02 April 2008

Sorry, sir!

1. I can't get a Syrian visa from the Syrian embassy in Delhi, because I'm American. So my application has to receive special clearance from Damascus. This may take anywhere between one day and never. Sorry, sir!

2. If I am granted a visa, also since I am American, I can only get a single entry, contrary to what I've heard elsewhere, which means I cannot visit Lebanon and then return to Syria to go on to Turkey. I would have to fly to Beirut and its semi-functioning airport and then enter Syria from Lebanon, assuming the border is open. Or skip Lebanon. Sorry, sir!

3. If I am granted a visa, also since I am American, I have to pay a fee of $100 PLUS 6000 Rs. ($150), which seems like an insane amount of money, reciprocity or no, since the visa is only good for two weeks. Sorry, sir!

4. I cannot book a flight to either country until I get the Syrian visa.

5. There are some special discount fares available to both Beirut and Damascus for exactly the day I'd like to leave India, but they are student fares, so I need a valid student ID to book them. Sorry, sir!

6. My international student ID expired on March 31, 2008. STA Travel in Delhi refuses to renew it, book my flights, or be at all flexible or helpful in any way. One more time: my ISIC card expired THREE DAYS AGO. Sorry, sir!

7. I contacted Rutgers, hoping I could get a letter or something emailed to STA Travel, which said an email would do. The Graduate English secretary kindly sent them such an email after I paid Rutgers a $2000 re-registration fee ("I" meaning concerned interests on my behalf).

8. STA Travel now insists that an email will not do. I need a scanned image of a signed and stamped letter (stamped!? is this "Brazil"?). I pleaded to no avail. Friends, all I want is avail. I used to live near Avail! But now avail is lost to me. Sorry, sir!

9. I asked STA Travel if I could book my flight over the phone, because I have no other reason to stay in Delhi, except to wait for my Syrian visa, which I can collect anytime once my application is approved. They said, "No." They cannot take credit card numbers over the phone. Email? No. They have to swipe my card in person. I have to admire their security precautions, though, this being India (apologies, friends), I am quite surprised by them. They even seem unbribable. Sorry, sir! They said I could leave cash with them and, if I ended up not booking a flight, they would refund it to me. I looked at them askance.

10. I cannot book a flight until I get a Syrian visa. STA will not let me book a special discount flight until I have an ISIC card. I can't get an ISIC card until Rutgers sends documentation to STA that STA finds acceptable. I can't book the special discount flights outside of Delhi, therefore, I cannot leave Delhi until I book a flight. I am stuck in Delhi.

Postscript: I hope everyone who read yesterday's post noticed the date. Seems half and half from the reactions I've been getting.

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