Things have been pretty quiet around here for the past two weeks since I was traveling on work and often had to maintain an 18 x 5 schedule. But travel to me also means “a whole lot of expenses” and this time was no different. But thankfully, I didn’t have the usual cartload of expenses and most of the expenses this time were spent in looking around on the weekends — thanks to a couple of classmates and close friends in NYC.
I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule starting Friday. Thanks to everyone who wrote-in asking about my whereabouts. Much appreciated.
In general, two human traits standout with respect to the topic of a US Visa:
The amount of advice you receive on what to do and what not to do.
The way people transform themselves on the day of the interview.
But first, some background.
I was required to visit our office in Palo Alto for a month for some brainstorming. Since D had a whole bunch of accrued vacation time, I thought it’d be awesome to take her along with me. A, who’s D’s best friend (and mine too!), stays very close to Palo Alto and so does one of D’s cousins. So it didn’t require any convincing from me. :-) I’d be applying for a B1 through office and D would be applying for a B2 on our personal expense. My plan was to schedule our interviews together. But as word goes out, advice starts pouring in.
I’ve consolidated below all the well-intentioned-but-wrong advice that I received from various quarters.
Don’t ever mention – both while filling-up the application form and in-person during the interview – the fact that you have friends residing in the US.
Don’t ever mention – both while filling-up the application form and in-person during the interview – the fact that you have family/relatives residing in the US.
Don’t ever mention – both while filling-up the application form and in-person during the interview – that you plan to stay with friends/family/relatives instead of at a hotel.
Apply for and get your B1 Visa first and only then think about applying for your wife’s B2 Visa. Don’t ever mention – both while filling-up the application form and in-person during the interview – the fact that your wife plans to accompany you to the US.
Your wife won’t get a visa since it’s her first travel to the US.
We have friends who reside in the US. We have relatives who reside in the US. We plan to stay with a friend and not at a hotel. We are applying for respective Visas together. That’s what we declared on the application form. Why hide the truth?
And, for the actual interview:
You don’t need to dress differently just because you’re applying for a particular type of Visa. D and I were perhaps the only ones around in casuals.
You don’t need to quote canned answers from memory.
Based on my experience, I have only one advice to share: Be truthful while filling-up the application form and be yourself during the interview. Nothing more. Nothing less. Turn a deaf ear to everything else that you hear.
As for us, we had our visas approved in less than two minutes.
Things are now back to how they were a month and a half back. Finally! We came back to Bangalore in the 2nd week of December and it took us a full week to set our house back in order. Amidst all this chaos, blogging took a backseat and I honestly apologize for such a long break. While in the US, most of our free time was spent in exploring California and in doing so, I got a chance to experience a completely different perspective on personal finance. I’ll be writing about my experiences in the coming days.
But beginning Christmas Day and running up to New Year’s Eve, I’ll be posting in depth on my Seven Money Resolutions for 2011. I’ve given these resolutions some thought and achieving them in 2011 will further put my personal finances on solid footing. I’d love to have your thoughts and feedback on these.
It feels great as I type this post because in a month’s time this blog turns five six! Over these years, this blog has matured thanks to invaluable support from you — my readers. I thank you for your patience.
Thought it would be a good idea to take a break from those morbid What’s Your Fallback Tuesday posts. And what better a way to do that than to write about travel. And what better a destination to write about than Wayanad.
Wayanad was our second trip post marriage. The first was to Rajasthan — I’ll post my views on the Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur next week. At Wayanad, we stayed at the Banasura Hill Resort. I instantly fell in love with what I saw on the resort’s website and what you see on the resort’s website is what you actually get in reality. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Note: On previous trips to Wayanad, I’ve also stayed at several budget hotels in Kalpetta while scaling Chembra Peak.
It takes some effort to reach this resort. You need a capable vehicle and a keen sense of direction to get there — especially when it’s pouring cats and dogs. Thankfully, D’s an excellent navigator. Below is the Swift doing her job on the road up to the resort.
If I remember right, a 3-night stay cost us approximately Rs 20,000 including food. Gorgeous location. Awesome service. Affordable. What more can you ask for?
A friend and I recently ascended Chembra Peak. A few photos from our trek.
A view of Chembra Peak (the one in the distance) from the banks of the heart-shaped lake, half-way up the mountain. This view is deceiving because there are three mini-peaks (can’t be seen from this viewpoint) to climb up before you ascend the final peak. The real climb begins from here — most who visit Chembra Peak return back from this point.
This is my favorite shot.
I’d recommend that you watch the below photoset in full screen mode. These photos don’t justify the sheer scale of Nature out here. You have to experience it by being there.
Again from the heart-shaped lake, but looking to the left of Chembra Peak.
Kalpetta, Wayanad, Kerala
Tel: +91 4936 203145/46/47/48
We checked-in at 04:30 AM on Day 1 and checked-out at 09:00 AM on Day 2 (pretty odd hours and we did cross the 24-hour mark). We asked to be billed for a single day. The person at the front desk was empowered to make this decision and he obliged. Counts as a “Wow!” experience in my books.
The hotel itself is pretty decent — clean and good enough for a night’s sleep. The food, however, isn’t up to the mark. You’re better off eating at the Woodlands nearby.
Previously, you saw me jumping around Coonoor here. That was a very self-centred post featuring me, me, and only me. The real beauty of Ooty and Coonoor follows!
The last photograph is ample evidence of The Notary’s perseverance when faced with a challenge. The challenge in this case was to take a clear photograph of the waterfall (seen in the penultimate image) by using the camera with a telescope in front! Needless to say, The Notary won hands down and I am poorer by a pizza!
Experiments in creativity:
Created using Google’s Picasa 2.
Created using Scrapblog. Give Scrapblog a spin. It’s totally wicked! This RIA (Rich Internet Application) is powered by Adobe’s Apollo platform, which seems to be unleashing a new wave in creativity.
The Lonely Planet guide asks punters not to climb Uluru, as it’s a sensitive site for aboriginals, there’s even a sign from the local aboriginal people asking that tourists respect their wishes and keep off. But oh no, try and stop Mr. Johhny Foreigner with a camera from climbing Ayers Rock and you’ve no chance. I’ve photographed the sign asking people to keep off, it couldn’t be any clearer.
But alas, the steady lines of Japanese, American, and European fat-arses never ceased from climbing over the “No Entry” signs, even past the warning about $5000 fines for climbing when the climb was shut (as it was this day due to high winds on the summit). I read this sign and realised that the aboriginal people were basically begging people not to climb, it was only closed due to high winds this day and the aboriginal sign is a request, not an order, but still the bastards went up and down. Aren’t people in general just dickheads?
Uluṟu, also known as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation located in the Northern Territory of central Australia. It is found in the Uluṟu – Kata Tjuṯa National Park, 335 km (208 mi) southwest of Alice Springs, 450 km (280 mi) by road. Uluṟu is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara, the Aboriginal people of the area. It has many springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Uluṟu is listed as a World Heritage Site for its natural and man-made attributes.
This is the Nandi Bull at Chamundi Hills, Mysore. Quite a picnic spot, some would say. Commonly seen at temples of Lord Shiva across India, it is a custom to seek Nandi’s blessings when you visit the temple.
Delightful photography @ Shruthi Geographic – My only complaint is that she doesn’t post frequently enough.