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Visa Chase 2012 – The Conclusion

October 7, 2012

Geez, what an ordeal. At least on my second visa-seeking trip to Prague I had some company. Rachel, who works at a different school in Rybnik, is a bright kid. She taught in Korea for three years, but doesn’t know her way around these parts yet. I was pretty pleased that I could finally help someone else out a little bit for a change, instead of being the one to ask for help.

Scott, one of my bosses, gave us a ride to Bohumin, which is just over the Czech border, on Sunday afternoon. From there we took the train to Prague, arriving in the early evening. Like me, Rachel likes to walk around the city for hours, so we checked out Prague a bit, stopping occasionally for a beer or a bite, but mostly just walking. I think Rachel has a better sense of direction than I do; she understood the layout of the town pretty quickly. We stayed at the Blind Eye. I’m a regular there by now.

Monday morning we walked the 5 kilometers to the Consulate bright and early, arriving right when it opened. The Vice-Consul took my passport, made a wait one second gesture and stepped away quickly. He then reappeared in no time with my passport, beautifully stamped for legal residency and work! He shook my hand and was obviously glad to be rid of me, but then I indicated my friend. “Oh, god… not another one,” was written on his face,plain as day. But he resigned himself and got right to it. Rachel had prepared everything in advance, so things went smoothly until, at the last moment, they seemed to think there was something wrong with both our applications, even though mine had already been issued. The Vice-Consul and his aide fretted and frowned over them, asking odd questions about Czech residency, which shouldn’t have had anything to do with it. They disappeared for about 10 minutes and we could hear them discussing it behind the door.

But I think they were sick of my face and dying to get us out of there. Rachel was told that her visa would be ready the next morning. While I was very glad for her, it was a bit irksome to know they could have done that for me and saved me another trip to Prague, with all the pursuant expense, trouble and lost work. Still, I’m legal now. It’s done. Next year I can apply for residency from within Poland.

After it was clear that Rachel was good to go, I headed back on my own. I had to get back ASAP to teach on Tuesday, when I would be pretty much at full speed, leading 4-6 lessons a day.

On the way back from Prague, I branched out a bit and took some chances. Rather than return the way I knew, which was safe but slow and expensive, I took the train to Český Těšín, a town I’ve never been to. All I knew about it was that it’s right on the border and you can walk over to the Polish side and catch a bus somewhere. Jana, one of my fellow teachers, had mentioned that. Unfortunately, I was traveling without a phone, since I’d run out of minutes and couldn’t figure out how to re-up online.

I got to Český Těšín at about 5 p.m., walked to the Polish side (Cieszyn), and asked around to find the bus terminal. This was the weak point in my plan. I hadn’t looked up where the Cieszyn bus depot was before I left, and it wasn’t that easy to find. But I’m starting to develop some on-the-street wayfinding skills, for when I’ve got nothing to guide me but the lay of the land. You become attuned to clues and you get a sense for what you might find in a particular part of town. If you’re looking for a bus depot, you notice what looks like an intercity bus out of the corner of your eye and you track where it seems to have come from and where it’s headed.

By doing that, I was able to fill in the holes in the rather fragmented directions given to me by some very nice people at the tourist office. The bus depot was not marked in any way that I could see from the street, so I walked a good kilometer past it. I could tell I was heading too far from the center of town, so I doubled back and, approaching from the opposite direction, caught a certain architectural feature that seemed promising. I walked over that way, peered down over a rise and sure enough, there was a parking lot with a big charter bus waiting in it. I asked the driver if he went to Rybnik and he said nie nie nie, but he pointed across the parking lot to where there was a bus, just about to leave, with Katowice & Żory on a placard behind the windshield. It was the return route of the bus I would have caught from the Katowice train station. I suddenly remembered that this town was the ultimate southern stop on the minibus line I have taken to and from Katowice.

So I rode straight to Żory for 8 PLN. I could have planned better, but I got a bit lucky and my gamble paid off; the return trip from Prague took about half the time and cost about half as much as going the safe route that I knew.

And so it is that I am back home and finally legal to live and work in Poland.  It feels like realizing the last step in the plan I set for myself over a year ago, when I was living on a shoestring in Iowa and began to wonder to myself, “How could I move overseas?”  I’ve never been the best at long-range goals, but I have to say that in the last year, I’ve definitely improved in that department.

Now all I have to do is learn Polish.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2012 7:49 pm

    I find the different names of places for different nationalities interesting. You mention Cieszyn and Těšín across the border from each other…very close to the same pronunciation. A lot of places in Poland had German names previously from having been German territory, e.g. Gdańsk and Danzig, Wrocław and Breslau, etc. The same thing happened with the Ukraine and Poland when Poland got skootched westward…Lviv was Lwów, Peremyshlyany/Przemyślany…you could visit Pavliv/Pawlów (Pavlov in Russian) and see if there are any dogs…

    One of the most interesting ones to me is Helvetia for Switzerland. It’s a female personification of the country in Latin.

  2. October 7, 2012 7:57 pm

    And congrats on your visa. I guess you’ll have to get a PESEL?

    • October 7, 2012 8:21 pm

      Nobody’s specifically mentioned a PESEL to me, but when I opened my bank account there was some talk of a national security number, so I assume that’s it. I’ll ask about that.

    • October 12, 2012 5:13 pm

      Good thing you mentioned it. When I brought it up, they said, “Yeah, we need to do that.” Went down to City Hall the other day with the landlord and the school secretary and filled out the forms. Thanks!

  3. norbertbeaver permalink
    October 7, 2012 8:06 pm

    I think exploring and taking the unfamiliar route home shows that you’re getting your confidence up. I think that means you’re settling in. :o)

    Me? I would have stuck to the well-trodden path, but I’m basically a coward. You should see the pages of notes I take when I have to get an unfamiliar bus. If I’d been on Scott’s Antarctic voyage they would have eaten me first. Probably before they left England.

    • October 7, 2012 8:22 pm

      I’m getting quite good at wandering around. It’s the staying in one place I find taxing.

  4. Louie permalink
    October 10, 2012 10:54 pm

    Have you ironed any more clothes? Do they have any permanent press items where you live?

    Thankfully, i haven’t ironed any clothes in about seven years. I don’t even own an iron.

    The information on local names Stuart Gourd imparted was interesting. Thank him for me.

    • October 12, 2012 5:15 pm

      Stuart’s an interesting guy, quite the omnivorous autodidact. Good piano player, too.

      I ironed a few things for the wedding. Not sure when I’ll iron again. I do like a nicely pressed shirt. Ironing isn’t bad if you listen to BBC radio while you do it.

  5. Louie permalink
    October 10, 2012 10:57 pm

    Since you titled this entry Visa Chase 2012, i thought you were going to announce that you had lost your Chase Bank issued Visa credit card you took out in 2012.

    • October 12, 2012 5:18 pm

      The Lords of Finance may be stupid enough to help crash the global economy, but they’re not quite stupid enough to give me a credit card. 😛

  6. October 12, 2012 12:45 pm

    Nie, nie, nie 🙂
    my God, so brave…. 🙂

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