Saturday, March 31, 2007

Where does the time go?

This March has been quite an eventful one, almost a perfect balance of good and bad. The good parts were the 12 days at home with my family and friends, purchasing a Nintendo Wii, and getting to spend a week with the lady-friend...

The bad consisted of being refused-re-entry to the United States as the result of another person's blunder, paying in excess of $600 to fix the problem, being met with resistance when trying to get myself reimbursed, winding up on the Suspected Persons list of the American Government, and trying to weasel my way off that. Things got worse last Saturday, as I got sick for the first time in at least 8 months. I didn't have so much as a sniffle all this time, so when I got a bit of a sore throat on Saturday, I tried to ignore it. I couldn't ignore the exhaustion I felt on Sunday, and spent all day sleeping.

When the RMU doctor look a quick glance and said "Tonsillitis", I was puzzled. My tonsils were removed when I was around 10 years old. I had barely spluttered that out before he flatly said "They grew back". Cool. He wasn't done there though; oh no - in a way that only he could get away with, he said "Seán, you look like shit".

The good doc reckons I might also have Mono - I'll remain sceptical until the blood tests come back, but in the meantime, I feel as though I should be getting to the point.

March hasn't been the best blogging month, and for this I do apologise, but it has been an awful academic month. Granted, I haven't taken any exams or anything, but I've so much work due for Monday I'm beginning to wonder if the 'Sully-magic' (yes, I'm that conceited to refer to dumb luck as Sully-magic) that has gotten me by in such predicaments before is going to pull through this time... The smart money is against me at the moment, as magic takes energy, something I have precious little to spare at the moment.

But this isn't that kind of blog - the dull 'dear diary' drivel that attempts to arouse feelings of sympathy from the reader while dwelling on insipid introspective notions, fuelled by an emo-soul and a 'they don't understand me' complex. Sorry that from the opening paragraphs of this post you may have thought the conclusion would be a sob-riddled "mom's rite - no boi wil evar take me 2 d prom!" Anyway - I'm getting to the point; the justification for this post...

So, as stated, I was sick, relaxing in bed, and looking for some videos to watch on my hard-drive, and I stumbled across this, and I laughed. And I hope that if you have the patience to sit through the admittedly slow 2 minute intro, you'll laugh too.

Enjoy one of the oddest videos I've ever had a hand in making, although to this day, I insist it was all the doing of the chaps you see dancing on your screen!

What do you think? Will they become an internet sensation, destined to be forever synonymous with YouTube, featured in the obligatory montage that precedes each news piece on 'viral-video'?

UPDATE 08/05/08: Guess not - YouTube yanked it for copyright violation, so if you absolutely need your fix, here you are!

Saturday, March 24, 2007


The lack of colour on the blog as of late has troubled me somewhat, so I thought that I'd post some photographs and detail my St. Patrick's Celebrations in America.

First of all, I'm not really going to compare it to anything from Ireland, since the craziest St. Paddy's day I've ever had was pretty much a quiet drink with friends.

First and foremost; the Americans, in their infinite wisdom, have dubbed the day "St. Patty's Day" - much to the chagrin of an anonymous commenter on the blog, but it honestly doesn't bother me, as the 't' sound is said much like the 'd', and using the 't' from Patrick seems less arbitrary than... Alright, I'll stop now, I'm sure you catch my drift.

My usual foursome of friends and I made our way to the Delta Tau Delta frat house in Pittsburgh on the Friday before Patty's day- the building is here photographed the following morning behind my lovely assistant, Dan.
Somebody went to a lot of hassle to get these cans up here, hence their inclusion here.

Anyway, the party at the frat was pretty lame; by which I mean it wasn't quite my scene. For a number of my friends, however, the scene I am about to describe will sound like heaven. The festivities took place in a small area, filled to the brim with drunk, sluttily-attired girls, bumping and grinding to the loud R&B, while getting beers from the bar that were covered by their $10 entry-fee. The gender-ratio was definitely in favour of the males, but my two buddies on the pull failed to score female companionship with their half-hearted advances.

Thankfully, we didn't stay long at the party before retreating upstairs to frat boy Eddie's room. The building was laid out like a typical college dorm-type building, so think of halls filled with eight or so two-to-a-room bedrooms sharing a disgusting bathroom, and you're not far off what was experienced.

Everyone was content to hang around upstairs and drink, and we had a pretty fun night - the main event being the battle of the large-fingered-freaks, who wanted to settle once and for all who had the longest fingers.
Eddie and Tony square off in one of the oddest disputes I've seen in recent times - Eddie was crowned the victor for those interested

We slept in, and missed the parade, much to Eddie's disappointment, and took a bus to Wendy's (think McDonald's, but a hair more upmarket, and much tastier, in my humble opinion).

We spent a good two hours at Market Square, and along the way witnessed multiple examples of public urination, both male and female. Market square was a sea of green, with a great deal of people drunk beyond belief. People had their faces painted, or sported t-shirts claiming to be Irish.

There were a handful of port-a-potties dotted around the place, but nowhere near enough to satisfy the urinary needs of the assembled. It took ten minutes of poking from one restaurant to another before realising that every bathroom in Pittsburgh was 'out of order' for the day. Likely story. Rejected, I relieved myself, like a hundred others before me, and a thousand others after, between two wheelie bins next to a Starbucks.

That was really the only thing worthy of note at Market Square - eventually we got bored and wandered to Station Square, which had a much better atmosphere, owed in part to the band playing authentic Irish songs, which was nice. As the group of us walked deeper into the crowd, we came across a large circle, where people were watching some spectacle. Two drunken gentlemen were dancing around, much everyone's delight. I managed to get to the front of the crowd, and looked at one of the purveyors of this drunken revelry.

Randomly enough, my roommate was one of the men at the centre of all this attention, and for fifteen minutes of so I watched him in hysterics as he stomped around like some crazed WWE wrestler, goading his drunken accomplice into repeatedly elbow-dropping his jacket on the hard ground. The picture above is one of maybe thirty or so, and despite the poor shot composition, best captures the mood.

That was my St. Patrick's day - pretty standard fare, from what I've been told. A public, seemingly-citywide day of debauchery, in which, insultingly, 'everybody is Irish' (by which they mean drunk), except, of course, the lone Irish kid.

Because a simple life is boring...

Deja Vu.

Shannon Airport, Ireland. March 15th, 8:30 am.

The Customs official furrows her brow, and I know what's coming next.

“Sir, can you come with me for a moment?”

I'm lead back to the holding area, and reclaim my usual spot. I sit there, wondering what the chances are that I'll be denied again. My copy of Noam Chomsky's “Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance” sits uneasily in my backpack, unwilling to ease my waiting, so I remain with only my thoughts for an excruciating half hour.

The door pulls open. A short brunette woman stands there. “Mr O'Sullivan?” The only person in the holding area looks at her. “Right this way, Sir.”

The office I have been called into wasn't quite as nice as the one I had been in last time, and my 'handling officer' is quite different. “Sir, can you state your name for the record?”

I'm starting to miss my previous handling officer.

“Seán O'Sullivan”.
“And what business do you have in the United States, sir?”
“I'm a student.”
“Then why didn't you show up for school?”
“I did! It was a clerical error! I can name the woman that screwed up!”
Uh-oh. She didn't like my choice of inflection when saying 'woman'. Her eyes narrowed on mine. Sharp chills ran down my spine. Something bad was going to happen.
“Sir, I need you to blow into this tube to make sure you have no alcohol in your system.”
I smirk, and advance towards the device on the table, finding the absurdity of the situation quite comical.
“Put your mouth over the tube, but don't blow until I tell you to.”
I comply, feeling sufficiently humiliated at wrapping my lips around this mechanical phallus under the instruction of this uniformed terrier, and watch her press a button on her console.

A chalky texture assaults the roof of my mouth and I recoil in terror, but not before my gasp sucks in the toxic fumes that have been released. My eyes roll back in my head, and I keel over.

When I come to, I'm hanging from chains secured around my wrists in a tub of dirty water. I've been stripped down to my Superman underpants, and I'm not wearing my glasses. I feel naked without my glasses. I'm in a murky, decrepit basement of some description, lit only by a solitary light-bulb, my antagonist sitting comfortably before me on a solid wooden chair, looking quite smug.

“Welcome back” she beams.
“Why am I here?” I splutter out.
“You know exactly why, Mr. O'Sullivan”
“I really don't.”
“If you fail to co-operate, things will get ugly, O'Sullivan.”
“What? Why?”
Enraged by my cluelessness, she charges towards me and grabs a fistful of my chest-hair, twists it until I groan, and then ruthlessly plucks it out with a swift tug.
I look down and begin to laugh at my now bare left pectoral.
“I've been meaning to do that for a while” I chuckle at her “Do me a favour and get the other one, will you?”
“Tell me what you've been doing in America for the past seven months, and I can be nice to you, Mr. O'Sullivan”
“I was, and still am a student.”
“I hoped you'd say that.”

She leaves the room for a few moments, eventually returning with a cartoonishly muscly cohort, who drags a strange contraption on a trolley behind him. He parks it within a few feet of me, glances at me, cracks a smile, and makes his way towards the door again. As he exits the room, he calls out over his shoulder
“Have fun, you two!”

My eyes widen as I realise what I'm looking at. There are aggressive, dirty looking dusters connected to a large dial, which sits atop an impressively large battery.

“Are they electric-shock paddles?” my voice is a hoarse whisper.
“Oh good, Mr. O'Sullivan. You're familiar with torture techniques”

At least now the water I'm shin-deep in makes sense.

She fiddles with the dial, turning it all the way to the left, then all the way to the right, and back again, looking at me with that menacing stare as I wonder where it's going to rest.

She continues to play with the dial as she asks again

“Mr O'Sullivan. What were you doing in the United States for the past seven months?”

She plunges both paddles into my abdomen and I wince. I feel the sensation of a million pins and needles over my body, which then sink in as deep as I can feel, and explode into a million fragments.

My shudder wakes me up – I'm back on the plane, my chest-hair is intact, and the girl next to me is still snoring. The dream I've had doesn't seem too far fetched considering what I've just been told. Once I got called into the customs office, there were no shock paddles or chloroform clouds, but there was an interrogation by a woman who was too by the book to offer any compassion. This woman dropped the bombshell that I am still struggling to comprehend. The records show that I applied for a student Visa from the US government. The records show that I entered the United States in late August on this Visa. The records do not show that I showed up for school, but rather that I pissed around in the States for a few months, at an undisclosed location.

A clerical error. The director of the International office failed to register me with the Department of State. This much I was aware of. This simple (albeit stupid) clerical error has caused me a great deal of grievance, and will continue to do so. Why's that? Back to the bombshell;

“Sir, are you aware that you are on our Suspected Persons list?”

I was incensed. I demanded to know how; knowing exactly she'd tell me what I already know. I asked her if she could fix it, but was told that once it's on the system, it can't be erased. She was an absolute pain in the ass, and answered each question like it was even stupider than the last one. When I asked her what being on this list meant, she got impatient, and said “Sir, can you please stop asking me these questions? I have other people who are also trying to make their flights today”

I hated her. I'm not one to shoot the messenger, owing to the fact that generally that when people deliver bad news, they do it with some modicum of tact, but in my eyes, this woman deserved the worst fate my imagination could conjure up for her curt, anti-sympathetic, don't-give-a-toss attitude.

I hated her.

I made my flight. And I got to Robert Morris University. And I told people what happened. And they laughed. And well they should – my story is a ridiculous one. Taking my grievance to the International Office was a waste of time, so I went a few rungs up the ladder, and am trying to un-criminalise myself in the eyes of the US government, because I'll be damned if I spent my life getting harassed every time I try to fly out to visit my friends, see my girlfriend or take a simple holiday, because of one woman's incompetence. I've already been told it can't be done, but that'll just make it all the sweeter when I make it happen, eh?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Assaulting the Embassy

The first thing I had to do in Dublin after getting off the train was take a piss. Even this proved problematic, as I was lacking the necessary 30c to gain ingress to the bathroom. Setting the tone for the rest of the day, I took a quick glance around before bounding over the turnstile, unwilling to waste time with petty manners such as getting change for overpriced bathrooms.

I put another €40 of credit onto my phone before being herded on a bus into town – once on the bus, I began to make a number of phonecalls – the first was to the embassy to schedule the appointment I had attempted to earlier – the Thursday slot had since been filled, and I had to settle for one on Friday. Grrrr. It's not even 9.30am and it's already a terrible day. I figure I may as well try and send a fax requesting the emergency meeting, despite being told my circumstances didn't call for any urgency, and rang reliable Mike to inform him I'd be e-mailing him something to fax shortly – just as soon as I found an internet café. Of course, the call took longer than that, because I had to explain why I was still in the country – by the end of that week I'd have grown very tired of telling that story.

After I was done with my phone calls, I realised I had missed my stop – following this realisation, the bus driver informed me that it was the last stop, and asked where I was going. He was remarkably cool about me being distracted by the phone, and advised me on where to get off, so I did... And hadn't a shagging clue where I was! This is where I enjoyed myself the most – wandering around Dublin, without a clue as to where I should be going, more or less following my nose.

The Spire in Dublin is a great Navigational Aid, as it can be seen from far away, and is situated pretty much in the main street.

J1 Visas for Dummies
Stuff needed when applying for a J1 Student Visa:
DS156, 157 and 158 Forms
2”x2” Passport Photographs
€80 Bank Draft or Postal Cheque
Self Addressed & Stamped Envelope
DS2019 Form from host University

It didn't take long to find an internet café – it was a bit of a dive, but served my purposes – I printed off the forms I needed, e-mailed Mike the letter to fax, and ploughed out of there again. Standing in the doorway for a moment, I wondered if I should go left or right – for some reason I chose the latter and eventually found myself at a large Post office – what luck! A friendly postal-worker quickly gave me everything I needed, and I was on my way again, this time looking out for a chemist – which took much longer than it ought to have, oddly enough. My 'system' involved walking until something told me to turn onto a different street – at one time i crossed the road just because I was passing a green pedestrian traffic light, and it seemed a waste not to use it! Shortly thereafter I was in a chemist, explaining to the immigrant worker with poorer-English-than-I-was-in-the-mood-for that I needed the photo to be American-size, not standard-European. The photo shoot was brief, despite my tendency to strain the photographer's patience by taking the same photo again and again, but hey – it does cost €8, you may as well get your money's worth! The first snap was fine by me – I just wanted him to print it as soon as possible, and I took to filling out my forms while I waited.

Here comes petty crime #2 – I stole a pen from the pharmacy. After it dawned on me that I had left my inscription device in the dodgy internet café, I asked to borrow a pen from my photographer friend, with no intentions of ever returning it. I could have blatantly said “I'm stealing your pen, and you will never see it again, you arse-faced rapscallion”, and he'd have nodded in solemn understanding; such was his grasp of the language. The prints eventually came out, and I was quite confounded when I looked at them. The picture was 2”x2”, which was what I want, but in the middle of 6”x6” photo-paper! Knowing the embassy would turn me away with the slightest excuse, I asked him to cut them to size by making a scissors motion with my fingers, all the while hoping it was an obscene gesture in Poland.

My paperwork all gathered, it was time to head out to the embassy and chance my luck. After availing of the taxi-driver's sympathetic ear a little, I again attended to filling my forms, giving very vague answers to the ridiculous questions I was being asked. When asked for a complete list of every country I had been in for the past 10 years, I actually forgot to put down the USA or Canada (along with about 14 others). I sat across the road for the embassy for some minutes answering these inane queries before approaching the security box.

How to Blag Your Way into A Country

Despite only happening six days from the time of writing, I don't quite remember the exact dialogue, but I started by asking the guard if I could talk to the NIV-Chief, unaware of what the acronym even stood for, only using it because the woman on the phone earlier had told me I'd need to talk to him. I briefly explained my story to the nonplussed sounding guard, knowing that he would be a mere stepping stone leading to greater things. He told me to come back on Friday for my appointment, as he couldn't leave me into the building any earlier than that, but I implored him to let me speak to someone. The conversation awkwardly took place through a six-inch, possibly bulletproof glass via an intercom at stomach height – which I had to hunch over and press my ear against to hear anything over the sounds of traffic, and it was at this time that he stepped away from the intercom and picked up the phone and spoke about six words before coming back to me.

“Somebody will come down and have a chat with you.”
Urk! A 'chat'? The strong sense of foreboding in his voice didn't put me at ease.

Sure enough, somebody came to the intercom and started talking to me, so I explained the story about the RMU International Office screwing me up. He looked at me in an almost disbelieving manner when I told him what they advised me, so I elaborated;
“Bear in mind that this is the same woman who admitted to me that she failed to register me with the Department of State.”
His jaw dropped. I continued.
“Now I'm not sure what that means exactly, but I'm sure...”
“It means you were living illegally in the States.”

To his credit, he seemed genuinely interested, and entirely sympathetic towards me, and he alluded to this when he said “I'd like to help you, but you should try going through the official channels first – send a fax to the Non-Immigrant Visa Chief...”
“I have sent a fax”
His eyebrow arched up.
“Half hour ago maybe?” I crossed my fingers hoping Mike had pulled through.
He calls up to the office – they had it! Cheers, Mike!
“When's your flight?”
“That sounds like an emergency to me! Only thing is, I'd like to help you, but we have a lot of paperwork requirements”
“I have paperwork”
He looks at me quizzically.
“Show me.”
I clumsily slap one form after another up against the glass as he hums and haws and remarks that the particular form is in order.
“Your forms are fine, but we'll also need a photograph”
“I have photographs”
“They have to be a special size”
“I have special size photographs”
“Show me”
I hold up my photographs and he sets up the next hurdle.
“All this is fine, but I'm afraid you're going to have to go to the bank again and get...”
“A bank draft? I got one – just in case.”
I had done everything just in case – and I'm quite glad I did, too.
“... I think that's everything... Yeah... Yeah, that's everything... Hang on a sec, will ya?”
He gets on the phone, and I'm starting to think I might actually have a 50-50 chance, but I become increasingly nervous when his conversation with the people upstairs goes past the two-minute mark. When he comes back to me, he takes my mobile phone number, tells me to not wander far, and he'll see what he can do.

As stated earlier, I don't know my way around Dublin, and the Embassy is far from any shops, or anything fun to do. So I paced. Ten minutes later I get a call, and I'm told to come back to the Embassy in 45 minutes and they'll process my Visa. Success!

Processing the Visa should have been a lot simpler than it was, but because of a problem on my record, a superior had to be sent for. He demanded to know why I didn't show up for school. I told him I didn't know what he was talking about. He said that he knew I entered the States in late August, and again in November, but didn't show up to school until the 24th of January, and wanted to know why I didn't show up at all. This is where I explain the story about the incompetent woman, and he can't believe that this woman has failed in one of her simplest duties.

When he said “This is going to make things complicated”, I didn't realise how much he meant, but more on that later. After asking me some more questions, trying to catch me out, seeing my student ID, and RMU debit card, he has me list all my classes, and all my grades from last semester. When I tell him “All 'A's”, he says “You have to be specific here – you do know I can bring up your transcript, right?” My cheery “Great! Does that count as proof that I was there?” takes the heat off his previous question, and the interrogative questions cease.

The rest of the process goes quite smoothly, until it's time to give my fingerprints. Seems the fingerprinting database was down that day – not only in Dublin, but in every American Embassy across the world. Knowing that other people are going through what I'm going through cushions the blow somewhat. We're advised if we wait around it may come back online. I choose to wait around. Since the MP3 player and mobile phone I had were confiscated at security as they posed a security hazard, I only have my imagination to entertain me... I took a nap instead. After three hours of sitting around, they throw in the towel and tell us to come in the following morning, or leave a self-addressed envelope and they'll send it as soon as it comes. I choose the latter, and call it a day. In fact, I believe I called it a bastard of a day.

The next job, of course, is to reschedule my flight. After talking, holding, and talking for 10 minutes, some Continental-Airlines jackass says “I'm going to put you on hold, Mr O'Sullivan, and cuts me off. I ring back, and am talking, holding and talking for 26 minutes, and finally sorting out my rescheduling, when I hear the tone alerting me that my credit is low. I ask the woman if she can ring me back – she can't. My phone cuts out, and again the Vodafone lady taunts me “You do not have enough credit to continue this call...”

Screaming “Son of a bitch” in a crowded Dublin street yields surprisingly few odd-looks, I've learnt. With no choice other than to top up my phone and try again, I top up my phone and try again. 20 minutes later, I'm $406.93 poorer, but I have a flight off the island.

Surely this story has a happy ending?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Seán O’Sullivan – Enemy of the State?

Right. It’s official. Nothing I do is ever simple. I cannot go for food, make a simple transaction in a shop, or get on an airplane without at least minor incident. My recent flight out from Pittsburgh to Shannon is great evidence of this, but first, more pressing issues.

The latest debacle? Being refused re-entry to the United States after my Spring Break at home in Ireland. I was hassled a little at the check in desk, but I informed them of the instruction I had been given by RMU’s International Office, and once they saw my Student ID, they let me check in. Customs weren’t quite as welcoming.

I’ve been through the process before, so when my handling officer stopped talking to me and furrowed his brow, I got a little worried. He asked me to follow him, which I did. He brought me to a small waiting area with an incredibly bothered looking 50-something year old, who looked up and asked “You too?” disdainfully. I shrugged, unsure of what we had in common, so I said “Yeah… Me too”. He springs on me “Are you politically active?”. Something about his demeanour told me he wasn’t sexually active. Ever. He is disappointed by my reply, and then talks about how he is on the ‘Suspected Persons’ list of the USA, because of his activism.

No sooner do I have time to think “Suspected Persons list? I might be in a spot of bother here”, than an Arab gentleman is escorted into the room, and sits on the far side of me. I am now sandwiched between two enemies of the state, and wondering why I qualify for an audience with them. Just after Mr. Activist gets escorted into the office, a Continental Airlines rep pokes her head in, and asks if we’re flying with her airline – I am, and I ask her what’s going on.
“Don’t worry” she says, “It’s probably that your name is the same as someone else”.
That really wasn’t very helpful, and now I’m more worried than I was before.

Eventually I’m called into the office myself, and told that my paperwork is not in order, so I can’t leave the country. I tell them I’m aware of the fact that my Visa was out of date, but the University reissued me with the form that shows I am their student, and advised me that this form was all I would need for re-entry.
“Whoever told you that was mistaken, sir”
“This woman’s job is to know emigration laws”
“This woman is incompetent, sir”

I took it very well. The Customs guy told me he had to make a quick call, so I asked if I could too and excused myself.

“Hi Dad? Remember how funny we said it’d be if they didn’t let me back into the country? Yeah… They’re not letting me back into the country – any chance of a lift home?”

Customs guy walked me through the airport to where I had to pick up my bag, and I have to say he was an agreeable sort. He told me that sorting this ‘paperwork issue’ would take a matter of hours, once the American Embassy opened on Monday, and I should be able to fly out on Tuesday. I postulated afterwards that he may have just said that to cushion the blow, and predicted that the Embassy would tell me I’d have to make an appointment, would squeeze me in on Thursday, would post the Visa on Friday, and I’d have it by Monday to travel Tuesday.

When it comes to such predictions, I generally hit the nail on the head. This one, unfortunately, was right on the money.

6.55am Monday morning, I was on the train to Dublin – armed with €42 phone credit, a pen, and an MP3 player to pass the time until the embassy opened so I could call them. The first representative listened to my story, then told me that I’d have to make an appointment – Thursday at the earliest. I implored her that I needed it today, to no avail – she told me I needed to send a fax requesting an emergency meeting. I told her that I didn’t carry a fax machine on me, so she advised “Maybe you can call the embassy – you’ll need to talk to the NIV-Chief.” So I called the Embassy, and I told the operator my story, and she transferred me to the same frigging number I’d just been onto! I hung up, and rang her back, said the same spiel again, and she, in the bitchiest fashion possible, said “Sir, I already transferred you to who you have to talk to.” In an equally bitchy fashion, I told her that I needed this today – she had heard my story, and I needed an emergency appointment. Here comes the fuel that feeds the fire;

“This isn’t an emergency as far as we’re concerned, Sir. [she really chewed on that ‘Sir’, as if her false-courteousness genuinely pained her] You cannot come any earlier than your appointment – I can transfer you to someone to make an appointment.”

A bit of exposition here; if somebody tells me I can’t do something that I need to do, I’m going to do it regardless. I don’t take kindly to being told what I can and can’t do, especially when the stakes are high (missing 6 days of class and a girlfriend visiting me in Pittsburgh on Monday are high stakes, alright?).

I got transferred, and told the earliest appointment was Thursday morning. I said I’d take it, gave her all the details she asked for, and then….. The phone cut out. The automated Vodafone lady’s voice has never been more taunting; “You do not have enough credit to continue this call. Please top up and try again later.”

Effin’ hell! €42 gone on phone credit between 8.30 and 9am? Sickened. I sat on the train for the next 20 minutes, pondering my next move – go home, sort out my paperwork and show up for my appointment? Or stay in Dublin, sort out my paperwork, and show up at the embassy uninvited?

I chose the latter.