In Which: Ruth Takes a Day Trip to Madrid and is Granted an Australian Visa

Yes, you correctly read the title to this blog entry. I have been granted a student visa for Australia. I will now express my excitement via the rarely-utilized color change font option:

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!

There are many colors from which to choose. I don’t know why I don’t use more of them. Anyway, here is the story of how it all happened.

Not so very long ago, while I was in Portugal, in fact, I received the long-awaited reply from the Australian embassy saying that the medical forms I had turned in for my visa application were not valid because I did not use the correct doctor. To make a long, and arduously boring explanation much more palatable, when I was applying for my visa it was not clear to me that I had to use a specific doctor due to the fact that I was in Spain. After I completed the appointment and mailed the paperwork I was informed that I might have to re-do the appointment. I was also informed that if I were in the US, it wouldn’t matter what doctor completed the forms as long as they were completed. Yay bureaucracy–as hard to navigate as it is to spell! Basically what the rejection of my medical forms boiled down to after many phone calls and much phone credit spent, is that I had to go to Madrid on a week day with new medical forms and use the correct doctor.

I made three appointments for this trip. One at 4:30pm on Thursday, May 22 to have a chest x-ray to ascertain that I have not contracted tuberculosis during my time in Spain. It was cool to see an x-ray of my lungs, by the way. Then I had another appointment at 5:30 on the same day to have a basic medical examination. They tested things like blood pressure, vision…and I’m pretty sure they tested my intelligence too because the doctor asked me a lot of questions about what I was doing here in Spain, what I was studying, what my travel plans were. I was hoping that she was just being nice, but I read the forms. There was an intelligence section on the application and I was actually wondering how a doctor that had met me once for all of thirty minutes would be able to attest to my intelligence. No worries though. Even though it was all in Spanish, everything clearly went alright.

So I had those two appointments, but I had decided that if I needed to go all the way to Madrid (four hour bus trip each way) I wanted to make it worth my while. So I left ridiculously early (6:30am is ridiculous enough for a college exchange student) and walked to the metro, took it to the Valencia bus station and got on a bus to Madrid that got there around noon. Some quick research the night before revealed the existence of El museo nacional de antropología, located right near El parque de retiro. So naturally I headed over there. I don’t think I fully appreciated the metro the first time was in Madrid. I have never made train changes so quickly in my life. The trains come one after the other and it’s cheap. One ride costs one euro–that’s cheaper than New York City even with the currency conversion.

I got off at Atocha Renfe after one change from the circular 6 line to the blue 1 line and the Anthropology Museum was right there staring at me. Student discount made it dirt cheap for me to get in and I walked into the small but well put-together museum that consisted of three floors: The ground floor was dedicated to Asia, the second floor (but first floor in Spain) was dedicated to Africa, and the top floor was dedicated to the Americas. The wall text was informative and easy to read (again, all in Spanish, so clarity is a gift) and there was even a section of the history of the museum. Like most anthropology collections, this museum was started by antiquarians who simply collected stuff that they thought was interesting without really doing any research about it. In that room in a chamber off the ground floor held a couple “life-like” models of “African tribal people,” funerary masks from somewhere in Asia, a mummy about which there was a disappointing amount of information, the skeleton of a two-meter “giant”. The giant was my favorite, not because he was a giant but because the museum guard that was stationed at the front of that particular room looked like he might have actually been taller than two meters. I bit my tongue to fight the urge to ask if the skeleton was one of his relations. That might have been rude.

In the museum history room I met a couple of guys from San Francisco. They were whispering to each other in English, and I heard them, so I asked where they were from. They were taken aback because they totally thought I was a Spaniard. We talked for a little bit, I told them I was from New Jersey (an astonishing amount of people actually do ask me “what exit?”) and they said that they were just visiting Spain and Portugal for the first time in their lives, so it was a very exciting trip for them. They went to Lisbon and greatly enjoyed the replica of the San Francisco Bridge. I really wanted to know what possessed them to come to the National Anthropology Museum of Spain, but I didn’t. There was another girl walking around the museum who definitely looked American. She was alone like me and I wanted to talk to her, but I didn’t. I think it would have been weird, and also she might not have been American. As usual I definitely got more out of people watching in the museum than from the stuff in the museum itself.

After I had enough of the museum I walked through El parque de retiro. It was my second time there and I came very close to renting a canoe and floating around the estanque for a while, but I didn’t think I really had enough time and I would have rather gone canoing with someone else rather than alone. I was hungry anyway so I made my way out of the park and found the metro station I was planning on taking up to the doctor’s office. Then I walked around the side streets until I found a menu of the day that looked alright. It was really just alright and it was weird eating by myself. Food is usually such a social thing in Spain. I had nothing to do but try to read a little bit and wait for the next plate to come. The waitress was nice though and I swiped the bread to save for dinner.

I was almost late for my x-ray because I went to the other doctor’s office first by accident. The two doctor’s offices are related but are located ten minutes down the road from each other. No matter. Both appointments went smoothly and quickly, and by 6:00pm I was making my way back to the metro to head to the bus station and find my way home. I made it in time for the 7:00pm bus, but it was full, so I chose the 8pm bus and walked around the station for a while. I bought some manchego cheese at the deli they had there to put with my bread from lunch to make a little dinner for myself on the bus. After successfully killing time and avoiding creepy old men that hissed “eeeh guapaaa” as I walked by I boarded the bus to go home. I got back to my apartment by 1:00am having taken a taxi back from the bus station. I emailed my contact from the Australian embassy to tell her that I did not need the Friday morning appointment I had made just in case the doctor’s office told me to deliver the papers in person. Then I talked to Mom and Dad and went to bed.

The next morning I woke up to an email from my contact at the Australian embassy saying that the papers had already been received that morning and the data entered into the computer. I checked the online application status page and saw that my application had already been approved and my visa granted!!! It was a very happy moment. Later that day I received an email from the Australian visa and immigration office saying that I had been approved and giving me the details of my visa. Hooray! I can legally be in Australia until December 15, 2008!! I’m definitely going to be there longer, but I’ll have to apply for a tourist visa after my student visa is up. Hopefully that one will be an easier process.

In other news: there have been two GIANT thunderstorms in Valencia, which is weird because Valencia’s motto used to be “We don’t do clouds.” I liked the storms though, and they happen at night for the most part, so we wake up to brilliantly shining days. I’m going to the beach to get some reading done. I have quite a lot of studying to do in the next few weeks…so I might be writing more as a means of procrastination. Also, I am still in the middle of uploading pictures. One of these days I’ll catch up.

Until next time!

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