Friday, October 20, 2006

London

I had a little bit a scare recently. But first let me back up a few weeks.

About two weeks ago, I started seriously considering ways I could get to London for a weekend while I’m here in Berlin. London is super expensive (thanks mostly to the fact that the Pound is worth nearly twice what the dollar is worth), so it was a little difficult finding ways that would make it affordable. But I found a cheap flight there and back (more on that later) and after some thought and planning regarding lodging, I had a realization: my sister has a friend who lives just outside of London. I contacted her, asking for any recommendations on where to stay or what to do while I’m there, and she responded with an invitation to stay with her and her husband at their house for free! This was unbelievable news to me, and immediately put the trip in my price range. I booked my flight, which turned out to be 50% off from the time I looked at the pricing before (now don’t think this is that good of a deal. The airline Ryanair lets you fly from Berlin to London and back for about $60.00 which is really good. But the way they do things is advertise the flight at $0.99 and then tax you the rest of the $60.00. So when they advertise that the flight is half off, it doesn’t mean the flight is now $30.00, it just means that the flight is now $0.49, with almost the exact same amount of tax. A brilliant business scheme), so I booked and felt great about going to London.

I had planned the trip for the time that Ben Kweller would be playing a show there, which I was really excited about. Tickets would have been kind of expensive—again, thanks to the terrible exchange rate—but still well worth it. I contacted my friend Sarah-Ashley, who has personal connections with Ben Kweller, to see if there was anything she could do about getting me on BK’s guest list, thus making the concert free. She immediately pulled through, sending me an email the next day telling me I was all set and on the guest list. I felt great. Things could not have worked out more smoothly, I thought.

But then just this last Wednesday, one of the students here was working on getting her visa because she arrived in Europe one month before everyone else did. As she was talking to the people at the Goethe Institut who were helping her with that, she mentioned that all 25 of us were going to need to get our visas taken care of soon too, which caused the Goethe Institut to panic. We all had an emergency meeting the next day, where we were told that we would need to give up our passports to the German government so they could get our visas in time, thus making it possible for us to get out of the country in December without getting arrested. This would have been no problem at all for me if I hadn’t already planned this London trip, booked my flight, arranged my lodging, and gotten on Ben Kweller’s guest list. As it stood, I wasn’t going to be able to go to London because I wasn’t going to have a passport on the day I was flying out and I was devastated.

All day I felt sick to my stomach. I went to the British embassy with my teacher and another student to see if there was any kind of temporary papers they could give me to get me into the UK when I had planned, but they said that without a passport, there is no way to get into the UK. I then went to the American embassy with another student to see what they could do. They were considerably nicer than the British embassy, but still didn’t seem too hopeful. The passport office was closed, but the man at the front desk told us that if we came back tomorrow, they might be able to get us a second passport, but they couldn’t guarantee it would come in time for our flights and we would have to pay for it. I was willing to pay a little bit for another passport, but I had no idea how much it was going to be. So we made plans to head back to the American embassy the next morning and see exactly what they could do for us.

I went back to school for the afternoon and had a pretty good class, but was still really bummed. Just before class was over, however, I got a phone call from my teacher, which I couldn’t answer. I went downstairs after class, though, and found him there with some of the other students surrounding him. When I approached him, he told me that I was going to be able to go to London on the days that I had planned because by some miracle the Goethe Institut was able to get the German government to release our passports (those of us going to London) just before we go, then we are to give them right back to the government when we get back to Berlin. Anyone who has ever had to deal with any government bureaucracy knows that this is a total miracle. I felt so good getting this news! So now the trip is back on, with only one minor flaw: I was planning to see Footloose the musical while in London because I grew up next door to the kid who stars in it now—Derek Hough. And I would have loved to see it, but it ends the weekend before I get there. That’s not a big deal at all though—especially considering the fact that for almost 24 hours, I was under the impression that I couldn’t go to London at all. But everything’s worked out now, and I’m so excited.

1 comment:

bridgerw said...

I can't believe you're missing THIS:

http://www.theatre.com/photos/3001904.jpg

A great interview with the star:

http://www.theatre.com/story/id/3001901