Friday, 2 September 2011

Russia is an A5 only country

Today (or yesterday, as it is now), I took a trip to the Russian visa agency in London. Flying on Saturday but only having just received the pieces of paper I need (uni hadn't given me my letter of support, ta for that...), it was kind of crucial I got it done today.
All I wanted was to submit my documents, pay my money and return the next day to pick up my urgent visa. What actually happened, was none of that. What actually happened, was 5 hours of hanging around, calls to and from RLUS and Russia, several emails and faxes to the visa agency and an increasing intimacy with the security guard who took pity on me and kept skipping me ahead in the many queues which featured in the whole episode. He was nice.
I did not, however, come away with any prospect of a Russian visa before Saturday. Nor any time soon, really. See, Russian visas require several documents depending on which you're applying for. Mine, a student visa, calls for an invitation (which was scanned over in minute proportions ridiculously late), a HIV test certificate and a letter of support from the uni as well as the usual form and photos.
I had EVERYTHING in order. mostly. I had to reprint the form because it 'wasn't clear enough', even though the 2nd one looked exactly the same and was accepted, but that was not the key issue.

'Today is just not my day'

No. The key issue that was stopping me from getting my visa application in, the major flaw in my documents which obviously must be causing some extreme threat to the Russian domestic security situation, a crucial and underestimated importance-the size of my invitation. It wouldn't print any larger than 3/4 of A5. And Russia, it seems, is an A5 only country. Begrudgingly they will accept A4. No bigger, because that's rubbing it in their faces that you've actually managed to get an invitation, but definitely no smaller than A5 either because you've probably drawn it with a felt tip, filled it in and designed an elaborate stamp with a crayon- and they wouldn't be able to tell because all the sodding stamps look the same anyway and are impossible to tell apart.

I was pissed. off. There were frantic phone calls, faxes and emails to get a bigger copy sent to the agency. They still weren't happy. There was then a call to Russia to send over the original so the print out would be clearer (newly invented issue-the print out was unreadable) but since it was an issue with their printer and they wouldn't adjust the settings, I left visa-less.

What this does mean, however, is an extra week to sort my life out before I go to Russia. RLUS are paying for the original invitation to be couriered over to me from Russia and rebooking me on a flight next Sunday.
Considering that the past month or so have been stressful beyond belief for one reason or another, I'm quite grateful for it. Almost certainly I'd get ill very quickly once I got there if I was still travelling on Saturday, so this should give me some time to give my poor broken body some time to recover.

It also gives me time to put another complaint in about my department. Had they given me my letter when they were meant to, this wouldn't have happened. It's not the first time they've utterly screwed up. I don't get how intelligent people seem totally unable to engage their brains when it comes to matters of common sense.

Ok. Rant over. Russian bureaucracy exists at every stage. I shall deal.

Russian bureaucracy

On a more uplifting note, my DSA equipment arrived today. I can't actually open the boxes myself, because as a 'disabled' student, I am not trusted and must wait for a technician to show me how to turn on my laptop.
And install all the software. And generally do everything I can do myself, except in a way that won't lead to a grey screen with the word VIRUS flashing at me 2 months later. I see their point.
I am excited to get the Sims 3 on there. I anticipate it filling long cold Russian evenings. Because studying isn't going to hack it.

Think I'll go traumatise my sims in the catacombs now, actually.

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