It is Friday morning. I look back on a week that was not particularly productive. A serious cold ensured that did not really feel on top of the world. Nonetheless, Monday had to be a day of travel. Just before eight in the morning my son took me to railway station in the Swedish city of Kramfors for the five-hour train journey to Arlanda airport near Stockholm. After a three hour wait and a two hour flight I landed at Amsterdam Schiphol airport and I got home at about 8 pm. In short, not the kind of day that allows you to work steadily at a project.
Yesterday I had an appointment at the American consulate in Amsterdam, in connection with my visa application. This took a major part of the day. A person who is going to spend some time as a visiting professor in the US must get a J-1 visa and this requires a fair amount of bureaucracy. It begins as soon as one decides to start the application process by calling the number that is indicated on the consular website. The minute the phone connection is established a voice demands to know the number of your credit card. (Strangely enough, the American Express card is not welcome; only a Visa or Mastercard is accepted.) A payment of 15 euros is required before further instructions are issued.
After the inviting university has submitted a few documents, and paid some ‘fees’—with supporting evidence that the invitee is truly qualified to be a ‘visiting professor’—the main hurdle is the completion of the DS160 form. After downloading it, the work of completing the form can start. Right at that point the warning is given on the screen that the form will requite ca. 75 minutes of intense work. I spend at least that amount of time on it. Page after page with questions one might expect but also with questions that leaves one wondering about their relevancy. I had to do a little research in the family documents to be sure about the exact dates and places of birth of my parents. I could, however, without any doubt, ensure the US government that at present both are not living in the US. I was asked to give the dates of the last five times I visited the US. Fortunately, I was told that I could provide a guess, if I was not sure.
It does make sense that the US authorities want to know whether or not I suffer from some serious communicable disease, but I wonder about the question whether or not I plan to undertake some terrorist activities while in the USA. Would there really be people who proclaim that indeed this is what they are planning? Well, I often do not agree with the views of the world president of our church, but I have never contemplated kidnapping him or putting him out of action by some violent method.
Anyhow, yesterday morning it appeared that I had satisfactorily completed the form, and after a further donation of 120 euro to the US, I was assured that within 2-3 days I will receive my visa by registered mail in the stamped envelope I had furnished.
In the meantime I have booked the flights for my wife and myself on March 23 to Los Angeles and Loma Linda University has provided us with the details of the apartment that has been reserved for us (complete with ‘reclining chair’, cable TV and wifi) for three months. Also I received confirmation from the car hire firm that I will have the pleasure of touring around in a Kia Forte. If I do not know about the hard work I am expected to do, I might be tempted to think of vacation.
Now I need a few really productive days for the preparation of my lectures. I have done most of the work, but there are still some things that need attention. This is quite important, the more so since I know that in the next three weeks I will still have a few other obligations. But my sermon for tomorrow in Almelo is ready. My cold seems to be receding and this Friday may still give me a few productive hours!