Friday, December 31, 1999

Late Christmas Presents

So Christmas has come and gone, and New Year's is tonight.

Christmas eve was spent at a party at Judy and Al's. We were still trying to get our Visas, so Dave spent a good part of the evening on the phone trying to get a live body at the King Faisal Visa office in Saudi. Ironically once he did get through he had to shout over the sound of Chrismas carols, and the "Babe" video that the kids were watching. Just what the Saudis want to hear...pagan worshipping rites, and a singing pig.

Christmas morning was great and we got some great travel loot. Dave left Vancouver on the 26th and went to Calgary where he got to visit some friends and relatives before meeting up with Jen again on the 28th in Ontario. Amazingly the flights came in within 40 minutes of each other, but we were still Visaless.

Mollie (Jen's mom) picked us up and took us out to Collingwood to party with some old ski friends. On the way to Collingwood, we decided that the only way to get Visas in our hot little hands would be to drive up to Ottawa and actually visit the embassey in person. Unfortunately it's a 5-6 hour drive from Collingwood to Ottawa, and the embassey is only open from 10am to 12pm (not bad hours eh?).

Painfully, we got up at 5:00 am (2:00 am our time) and started driving.

We arrived at the embassey at 11:00 and after doing some consulting with the person who was attempting to get our Visas for us , who recommended not going to the consulate, and Dave's parents in Saudi, who recommended we go in and have a hungerstrike if need be, we headed up to demand our Visas.

We were greeted by a locked door and quickly found out we were on Candid Camera when the door was opened for us automatically. We were ushered into a tiny little room with a security guard sitting behind a small particle board desk (with a nice dark oak finish) that was held together by strips of tape.

Upon his desk was a beautiful little TV monitor that let him watch up and down the hallway outside the embassey, a big black button for opening the door, and a collection of very important looking papers. Behind him there was a large package X-Ray machine, and a poster proclaiming the 100th anniversary of the Kingdom of Saudi (which I personally find hard to believe).

We had decided on the way in that Dave would do all the talking being the token male. The security guard asked Dave for his ID and took his Driver's License and started writing down every last detail on it onto a little pad of stick it notes he had in front of him. He then took both out passport numbers, out Visa number, my parents telephone number in Saudi, and we're quite convinced would have happily written down Dave's Air Canada card number, his blood type, and his MEC membership number had Dave offered them to him.

Just after he'd finished writing this all down, and looking at it and then looking at us, and then looking at it again in a kind of stuck up disbelief a lady came to a little plexiglass window beside us and asked us what we wanted.

The security guard waved us towards her, so we went over and stated our case. She immediately recognized the MacLachlan name and made a face at us and then said that our case had already been looked at for the day and that the papers hadn't arrived, thank you very much. She started to walk away, so Dave grabbed a pile of emails out of his pocket and waved them at her stating that a "VERY" important Saudi wanted us in the country. She stopped, turned back and read the name, made an indecisive clucking sound and told us to wait for a moment. Less than 30 seconds later she was back asking to see the name again. Dave slid the emails through the small hole in the plexiglass and she grabbed them and walked out of sight. A few seconds later she returned and told us that we should come back at 13:30 because a "Special" mailbag was coming in that might have our papers in it at about 13:00. Not quite sure what else to do we told her we'd be back and left the consulate. As we were walking down the hall we realized that she'd only returned 2 out of 3 of the emails to us. There was a moment of panic as we tried to remember what had been written on that piece of paper. Dave's Dad had sent us an email stating that if we didn't get our Visas that we should go and shoot all the Arabs. We remembered though that it was actually a scrap piece of paper that we'd grabbed at Judy and Al's, so with a great sigh of relief we turned back to the consulate to see if we could get our phone numbers back.

We went back to the locked door, waved at the little camera on the wall and were let in. As we stepped in to the room the security guard stood up and told us rather firmly that we were expected back at 13:30 and not a second before thank you very much. We quickly decided a retreat was in order, and went down to the local Mickey-D's to recover with some caffeine and grease.

A silver lining to this entire trip was that Dave got to visit the parliament buildings for his first time, so we wandered around in the -35 weather checking out our nation's capitol.

At 1:30 we returned to the consulate, and amazingly the mail had come through and our Visas were waiting for us. We are now the proud owners of 2 Saudi visas, which have been kept on our persons ever since.

We stayed in Ottawa overnight with some friends, and then drove down to Tottenham to stay with Jen's sister Katherine and her family.

Heros of the past few days are (in no particular order):

  • Katherine and Dave Waldock (for letting us stay with them)

  • Joanna McNutt, Morgan Quarry, Wembley and Baggy (for letting us invade their humble homes)

  • Mada and Mal Gibson (for letting Dave stay with them and getting him to the airport at an ungodly hour)

  • Judy and Al Lee (for letting us stay with them, and getting Jen to the airport at an even more ungodly hour)

  • Mollie and David Palmateer (sorry about the Calling Card Mollie)

  • Mary and Don MacLachlan (thanks for pulling those strings)

Thank you all very much!

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