5 foot room divider.
The room quickly filled with people and at about 9:45am #80 was called. WHAT? I never saw man #80 until the room was opened at 9:25!? Oh well, at least I was "4th" in line.
#80, who owns an Air Ambulance service, and is leaving tonight for Russia on a 5pm flight, is ready to pay the $300 Cdn fee for same day service. Except he thinks he can pay when he picks up, and HE thinks it is $350. So after a trip to the Canada Post office across the road to get a Money Order (the only accepted payment of the Consulate) for $350, he is promptly sent back to get a money order for the correct amount. Because of the urgency of his situation, he is promised a Visa by noon.
After #80, the Consul starts to deal with a lady he has obviously helped before (I think she is really #87 or so). Then #82 is called, and dealt with fairly quickly. Then an older gentleman from a previous day, Then a rougher Russian looking fellow got rushed in, and was dealt with.
Finally it was my turn, and despite the purpose of our trip being Adoption, and our Visa application saying "Science and Technology Exchange", all went as predicted by the agency, and no questions were asked. Our "Visa Support #" was there and waiting in the Consul's email, and that appeared to provide all the extra information that was needed. So no questions were asked, and the Consul took my money, then went to get my receipt. 30 minutes later, he returned complaining of printer problems, but I'm sure he tended to at least 3 other people in the meantime.
SO, 3 hours after I arrived, I was back on the street, with an appointment to return the following Wednesday to get our passports with attached Visas.
I'm told this will be standard fair when we get to Russia: Lines, delays, and seeming disorganization. We'll just have to handle it and roll with the punches. We have been on this path for about 1 year now, having begun our Homestudy for Russia sometime last August. So the delays and waiting is something we have gotten used to.
Our flights were finally booked Wednesday July 30. I had had a travel agent in my work building looking since Monday the 28th, and I was constantly looking on Travelocity.com and Expedia.com and Destina.ca to get ideas on flights. I was getting worried since I wasn't finding anything "reasonable", so I finally called the adoption agency, and asked them for a suggestion for a travel agent. They suggested one, and I called that afternoon, and after about 1/2 hour with him on the telephone I had our flights booked.
The flights were lousy in terms of arrival times, wait times and departure times.
Our flights were:
So, pretty brutal travelling over, with a 10 hour time change and arriving in Ekaterinburg at 5:30am.. But I wasn't going to complain, as I had not found anything better, and our departure date was now only 1 ½ weeks away.
Wednesday August 6, 2003 - Russian Consulate (part 2)