While my mom and I were enroute, Rey had found a nice, colonial hotel built around a quaint plaza with a fountain in its center. It was late, and our following day was to start early--so, we weren't afforded many moments together before saying goodbye until the next morning.
The system at the consulate was rather confusing. Rey had an appointment for 2 in the afternoon, but he had been warned that it was a first-come-first-served operation and that the line could start forming as early as 5:30 am (even though the consulate opened at 8). So, Rey and I arrived to the consulate promptly at 6 while my mom slept in. Sure enough, there were probably around 50 people already in line when we took our place. Soon the line snaked out behind us, down the sidewalk and around the block. Strangely enough, the 2 hour wait went by really quickly. Wink, wink.
When we finely made our way to the entrance gate of the consulate, the guard would not let me in. He said witnesses were not allowed in unless summoned. He told me I could wait outside. Which I did. I waited right outside the gate for about an hour. I was all dressed up in nice clothes and heels. Dressed to impress. That and the direct sunlight were not helping make the wait a comfortable one. There was not one place nearby to sit. After a couple hours in front of the consulate, I decided to move across the street. To the shady side.
I was in a group of probably around 80 people who were also waiting on people inside the consulate. We all shifted around as the day went on and the sun moved positions. All friends for a little shade. But, at noon, there was no shade and we just sweltered. We hunkered down near the side of some buses parked there on the side of the road. Several busloads had come over 12 hours for their interview. With babies and small children. And now we were a small community. Camped out on the street and waiting.
By around 2, I was hoping Rey was getting interviewed and really regretting my decision to wear heels. Have you ever tried to squat in a little section of shade in a gutter next to a bus...in heels? Bad, I tell you. Bad.
People started coming out of the consulate across the street. Each time the gate would open, I'd crane my neck to see if it was Rey. Nope. An elderly woman came out with a walker, escorted by a granddaughter who was waving a visa. Grandma was approved. A young man came out, dejected. Sobbing when he told his family that the work visa was a no go. A family of 5 came out--beaming. "America, here we come!" And so it went.
4 o'clock came and went. I'd now been sitting on a curb for 8 hours. I tried to distract myself by people-watching and chatting... but, my distractions were leaving by the second. Was Rey the last to be interviewed or what?
And then, around 5 pm, Rey came out of that swinging gate. I jumped to my feet anxiously. He didn't make eye contact with me as he waited for a break in the traffic so that he could cross the street. My heart was thumping. What would I do if he was denied again? We'd already been through somewhere around five denials, and I didn't know what I'd do if this one had been turned down too. Rey came over to me, his face grim.
I got myself ready to be okay with a no. We'd gotten through it before. We could do it again.
And then, he pulled something out of the folder of paperwork that he'd taken in with him. His visa!!!! Excited isn't quite the word to describe how we felt--but it is a pretty close relative.
We zipped to the hotel as fast as we could to tell my mom the exciting news. Being crazy, as we were, we decided to just drive back to Illinois in our rental car that very night! Why not? Save us a hotel rental! So, off we went.
I remember the trip going down in a haze of glory--even though we were all completely exhausted.
We arrived back in Peoria on July 27, 2007... almost exactly 3 years after Rey had left. And, a little less than a month before our wedding!
As you can imagine, those weeks were a flurry of last minute planning, parties and preperation. About a week and a half before the wedding, Rey and I suddenly realized we hadn't bought wedding rings yet! Oops! So, we ran over to the mall and compared prices between the stores there. We ended buying them from a kiosk out in the middle of the mall from an Indian woman with a low, heavily-accented voice. She assured us we were getting, "16-carat gold for 14-carat gold price. Ver-dee, ver-dee gude price." We believed her.
There was also a fiasco with my wedding dress that I was having made. A week before the wedding, the seamstress showed me the finished product--it was all I could do to keep from crying. I took it home--and 3 days later, my sister-in-law lent me her wedding dress to use, which was absolutely beautiful.
Friends lent me all kinds of gorgeous things to decorate the wedding place with. Friends pitched in and all brought different elements of the wedding meal. Friends put on parties for the groom and bride. Friends paid for our rehersal dinner. A friend did the photography. Friends sang. These two young kids with no money were able to have the most beautiful wedding of all time--thanks to those who loved us!
Prepare yourselves--wedding pictures next time! :)