A Travellerspoint blog

Final day in Georgia

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It was strange to spend my first real day in downtown Atlanta on the final day of my stay in Georgia. I knew that I had to make the most of my time in the city, so I decided to make my way down to what seemed to be the most concentrated area for tourists in Georgia. I made a start at Jared's University (which spreads over both sides of the main roads) and saw a CNN sign in the distance as I followed Decator street, which is one of the main roads in Atlanta.

I had my first Starbucks coffee in the CNN centre and was served with a smile. I think the smiles were drawn out of them because I was unfamiliar with the way they took a name for your order and when exactly they took payment. At least it made room for some conversation. I sat in the main atrium and saw tours going on over and around me when I looked up. I decided against going on a tour myself as I wanted to check out the Olympic Park (just outside) and cross over to the Aquarium.

The park was undergoing some sort of maintenance and was riddled with mandatory signs etc... I guess now is the time for all this sort of work to go on, while everything is still dry and stark. After I had crossed the park and taken a few pictures of the skyline, I headed towards the Aquarium - which too was under construction. Initially I wasn't going to actually pay for admission, but when I weighed up the cost ($22 - around £11) versus the fact that it would be a shame to miss out on going to the biggest aquarium in the world, I decided to go for it.

And what an experience it was! I had some of the most interactive and amazing moments with nature I've ever had. I took loads of pictures and video of everything I saw and fortunately there weren't many people around so I got the best vantage points.

After speaking to a few people, I discovered that Atlanta is also home to Coca-Cola! Construction is taking place beside the aquarium building and will be the new premises of the "World of Coca-Cola" (currently a little way down the mainstreet near to the University).

The aquarium made the whole day in Atlanta worthwhile - in fact I found it difficult to leave! I can now sat I've had a feel for the main city in the "South". Fortunately I didn't have to witness some of the worst traffic congestion in the world (even more so than New York) as we were able to use the car pool lane reserved cars with two passengers.

Posted by davidv33 00:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Becoming accustomed to customs

"I'm gonna ask you that same million dollar question..."

semi-overcast -17 °C
View Trips to America (2007-2009) on davidv33's travel map.

Well, well... who would've thought it likely that I'd be here at 38'000 feet in the air writing aboard flight 2777 in the same month that I applied for my VISA. I've felt strangely calm and collected the whole day - even at take-off. I felt sad to say my goodbyes, but it seemed more of a necessity or routine procedure rather than the usual emotional saga. I can honestly say that I feel totally calm and reassured by the way everything has fallen into place. I don't think I ever got anxious, even before the trip itself. I'm very much looking forward to this debut visit and the adventures that lie ahead.

Right now, I feel as though I'm on auto-pilot.

There were no hold-ups at Gatwick which is quite something, I know that this coming week will be absolute chaos. I'm thankful that I got the opportunity to fly at no additional cost. The only slight concearn I had was the fact that they wouldn't let me take my laptop and case on as hand luggage, so that went in the main hold and given a "fragile" label. Fortunately it was OK.

The main confusion really started at Atlanta airport. I guess there was a fairly conventional queuing system as we arrived, although there was a negro stewardess who insisted we made a neater non-resident queue despite the fact that this consisted of almost everyone who came off the plane so it didn't make a whole lot of difference who stood where. I don't think she was overly impressed when we (well, I say "we", it was some random lady who got impatient I guess) unclipped the belt - which basically redirected us further down past other unused kiosks and then brought us back round to the ones in operation. Little point, obviously. Well this lady certainly thought so. But seriously, there was something aggravating about this stewardess, her job was to pretty much make you feel UNwelcome! What confused me most was the way the main luggage was handled. You get your bags from one point and then give it back to guys wearing fingerless leather gloves and wearing bluetooth headsets - looked a lot like organised crime to me.

It was soon my turn to present my VISA and documents for the first time and soon realised that the green form that was issued to me on the plane was the incorrect one, I in fact needed to fill in a white form - which meant I had an actual VISA - to which the common response was: "So, you have a VISA?" I thought this was fairly self-explanatory, so I just said "yes". to avoid falling into any potential loopholes in all this trick-questionry.

Of course the real anxiety crept in when I was told to enter a smallish office just after I presented my documents and VISA for the first time. This was customs. It was a little unnerving when I saw a european girl get denied access into the country on the VISA she had, so she phoned up her family abroad and that was it I think. There were others who didn't seem too convincing, so they were just left seated indefinitely. I was taken into another office (I guess you could call it an office within an office, or sub-office ) and the guy explained to me that I wasn't allowed to make a successful businessman of myself in the time that I'd be here and granted me the time I said I needed. I was pleased with the way this interview went, it was the thing I dreaded the most about the thought of landing in the US.

After going through various detectors and scanners I got my bags off the main arrivals carousel and pulled out a piece of paper with the train times etc.. it seemed fairly straightforward. So, I spent my first dollar or two on a "marta" ticket. I should have really phoned up there and then to confirm where I'd get picked up etc, but I wanted to make the whole train issue as straightforward as possible so I just hopped on and took the correct train.

I was immediately "greeted" by a guy who looked as though he worked in construction. His hard hat pointed out his nickname: "Mack". Didn't really seem appropriate for his personality type, he seemed to me to be more like a "G-Mack" which almost sounds like a new model of Apple PC. Anyway, he came across as being a bit of an opportunist - and in fact this goes for many of the people I ended up coming to speak to me on the train. One guy even left me his "business card". Some Italian website. So anyway, this Mack guy had A LOT to say.. he started rattling off his life story - explaining to me that he'd been shot in the ankle when he was buying a bag of chips or something. Apparently he was "40 years of age" but I knew he was not a year older than 25. Also, he wasn't too decisive about where he was from, where he was going and what he was doing in Atlanta. He kept talking about the "million dollar question" - which I found out was: "can you spare 10 dollars". I ended up donating my box of maltesers and $3 to his cause. Fortunately his attention got diverted by a girl who took interest in his far-fetched, somewhat obnoxious stories.

In the end, I had myself an interesting time meeting a few people and having conversations - people here seem really friendly. Apparently people are more open down here in the South.

So, having been on the train for around half an hour or more, I then decided I was travelling too far out of the centre of Atlanta and changed platforms to backtrack - not able to find any payphones anywhere, hence why I should have phoned before getting on the train. It was getting late anyway. I got picked up from the airport about half an hour later. It was quite amazing to see my long lost friend Jared and his Dad for the first time in 10 years. I really enjoyed the feel of downtown Atlanta, the illuminated high-rise buildings reminded me a lot of Johannesburg in South Africa. Housing is similar too - the "subdivisions" work really well, basically the houses are uniquely designed in each one and there are community facilities like tennis courts and swimming pools.

The space is refreshing. The food is good. The people are friendly. I'm liking what I'm seeing in the US!

Posted by davidv33 14:30 Archived in USA Tagged events Comments (0)

Fleeting Flight

semi-overcast 0 °C

Well, well... who would've thought it likely that I'd be here at 38'000 feet in the air writing aboard flight 2777 in the same month that I applied for my VISA. I've felt strangely calm and collected the whole day - even at take-off. I felt sad to say my goodbyes, but it seemed more of a necessity or routine procedure rather than the usual emotional saga. I can honestly say that I feel totally calm and reassured by the way everything has fallen into place. I don't think I ever got anxious, even before the trip itself. I'm very much looking forward to this debut visit and the adventures that lie ahead.

Right now, I feel as though I'm on auto-pilot, in the same way that this plane is navigated for the most part of the journey.

There were no hold-ups at Gatwick which is quite something, I know that this coming week will be absolute chaos. I'm thankful that I got the opportunity to fly at no additional cost. The only slight concearn I had was the fact that they wouldn't let me take my laptop and case on as hand lugguage, so that went in the main hold and given a "fragile" label. Fortunately it was OK.

The main confusion really started at Atlanta airport. I guess there was a fairly conventional queueing system as we arrived, although there was a negro stewardess who insisted we made a neater non-resident queue despite the fact that this consisted of almost everyone who came off the plane so it didn't make a whole lot of difference who stood where. I don't think she was overly impressed when we (well, I say "we", it was some random lady who got impatient I guess) unclipped the belt - which basically redirected us further down past other unused kiosks and then brought us back round to the ones in operation. Little point, obviously. Well this lady certainly thought so. But seriously, there was something aggrovating about this stewardess, her job was to pretty much make you feel UNwelcome! What confused me most was the way the main lugguage was handled. You get your bags from one point and then give it back to guys wearing fingerless leather gloves and wearing bluetooth headsets - looked a lot like organised crime to me.

It was soon my turn to present my VISA and documents for the first time and soon realised that the green form that was issued to me on the plane was the incorrect one, I in fact needed to fill in a white form - which meant I had an actual VISA - to which the common response was: "So, you have a VISA?" I thought this was fairly self-explainatory, so I just said "yes". to avoid falling into any potential loopholes in all this trick-questionry.

Of course the real anxiety crept in when I was told to enter a smallish office just after I presented my documents and VISA for the first time. This was customs. It was a little unnerving when I saw a european girl get denied access into the country on the VISA she had, so she phoned up her family abroad and that was it I think. There were others who didn't seem too convincing, so they were just left seated indefinitely. I was taken into another office (I guess you could call it an office within an office, or sub-office ) and the guy explained to me that I wasn't allowed to make a successful businessman of myself in the time that I'd be here and granted me the time I said I needed. I was pleased with the way this interview went, it was the thing I dreaded the most about the thought of landing in the US.

After going through various detectors and scanners I got my bags off the main arrivals carousel and pulled out a piece of paper with the train times etc.. it seemed fairly straighforward. So, I spent my first dollar or two on a "marta" ticket. I should have really phoned up there and then to confirm where I'd get picked up etc, but I wanted to make the whole train issue as straightforward as possible so I just hopped on and took the correct train.

I was immediately "greeted" by a guy who looked as though he worked in constuction. His hard hat pointed out his nickname: "Mack". Didn't really seem appropriate for his personality type, he seemed to me to be more like a "G-Mack" which almost sounds like a new model of Apple PC. Anyway, he came across as being a bit of an opportunist - and in fact this goes for many of the people I ended up coming to speak to me on the train. One guy even left me his "business card". Some Italian website. So anyway, this Mack guy had A LOT to say.. he started rattling off his life story - explaining to me that he'd been shot in the ankle when he was buying a bag of chips or something. Apparently he was "40 years of age" but I knew he was not a year older than 25. Also, he wasn't too decisive about where he was from, where he was going and what he was doing in Atlanta. He kept talking about the "million dollar question" - which I found out was: "can you spare 10 dollars". I ended up donating my box of maltesers and $3 to his cause. Fortunately his attention got diverted by a girl who took interest in his far-fetched, somewhat obnoxious stories.

In the end, I had myself an interesting time meeting a few people and having conversations - people here seem really friendly. Apparently people are more open down here in the South.

So, having been on the train for around half an hour or more, I then decided I was travelling too far out of the centre of Atlanta and changed platforms to backtrack - not able to find any payphones anywhere, hence why I should have phoned before getting on the train. It was getting late anyway. I got picked up from the airport about half an hour later. It was quite amazing to see my long lost friend Jared and his Dad for the first time in 10 years. I really enjoyed the feel of downtown Atlanta, the illuminated high-rise buildings reminded me a lot of Johannesburg in South Africa. Housing is similar too - the "subdivisions" work really well, basically the houses are uniquely designed in each one and there are community facilities like tennis courts and swimming pools.

The space is refreshing. The food is good. The people are friendly. I'm liking what I'm seeing in the US!

Posted by davidv33 00:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

My question answered at the front door

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It's only been two days since the interview and already I've had to run about the house finding additional items of clothing, legal documents, proof of I.D. (so obviously and most importantly my passport...) but of course that's the whole point of all this commotion - I should be the one to receive the passport, hence why it's nowhere to be found. Here I was thinking the VISA was a seperate bit of paper that would only be added to the passport once the routine I.D. check had been successfully carried out by the rather innocent-looking VISA secure delivery authority representative. OK, so that isn't his official title, but that's essentially what he's all about. He seemed Italian, so I wouldn't mess with him - I was glad my Dad was there to at least look Italian, had a problem emerged. You know, a little favour here and there and all that.

So, after I opened up the brown envelope I seemed to be distracted by the shiny, glossy addition to the usual blank pages of my recently attained, pristine-looking British passport. It was only after being told to look at the real important part that my attention was diverted to the dates. To my disbelief I saw 2007 till...................2017?! 10 years! This of course made me realise the gravity behind what I had received and made all the waiting at the embassy worthwhile.

I knew a British passport was a world pass in itself, but the sight of the VISA really made me feel that I was making the most of the passport itself and psychologically my future options broadened there and then. I felt the time open up in front of me. When we discussed the options that it could potentially offer me in future, I was reminded of a friend's situation - where she'd been given the 10 year VISA out of the blue. The only difference being, I haven't needed to go to the US first to get mine!

Posted by davidv33 00:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

VISA interview

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The morning had a promising feel, even before stepping out the front door. I had little idea that I would only arrive from the other side at 7:15(pm)! I'm reminded of something I said to my Dad after having queued (and re-queued) outside of the embassy: "Maybe we should make the most of our travel cards and stay here in London for the day?" We didn't have much choice in the end!

It would be fair to say that it doesn't really count for much being punctual upon arrival at the embassy - our only consolation being wrong choice of queue to set us back a few insignificant minutes. It was only until the real waiting started that we began to appreciate the size of the muffins we chose to have with our large, strong "Americano" coffees at London Victoria. Funnily enough I never realised this reference like I did the small stars & stripes flag my Dad pointed out to me in the car we'd parked next to earlier that morning.

After a couple of hours had passed, my number "477" was finally displayed on-screen and announced after so many others. It felt like a huge like bingo hall with two adjacent seating areas divided by a couple of elevated TV screens. So, having not done something like this before, I naturally felt anxious but soon realised there was even more waiting to do after the initial I.D. and document check! I began to gather myself once again for the "real" interview when I returned to my all-too-familiar seat and watched the logarithms on the screen play games with my ming to the point where I had to joke about it. "478" was called, and the girl who was behind us in the previous queue would continue to get her interview 10 minutes or so before mine. "466", "480", "476"... Eventually it became apparent how many seats had become vacated.

The interview was short, although a little unnerving - somehow I managed to confuse Georgia & South Carolina in one of my responses to a probing question, but he could see I meant well. The end of a long, but highly-significant day: the real beginning of the end in terms of my time left in the UK.

Posted by davidv33 00:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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