Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Obscured Vision

Here's what I was alluding to with the last post about Mom's health. She started having headaches a couple of weeks before the Italy trip. Then the vision in one eye suddenly diminished. She said it was like looking through a piece of lace or a veil. She saw several doctors and went to three different hospitals. She was treated for a sinus infection then told that she had an issue with the optic nerve. Getting an MRI was a bit of a hassle and then it took a week before we could get the results (we decided to go ahead and go to Italy).

The radiologist said that she had a sinus infection and Mastoiditis (infection of the temporal bone behind the ear). The optic never looks perfect. So hopefully the vision will just return to normal as the antibiotics clear up the infection. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two strollers, three suitcases, a backpack, a totebag and small carryon.

What I learned from traveling to Italy with a small child and an infant.

2. Bring travel size laundry soap so you can TAKE LESS STUFF
3. Check the airline policy before bringing the car seat on board and paying extra for an infant under the age of two. Etihad's policy is that the car seat MUST be forward facing. What a weird rule! Sitting in my lap is NOT safer than being in a rear facing car seat.
4. Business class is SOOO worth it on a long flight.
5. Don't leave things loose in the back of the taxi - you'll never see it again.
6. Check with your hotel and see if there are stairs. Just because there is an elevator doesn't mean you can get to your room (or even the front desk) without a flight of stairs.
8. Use goggle maps to plot your hotel. The website might not be accurate as to HOW LONG/FAR it is to the airport/train station, etc.
9. Definitely take a baby carrier like a sling, snuggli, baby bjorn, etc.
10. Don't bother with a big stroller, just bring the umbrella stroller and see if you can bring it on board to stow in the overhead - you might not get it back on the jet way and will have to carry your baby in the car seat you couldn't use on board all the way to the baggage claim.
12. Just because your train ticket says Rome it doesn't mean that's what is the final destination of your train and therefore the name on the schedule board saying what platform you need to be on to get on your train.
13. Leave an hour and half OR MORE before the train leaves the station to get something to eat and find your train.
14. Don't bother trying to pee at the train station. It costs a Euro and takes WAY too long to find and get back to your train. Just wait for the train, the bathrooms on board aren't too bad.
15. First class train cabins are ALLLLL the way down at the far end of the train.
17. Take Sara as your tour guide, she knows the travel books by heart so you can relax and follow her lead.
18. TAKE LESS STUFF so you can keep up with Sara.
19. One big room is cheaper than two small rooms.
20. Stay near the airport/train station and make day trips.
21. Just because the taxi driver says there is a meter, doesn't mean he really has one.
23. Take one pair of SUPER comfy shoes that you KNOW won't give you blisters.
24. You can see a lot more when you leave the kids at the hotel with their grandmother.
25. It is nice to have an excuse to take a break and do things at the kids pace.
26. Restaurants in Italy often don't open for lunch until noon, close at 3ish, and then don't open for dinner until around 7:30. Buy a few snacks to have on hand for little people.
27. TAKE LESS STUFF, but don't forget the camera (with extra batteries)!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Two weeks ago I made the fortunate decision to go into HR with J. We were planning an evening out with friends and we heard that there were coupon books for Etihad employees if you asked the right person. On the way home from picking J up from the airport, we stopped by the office. I have a pregnant friend in the complex that works in HR so while J was working on the coupon books, etc. I stopped at her desk to see how she was feeling. She asked about Mom and I told her about the latest denial by the Immigration Appeal Committee.

This is when the universe shifted. My friend told me that what I needed in this situation was Wasta. At my puzzled look she explained that we needed someone with influence and the next thing I knew she was on the phone speaking arabic at increasing speed and volume. I almost got worried when she started making gestures with the hand not holding the phone to her ear. In a blur J and I were in a cubical drinking really nice cappuccino from china cups with an Emirati man with a warm smile and good things to say about his time working in the US and hearing promises of him taking the visa application to the Chief of Immigration himself. He told us that the Sheik (King/President) offered him the choice of working at Etihad and living near his family or going abroad as an ambassador. I really began to see how Wasta worked. This man's job as Government Relations Manager frequently includes smoothing the path where necessary.

That afternoon J and I gathered up the application and supporting documents, adding some changes that we had been thinking of making to the appeal letter based on the advice of another friend in the building who managed to get her mum a visa. The letter now said that Mom is widowed and has no sons to care for her. I also noticed that the copy of dad's death certificate and my birth certificate may never have made it out of the envelope from the translator into the last application. We took all these documents back to the Emirati gentleman, but missed him as he was needed at the airport to handle another situation. So we waited all weekend.

On Sunday, the first day of the work week, we took the documents back to HR. We made several trips back to HR that week to gather remaining documents, copies of Mom's passport, the 5000 dirham fee, Mom's actual passport, John signature on the forms, etc. Once we had a temporary visa, Mom needed to get the Medical FItness Test (AIDS test and TB xray). The Government Relations Manager had called ahead and had someone meet mom at the clinic for the testing who walked her through the process, jumping to the head of the lines in front of about 50 other women. We waited through another weekend for the results. As Sunday came and went and we still hadn't heard I got nervous, worrying that we wouldn't get her Fitness Certificate for some bizarre reason.

Finally we got the call, they had the certificate, but needed more documents, money or signatures (I'm starting to forget what they needed when - a checklist would have been REALLY handy). Tuesday we took the Medical Certificate downtown and purchased a cheap health plan. I took the receipt back to HR. They needed another two signatures from John so after getting those I met a man at the airport who works for the Governement Relations Manager and he took the application straight to immigration. Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon we got the call that Mom had her visa! Praise Allah!

This morning I ran down to HR again to pick up the passport and there was even more good news. Most visas of this type are good for one year, Mom's is good for three! Yippee!

Now we can go to Italy next week without worrying about visas! Now I don't have to worry about Mom making a visa run every thirty days and possibly not been let back in the country. I don't have to work full time to sponsor her myself. Whew! I would have gotten a job and probably would have been fine, but I just really don't feel ready to leave Little Man. It broke my heart thinking about it.

So now all we have to do is worry about Mom's health, but that's another story for another day...