Sunday, December 25, 2011

Case Closed

Tuesday, 13th December
I went to work, expecting a call from K. I thought that if I hadn't heard from her by 10, I'd call her myself. Most offices and businesses open at 10.

Come ten o 'clock, no word from K. I called her, no answer. A few minutes later, I got this email from her: I have been thinking about your case and I am terribly sorry for the
situation and problems you had to face. Rejection for a visa is terrible and
I understand how you feel now when all your plans got ruined.

On the other hand, the organisation has special procedures according to what as soon as
we provide a you with the requested ticket there is no more the organisation's
responsibility on changing it or canceling. We have bought your ticket back
in October, because we had your flight request and your several
confirmations and all is kept in our email archive. We have paid xxx GEL
for your round trip ticket and now the airlines do not allow us to cancel it
or get a refund.

Your case has been closed and unfortunately the organisation cannot buy another ticket
for you to send you home. I am really sorry, but there is no way Ministry's
financial department would allow us to buy two vacation tickets for one
Person, when we have such restrictions in our regulations and monetary
transactions are extremely big deal here.

I would recommend you to get in touch with the airlines yourself and maybe
send them the scanned version of the passport where the rejection
information is presented and maybe they will be able to help you. I can also
give you the contact information of the travel agency in case you
need to talk to them as well.
I am terribly sorry once again and wish I could do something to help, but
Unfortunately nothing is under my control anymore !

Hope you understand !

My whole world came to a stand still. I was still at school. I had a free lesson and was helping my colleague marking test papers. I asked to be excused and headed for the library to use the internet to get in touch with the agency and the airlines.

I loaded my phone with tons of airtime and made some calls. I called the agency, they seemed nice, promised to help me as much as they could. The ticket I'd got was non-refundable. I had 3days to make the impossible happen. I was dying. I felt lost. I didn't know where to start. I imagined the worst. There was no time to be weak and to feel sorry for myself, I had to keep going.

The agency took my details and promised to call me back, I had to cancel the travel insurance and figure out the next step as I was on my own in this. I managed to cancel the insurance. Apparently, it takes a while for the transfer of funds. The consultant said she's pressurise the head office to prioritise my case. I had to email a copy of the rejection letter and my passport to the travelling agency for them to send it to the airlines as motivation for my ticket cancellation. They wanted the docs by the end of business that very day. Time was of the essence. All that was 8 hours away, in Tbilisi. I asked my friend to please scan and email it for me. She said, 'I'm on the road, I left your passport in my apartment, please come here and do it yourself'. It was around 4pm, the agency closed at 7 and I was 8 hours. If you do the Math, you'll see that it was impossible for me to get the docs to the agency in time.

I called and asked them if I could email the stuff to them first thing the next day. She didn't mind. I took a bus to the station to buy an overnight train ticket to Tbilisi. I was freaking out on the way, hoping that they weren't fully booked. I waited about an hour for the bus. I'd already had a ticket but it was for the day after, I just wanted them to move it forward by a day. They did it! I got my ticket.
It was around 6, I had to head back to Sarpi, and pack and be back at the station by 10 for 10:25. Whew!

I got home, charged the cellphone, and packed. I'd been told that the org had a new home for me for January, which means I had to vacate my room. I didn't know where the new family lived, I didn't have time for that. I had already asked my family if I could store my bags at their house until I come back in January and they agreed. I had to pay rent for the weeks I'd stayed at their house.

The family wasn't home when I arrived. I packed as quickly as I could. I couldn't even weigh my bag to ensure it's 30kg. That's the limit with the airlines I was going to fly with.
When I was done packing, I headed to the main house to tell them I was leaving. They expected me to leave the day after. That was the original plan. When I moved in, the host sister, that speaks English told me that the last bus to Batumi leaves at 9. I was hoping to leave with that bus. I'd be there just before ten. At 8pm, I told them, I was about to leave, they told me there weren't anymore buses at that time! WHAT? But you told me the last bus is at 9. She didn't understand that. She went blank! Great! The host mom fixed me a really nice dinner. I didn't have time to eat and I don't eat before travelling but I had to be nice. I paid her before I ate. She took the cash and mumbled something in Georgian, the atmosphere changed in the room.
I heard the sister ask how longs I'd stayed there for. The mom said 3 weeks. That's 21 days. I'd been there for 17 days and I paid them the exact amount. I guess she expected me to round it off. Here's the thing about expecting people to round things off for your advantage, what if they expect you to round it off for theirs? For example, what if I thought she wouldn't mind me rounding it off to 2 weeks, i.e. 14 days, instead of 21?
There I was, at the table, in front of a delicious meal I was forcing myself to eat to be polite and everyone's mad at me for not paying them what they expected. Fortunately, I'd only dished up a spoonful of an eg and the tiniest chicken piece.

Just before I paid, host sis had translated to me that her dad's getting his brother to take me to the station. I asked them how much he was going to charge, they said nothing. AWKWARD! I finished eating and moved away from the table. I was the only one eating anyway. The host mom asked me why I didn't eat, I just said, 'nooooo thanks'. I had enough to deal with as it was to be stressing about food. There was too much tension in the house, I just wanted to get the heck out of there. I asked where the uncle was. He was on his way. He arrived in no time.

As if it wasn't awkward enough, I had to accept a favour from the people that believe I'd short paid them. And they insisted! Also, they did mislead me by telling me the last bus was at 9. At 8:20 or so, we left. Not before I asked again how much the guy would charge me (for the free lift). I thought that things may have changed after they saw how much I paid them. And they did! They discussed the fare I heard 80GEL (R320) from the uncle and 15GEL (R60) from the host mom.
The final result from the translator was NOTHING. You don't have to pay anything! I thought to myself, you know what? Just get the heck out of here, don't try to figure these people out, you've been here for months and you never could figure them out.

The whole clan accompanied me. Host mom, sister, brother and the driver, host uncle. I thanked the host dad and left. They sped through Batumi to Makhinjauri station. I'd told them that my train would leave at 10:30. That's 9:30 in Georgian. So the sister mis-translated. We got there at exactly 9:30. Which means if she was right, we would've missed the train. Anyway, we were an hour early. Great! We had to pretend for an entire hour. Crap! I discovered that the host mom had packed me a plastic bag full of naartjies (mandarins). This was over and above the 50kg baggage I already had.

There was an English speaking Georgian dude sitting next to us in the waiting room. He asked me if I liked Georgia. Of course, I told him NO. He translated to my family what I'd told him. You can imagine how much more awkward that made the already awkward situation. Perfect! The host family mumbled amongst each other. More tension ensued. I tried to do damage control by telling the dude, I'd nothing against my host family, they were nice people, I just didn't like Georgia as a country at that very moment. Of course, he translated that to the family as well. I don't think they cared. They were also not impressed that I mislead them by telling them I needed to be at the station by 9:30 instead of ten. I did tell them 10:30, but the truth got lost in translation.

The train finally arrived. They dumped me in my carriage and left. I was sooooo relieved. I met a nice English speaking Georgian in the train. I called him Superman, a story for another day.

Michelle called and I realised that I wasn't going to be able to see her before I left. That sucked! We had an appointment for Wednesday, but I'd to leave a day too soon. Which meant not getting to see each other. I hoped to see her one last time in Tbilisi.