Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let us out!

We really, really like it here.  But now that we have a vacation all planned, we're ready to get out!  Enter visa problems.  I mentioned in my last post that our visas problems caused us to change our destination from Central Asia to the Caucasus.  Well, the visas problems have continued.

Problem 1:
Visa Expiration Date: June 2
Day we found out the company that usually does our visas won't do them this time: June 1
Time it takes to get an expedited Afghan Visa: 15 days
Estimated departure date for vacation: June 8

As you can see, it would be impossible to get our visas in time for our departure.  And you can't depart Afghanistan without a valid visa.

The solution the visa guy at my office came up with was to get exit visas which are good for 6 days and we planned to get out visas for reentry in Dubai on the way back to Kabul.

So, all was well and good in visa land.  We were leaving on the 8th and our visas expired on the 9th, perfect.

Problem 2:
Estimated departure date: Pushed back to June 15 due to some problems stateside for the new pilot.
Visa expiration date: Still June 9th.
The sticky part: You're only allowed to get one exit visa.

When I asked our visa guy what our options were, he said either you leave early (can't do), get a hospital to write a letter saying one of us was deathly ill and couldn't leave (can't do, plus if one of us was deathly ill I'm pretty sure we would have already left), or go to the airport on the 15th with expired visas and get turned away to the visa office and wait a few days to get valid visas (can't do).  I kept telling him that there had to be another option.  I mean, this is Afghanistan; flights get cancelled and missed, people run into problems coming and going all the time.  There is no way the only way to get a second visa is to lie about being deathly ill.

 So, he went back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke with a friend, got in touch with someone higher up, explained our situation.  The higher up gave him the three same options that wouldn't work.  Najibullah asked if he could give an alternative option.  He asked if we could pay the $2 per day fine that is given to those with expired visas from June 3-June 10, and get another exit visa good through June 16.  When he relayed the story to me, he said the official said, "It is strange that this idea has never occurred to me before," or "Why didn't I think of that?"  Najibullah suggested that he pass the idea along to the Minister of the Interior.  He's swelling with pride right now thinking a new law might be enacted because of him.  We're just really thankful that it looks like we'll get to go on vacation!

Here's our new itinerary:

June 15th: Fly to Azerbaijan.
June 15-27: Travel through Caucasus and Turkey.
June 27th: Fly from Turkey to Washington DC.
July 10th: Fly from DC to Washington State.
Around July 25th: Fly back this way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vacation Planning

We're going on vacation in a week and a half (I hope). This vacation was originally planned for the first two weeks of April and was going to be a leisurely stroll through the other stans (expect Pakistan, even we have some sense).  It got pushed back and pushed back.  And we added a trip to the states at the end for Joey's captain upgrade and to see family.  Then, after we had solidified our dates, we had problems with our Afghan visas and all the visas we needed to get.  So, Central Asia is out and the Caucasus are in.  Our new plan was to spend about 18 days traveling through Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and spend some time on a beach in Turkey before heading back to the states.  Today we found out that we've been pushed back a week.  So, here's the new vacation itinerary:

Turkey and the Black Sea Coast

We're hoping this itinerary makes it through the night.  Honestly, I won't believe we're going until we're on the ground in Baku soaking up the sun.