After the Emirates saga of our plane being grounded in Dubai, finally arrived a day late in Brisbane, Australia – The Land of Oz, in a daze and very shattered.
A delayed long-haul flight is almost like moving around in a surreal state of consciousness. I guess 48-hours door-to-door takes its toll on any body, regardless of age.
Brisbane at last
As expected, the 13+ hours from Dubai to Brisbane passed slowly, for me anyway.
Long haul flights are great for catching up on movies, music, and Sudoku. The guy next to me wanted to chat…a lot. Constantly chewing my ear off whilst I was trying to do my own thing, in my own space – even when I had my headphones in.
Do you ever want to be alone and by yourself on a flight sometimes?
After the last two times flying back to Australia, it feels as if I am not meant to return. Flying back last year, I experienced a saga with Cathay Pacific also and vowed never to fly with this airline again.
The hired machine
With loads of running around to do in Brisbane including organising tradesmen for a badly needed roof repair at the house, I booked a car hire with Thrifty from Brisbane Airport. Public transport in Brisbane does not always keep to optimal schedules.
What a car hire it turned out to be…
The brightest Fuchsia pink car you have ever seen. What an embarrassment to drive! But there is always a positive to every situation. The up side? I can always find this car in a any busy carpark, regardless.
Although I ordered a Manual, I received an automatic, which I don’t like to drive. Still, we drove away from the airport and I did not want to see another plane again…for a while anyway.
Extremely lucky as I have house-sitting gigs with my very good friend in Brisbane.
With two consecutive house-sitting opportunities, we also had a third one lined up, but decided not to move the third time. This worked out a perfect catch-up and no outlay for accommodation or calling on friends for a room.
I enjoy house-sitting and have done several over the years. It’s a really nice break from whatever you happen to be doing and as there is usually one or more pets to care for, it is a great time for puppy hugs. Something I really miss when I lived on a boat for 21 years but also whilst travelling. A tad selfish to have pets under these conditions, but it’s my view only.
Also great bases for organising tradesmen at ease for various jobs whilst in Brisbane.
The Passport Dilemma
Arriving in Brisbane on the Tuesday instead of Monday as scheduled, I was a day late, and now had to visit the passport office in Brisbane on the Wednesday. With my online application completed in Italy a few weeks before and a reference number, I found the office.
I must have 15 months left on my passport for the 365-day Italian Residency visa, but I only have 13 months and the consulate would not budge – no exceptions.
As my visa interview with the Italian Consulate is next Monday, I now need an express passport, which is more expensive at AUD$381.
It was a stressful touch and go there as I went to the Australian Passport office in Brisbane with my renewal application, number, and still valid passport.
Nowhere on the site does it say that if you meet the three requirements that I also required an appointment to apply, so not over the counter application.
On entering this office in George Street, everyone needs to take a ticket…this is where it went pear-shaped.
The first question: “Do you have an interview appointment?” No, means you had to pick up the little red hand receiver and speak with the most unhelpful guy, who advised I could not get an appointment until Friday 12 noon. This meant that I ‘should’ receive my passport by Wednesday/Thursday next week – “if I was lucky”. It is Wednesday today – an express passport is supposed to take 2 days…this is express?
My consulate appointment was booked for 13:45hrs on Monday…things are going disastrously! I made the appointment anyway.
Pleading with the lady at the enquiry counter and hoping she would take pity on me, I explained that I had flown from Europe to submit this application for my interview. Very helpful, the officer suggested that I submit the application at the General Post Office in the city. The submission would leave today, arrive to this office by tomorrow, then hope like hell my passport would be ready by Monday noon. How absurd. I was standing in the passport office but it is quicker to submit at the PO.
It is supposed to be returned by Tuesday. Nowhere does it say 2 business day from the lodgement day. So Friday became Tuesday and longer. Stressed, I cancelled the Monday’s consulate appointment and moved it to Wednesday instead.
To the Post Office to submit my passport renewal application
Lodging my application with the General Post Office (still Wednesday), the very kind lady advised that I should write a letter with my submission to the Passport Office, pleading my case in the hope the office would rush my request through. So I did.
On submitting my application, this lady butchered my still-in-date passport, cutting half of the back cover containing numeric codes and cutting a corner off the front of the passport.
Leaving the Post office and returning back to the house-sit, I had a major panic attack whilst I realised I no longer had a valid passport.
The first time in 30-plus years that I did not have a passport!
Panicked, I phoned the Post Office, which advised a submission to the Passport Office cannot be made without first cutting the existing passport. But my passport still has 13 months and not expired. What if I have to fly somewhere in an emergency? Couldn’t the Post Office butcher my existing passport on handing over my new passport that I had to collect anyway?
“No, this is the process.”
Follow-up calls to the Passport Office
Phoning the passport office on Thursday to see how things were panning out, the office did not have anything logged yet in the system. Things were not looking good…at this rate, I would not receive my passport by Tuesday.
I phoned the passport office again on Friday and spoke to a very helpful lady that advised my passport was being printed today and it would be ready for pickup by 3 pm this afternoon. Then ten minutes later, I received a call from a different passport office lady advising it would be ready for pick-up at noon today instead.
Wow! I was now sufficiently impressed and the passport office had redeemed itself.
I raced to the city to pick up my passport. It is Friday afternoon and I have my fresh new passport in my hot little hand!
As now I wanted my Monday consulate appointment back, I frantically phoned the consulate only to be told that I would have to cancel Wednesday’s appointment and rebook Monday on the online system. However, there was no guarantee that anything was available – no one could look at the system as it is all automated.
The officer advised me not to stress as the maximum time for the visa is 15 days. I should receive it in time for my flight out on the 11th October.
As I was flying down to Newcastle (NSW) the officer needed to post my passport. I have no faith in Australia Post having had much re-directed mail lost. So, at the time of my appointment, I left a self-addressed Express (tracked) envelope for the consulate.
The Italian Consulate experience
I waited patiently at the Italian Consulate whilst listening to a various people applying for differing Italian visas.
One lady was going to study jewellery making for a year in Italy. Another chap was staying in Italy for 5 days just to meet up with his mother. Why bother with a visa for 5 days? Most nationalities receive a Schengen 90-day visa free on arrival.
My turn finally came and though I did have a scheduled time, in true Italian fashion, the officer was late.
I handed over the wad of paperwork together with my new passport, and a passport-size mug shot of my very tired and haggard-looking face. This photo was taken the day after I arrived in Oz, following the 48+ hour flight saga.
It was touch and go again with the very friendly officer who had an issue with my Health Insurance. A requirement is that you must hold 12 months’ Health Insurance and mine runs out, March 2017. Finally, we got past that hurdle as I was adamant that the insurance would be renewed – who goes to Italy for a year without Health Insurance?
The second hurdle was my income. You have to demonstrate a certain amount of Australian dollars equivalent to an Euro amount, coming into your account each month. This is for the duration of the 12 months in Italy.
Although my running income was a little short per month, my savings more than covered this shortfall. Something which the officer had trouble understanding. Consulting another colleague, this hurdle was also squashed.
Lastly, the stickler. A completed form from my host in Italy, which I had. However, a few check boxes and my details were not completed correctly.
Mentioning that I could complete these then and there as my host had already signed the form, the officer would not accept the form as “it is a Declaration”. I expected this bureaucracy in Italy, not here in Brisbane.
The officer advised, I had to email the form to my host for the correct completion, then email it back to the consulate. The officer assured me on leaving: “she would make it happen for me”!
This was the same officer that I had been emailing with numerous questions whilst in Italy. Let’s hope so. Disheartened, I left heading straight to the Library’s Internet. Emailed my Italian host again and waited. Needed a drink after the last week’s (or 10 months’) hassle and luckily, I was meeting up with friends in the city – wine is my saviour!
On receiving the completed form from my host, I emailed this to the consulate today, Thursday. Surprise, surprise the consulate is not open today. So, again, have to wait until tomorrow and keep my fingers crossed.
Ever get the feeling that the universe is against you? Planets are not aligned? All those really bad clichés?
I am feeling very much like this at the moment!
“Time and tide wait for no man…”
Time is ticking on, I’m still in Brisbane, and need to book the 1.5-hour flight to my sister’s in Newcastle. Still no word from the consulate to confirm my form was received.
I phoned the consulate.
I wasn’t expecting such a curt response and must of caught the officer on a bad morning advising: “I’ve received your form and have gone way above and beyond the service that is provided by the consulate. Your visa is being processed and will take up to 2 weeks. If the consulate requires any further documentation, it will be requested from me. You should appreciate that you’re not the only person applying for a visa!”
Politely apologising, I thanked her very much for all the help provided to date. It’s such a power trip for some people in these offices. This officer is hard to read: a smiling assassin?
I can only hope that I’ve provided all the required documentation as the consulate is very non-committal; and hope that my visa arrives in Newcastle in 2 weeks, otherwise, I have no passport and can’t leave Australia.
I have to book my flight to Newcastle as I can’t stay in Brisbane forever!
Brisbane seems to have got quite expensive since I was last here in July 2015. I’m not sure if it is because I am used to Southern Italy’s cheap prices or whether it is just more expensive.
- Communal Bar (George St, Brisbane CBD) – A glass of white, which was not a full glass by any means cost $8.50 – expensive.
- Tamarind Tree (Shop 1, 286 Hawthorne Road, Hawthorne) – Delicious and authentic Thai food is served at good prices (Entrée $3.9+; Mains $12.90+; Desserts $4+), especially for up-market Hawthorne. This is a small cosy BYO restaurant with friendly staff. A good little find!
- Gateau Café + Dessert (7 Lindsay St, Hawthorne) – Scrumptious deserts and cakes ($6+). This chic café has only been open a few months. A waffle was served cold so the owner delivered a tray of Melting Moments to our table Gratis, to make up for the cold waffle – excellent service! The ever-illusive real leaf tea is also served here – I’m impressed.
- Sushi – I marvel how regardless of what country or city I travel in, Brisbane city still has the best and cheapest Sushi in the world I’ve found to date (I haven’t been to Japan yet). Take-away Sushi shops are on almost every block in the city and the Sushi on sale is fresh, delicious, and cheap. Depending on where you shop, a Sushi roll costs from AUD$2.50-$3.50 for all sorts of ingredients and types. I crave for Brisbane’s Sushi when I’m overseas.
Off to Newcastle I go to await the arrival of my passport but also to a wedding!