As a Brit living in the US I’m often informed by Americans that they have British roots and although some claims to Britishness are rather dubious Continue reading “How To Apologise to a Tree and Other Ways to be British”
I’m sitting in the departures lounge of Logan International and I’m really bored. I feel like I’ve read every page on the internet and eavesdropped on every nearby conversation. I’ve discovered that nobody at this airport today has an interesting life. My flight has been delayed by two hours so I’ve turned to the only possible solace that I have; writing. I can almost feel myself turning mad as the piped Christmas music in the hall permeates my ears (they are too cheap to pay for hits so have music that resembles traditional songs) and the greasy miasma of the nearby Burger King hangs in the air. We were given a $10 food voucher by Virgin Atlantic to compensate for the delay and I was reasonably happy at that until I realised that they are valuing our time at $5 an hour! Even so the delay wasn’t their fault so after a peppermint latte and chocolate crossaint from Starbucks I feel refreshed, if not any less bored.
The best thing about being bored is that it takes you places you would never go. How many other people in the world right now can say that they read the news article on the BBC about the Jews that used to live in Arabia or the fact that the wife of the Thai royal prince is out of favour because of the corruption of her family. That information will never be useful to me but somehow I now feel a little more up to date with current affairs, and I wouldn’t be if I’d stuck to Reddit or Facebook. I only pay so much attention to things that don’t affect me when I’m trapped at an Airport or procrastinating to a gold medal standard. Airport delays may have a certain use after all.
Sometimes delays like this give me a time to think and reflect, sometimes they make me mad, today I just feel resigned. It isn’t Virgin’s fault and theres no point in raging at the staff, we are all in the same situation here. I’ve learnt something by sitting here (London is 3280 miles away from Boston) and that will have to suffice. I hate flying, I hate how people have carry on bags that are the same size as my hold luggage and delay takeoff by trying to find a space for them. I hate how people are so desperate to get onto the plane first even though we all have assigned seats and I hate how you get treated like cattle when you fly, despite transatlantic flights costing more every year. But at least they haven’t taken away the free alcohol on Virgin or BA yet, we can all be grateful for that!
What do you do when you are stuck somewhere for hours?
Two months ago I moved to Boston, MA to live with my wife and I feel like I’m starting to get to know the city. Like every city of a certain size Boston has it’s advantages and disadvantages as a home. I like Boston and the things that irritate me are not enough to make me want to relocate. The rusting and dented subway trains with their hard metal seats, rusting exteriors and frequent breakdowns that make me feel like the city purchased them as a job lot from a former Communist country in eastern Europe without obtaining the manuals are irritating. The same goes for Boston drivers who appear to be a special brand of asshole that has one hand on their mobile phone and the other poised on the horn, ready to sound their outrage at any moment. The other day I was sat on a bus when the bus driver and another driver were involved in a heated argument through the window that would have made a chat show host proud. None of the other passengers batted an eyelid although as with public transport everywhere it would take a 40mph crash to draw peoples attention away from their phones.
One of the things that I really like about Boston is that the city is an attractive blend of old and new that somehow just works. Mostly. There is some hideous architecture like the Government Center that has the aesthetic appeal of a goats rear end but every city has buildings it would rather forget. Boston’s lively enough that there’s always something happening and not dangerous enough for that something to be a stabbing or a shooting.The tourists can be irritating but that’s the price you pay for living in a nice place with lots of history, even if a most of that history is anti British. A fellow Brit was telling me the other day how weird it was to hear the anti British parts of the Boston Tea Party Experience and I agree, it is a little weird but I’m sure I’ll get used to all the Revolutionary War references eventually. I’m sure I’ll also get used to buying alcohol in liquor stores because you can’t get it in supermarkets in puritan Massachusetts which is a bit of a pain when you are used to buying beer and cheese in one transaction.
Another thing that I like about the city is the weather, there are a lot more sunny days than I was used to in the UK and summer days are warmer. When it is too hot the buses and trains have air conditioning (something the UK would benefit from!) and although sometimes just walking from our house to the station makes me want to volunteer myself for the ice bucket challenge those days are not too frequent. Ice cream and soda are both very cheap here and help to make summer a lot more bearable. I have to admit that I’m dreading winter as it will be much colder and icier than I’m used to but I have about 40 layers of clothing in my wardrobe and I’m willing to use them all if required. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the famous autumn colours of New England although I will not be referring to seeing the trees change colours as “leaf peeping” like New Englanders do. That just sounds creepy and weird.
A few years ago when I visited Boston for the first time, the city was stuck in that unloved time of year when the grip of winter has yet to surrender to the warmth of spring. Tired after over a month of travel across the US I sat on a damp park bench on Boston Common and wished that I didn’t have to return to England because I felt that I had so much left to do here. I never could have imagined that less than three years after that day I would be a resident of that very city. This evening I returned to the same park bench and reflected on what’s happened since then. There are a lot of cities I liked in the US; New Orleans, San Antonio, Portland ME and even New York, but I feel pretty lucky that I ended up in Boston.
This is my first entry as an American resident! Needless to say being an immigrant wasn’t as evocative as it is in the movies, there was no walking off a boat to be registered at Ellis Island. I was processed in a quiet sterile side room at Dublin Airport (you can pre clear US immigration there). I sat and quietly waited as an official processed my documents and then stamped my Visa and sent me on my way. No fanfare, just lots of typing and stapling punctured by the excitement of people moaning about missing luggage. All done! Next step is to receive my social security number in the post so I can begin working.
I’d spent the day clutching my US Visa paperwork nervously as I travelled, it was a large white envelope with “United States of America, Official Business” in large letters on the side. It made me feel a bit like a nob carrying it but it had to be carried in person and it was too large to fit in my hand baggage. It contained all of the documents relating to my Visa so losing or damaging it was not an option! Handing it over to the guy at border control was definitely a relief.
I’m pleased to report that all of my possessions made it to the US undamaged which was a relief. I’ve unpacked all of my stuff already and had my first American shopping trip to buy some new clothes that suit the warm weather. It’s a lot warmer than it was in England here so air conditioning and shorts are vital. I’m hoping it doesn’t take me long to adapt to the weather as sweating just by breathing soon loses it’s charm.
Today was my first Independence Day, although the weather was bad and we didn’t go out (my wife called it a hurricane although as a Brit it was definitely just a bit of rain). There are still some people gamely setting off fireworks in the rain as I write this, good luck to them. We had cheeseburgers for lunch and I wore a Captain America t shirt to match the theme of the day. We’ll make an American of me yet! Happy 4th of July everyone.
I’m writing this on the plane to Boston, the flight was delayed by an hour due to a problem with the left engine which is always what you want to hear before take off! It’s a nearly full flight with all of the usual perks such as limited personal space and dubious smells emanating from my fellow travellers. I thought I would use this mid air post to enlighten you all about the joys of entering the USA as a visitor while married to a US citizen.
I’m allowed to stay in the US for up to 90 days with the Visa Waiver Program. As the husband of a US citizen (USC) it is possible that the CBP officers will subject me to extra scrutiny at passport control because they feel I may stay illegally with my wife after my 90 days expire. Obviously I’m doing things the right way with the visa I’ve applied for but I’ve heard of foreign partners of a USC being refused entry before. To reduce this risk I carry proof of my ties to the UK including return tickets, my ticket home from Heathrow, my rental contract and payslips to prove I’ll leave the US. I also carry a copy of my spousal visa (I-130) application. As you can tell half of my luggage allowance is basically bloody paperwork!
On my last visit to the USA the CBP guy was professional and polite and when I explained I was married to a USC he merely asked who was moving where so I explained about my visa application. He then stamped my passport and welcomed me to the USA. On my visit before that I was questioned for over 5 minutes and the same questions asked twice to see if I changed my story. I’ve heard of people being questioned for a lot longer so i guess I’ve been lucky so far. Every visit is different but it’s important to never lie and to be polite, these guys are only doing their jobs and having an attitude will only make your US entry harder.
Hopefully today will be the last time I need to enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program. The next time I visit the US it should be as an immigrant with my documents ready to be processed at the airport. After that I’ll be a legal resident with a greencard and entering the country will be much easier. I hope this post explained a little about visiting the US and the processes at Passport control for those who are curious or nervous because they are visiting while dating a USC.