Somehow I can still hear in my mind the voice of Gilda Radnor’s Emily Vitella, a character on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update from the old days, as she is informed by anchorperson Chevy Chase or Jane Curtain that the basis of one of her rants is not true. From her initial angry, strident, demeanor, Emily adopts a sheepish look and says “Nevermind…” in that distinctive, annoying, highly nasal, voice.
Well, in my case this is what I have to say in regard to my previous post. It turns out that I was unaware of certain limitations of airline tickets. In our case the most restrictive one is that no airline will write a ticket for travel more than 300 days from the date of purchase of the ticket. So, a round-the-world ticket can not be purchased if the travel ends more than 300 days from the date of purchase. So I will never know if the RTW travel planner applet gave a good estimate for the ticket prices for the itinerary selected. However, Deborah at AirTreks.com still was able to quote a price for the outgoing leg of our journey that was considerably less than what I imagine I would have gotten from Expedia, et al., entering the various legs of the journey one at a time. So, Seattle -> Beijing, overland to Shanghai, Shanghai -> Hanoi via Bangkok, overland to Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City -> Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh -> Singapore, SIngapore -> Colombo was priced around $2800 per person. That is somewhat over the budget figured using the RTW applet price, but we were ready to go ahead. Then we went to the mandatory Fulbright Pre-Departure Orientation in Washington, DC (which deserves, and will get, a separate posting)…
And it turns out we have a visa problem. Apparently, only the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington, DC can give us a visa that will enable us to spend nine months in that country. They will not do so until they receive instructions from the Immigration and Emigration Ministry in Colombo. They will not do so until they get a request from the US-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission in Colombo. They will not do that until they receive an official document detailing my Fulbright grant award from the US State Department in Washington, DC. This will not be issued until another branch of the State Department certifies that I am healthy enough to withstand the rigors of life in Sri Lanka based on a medical examination form recently submitted by my family doctor. (I must day that I am somewhat grateful for this form. It requests the results of a very “old school” physical exam. So this was the first time in the three or so years I have been seeing this doctor that he actually palpitated my organs, checked my reflexes, and, uncomfortably enough, did a digital exam of my prostate, for example. I guess I grew up when physical exams were, well, more physical and the more modern practice of doing virtually everything with blood tests leaves me vaguely unsatified. BTW, all of my organs were in their proper places and within acceptable size ranges.)
As we had planned to leave the country in six weeks and there are several bureaucratic hurdles that no one has ventured to guess the time required to cross, it seems unclear that we will be able to leave the country as planned. And since low cost airline tickets are non-refundable, that means we would be taking a huge financial risk if we went ahead and purchased them. And if we wait until the situation is more clear, the ticket costs could rise considerably. And do not ask me why we could not get our visa at a Sri Lankan embassy in, say, Singapore, but apparently it is impossible.
So we are reconsidering our options. We hope to know more by mid next week.