Dokodemo Door!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

K-1 or not K-1?

The story of Mari's Green Card is so uneventful as to be banal.

I came back to the US from Japan in early 2005, Mari came 5 months after I did. Our plan was that she would enter, we would get married a few months later, and then we'd apply for her permanent residency status.

I was somewhat worried because it would require her to enter on a B-1/B-2 visa (temporary stay for business or pleasure) rather than on a K-1 visa (the famous fiancé visa). Why? Well, entering on a K-1 visa would require her to get married within 90 days and that wouldn't have meshed well with our wedding plans. With a B-1/B-2 visa, she could stay for 6 months before having to change her visa status.

I ran this plan by the visa section of the US Embassy in Tokyo. I phoned them while I was still in Japan (it wasn't a free call, running something like $7 for ten minutes) and the jittery-sounding fellow on the other end advised me that there wouldn't be any serious problem with our plan. But he said it in a way that didn't inspire much confidence.

I returned to the US, followed by Mari 5 months later. We did as planned: we got married after several months, filled-out the astonishingly thick pile of forms required for a Green Card, paid something like $700 in fees (the fees were raised to $1,900 this year!) and scheduled her interview.

The interview was something we were rather nervous about. If you miss it, it's not easy to reschedule. The interview was intended to gauge the authenticity of the marriage; we were to bring various proofs of our relationship (i.e.: photos of ourselves gadding-about with relatives, photos of the wedding, that kind of thing) and get our life narratives straight. Part of me imagined that we'd be questioned separately by officious-looking gasbags under hot lights in one of those inquisition-style rooms with a two-way mirror.

On the appointed day, we marched into the chilly new immigration building downtown which had clearly been built with the Oklahoma City bombing in mind. Inside the doorway, we were required to clean-out our pocketses and cram everything into an airport X-ray machine under the watchful eye of Wackenhut rent-a-cops. Water bottles were not allowed.

We entered the appropriate office and the interview took under 15 minutes. The office was like what you'd imagine a middle-aged female civil servant's office would look like, complete with a tchotchke bowl of chocolates on one corner of the desk. The interview was really no sweat at all and I could've done it standing on my head. I wonder what all the fuss was about?

This was followed by fingerprinting and Mari's application was finalized.

Sadly, some people didn't have it so easy. Making mistakes in getting visas and permanent U.S. residency status can sometimes lead to Kafkaesque results. I imagine it's even worse if your spouse is from a controverial country. Feel free to read a few of the horror stories at American Families United.

One sample:

David, an American citizen, met his wife Karina at work. After giving birth to a son, Karina returned to her home country to see her own family and they were married. From outside of the country, David and his wife started the immigration process. David was honest and reported the offenses of a sub-contracting company that employed his wife. No matter, his wife was barred from entering the country for 10 years, effectively banishing David and their son as well. In contrast, the company that employed workers illegally and hid information from the government faces no sanctions. David and his wife have had another son since, but they have been prevented from visiting David’s parents with their new American baby.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A mystery solved

Today, I was sitting at my desk, staring into space, and I stumbled upon an elegant solution to one of the most vexing political puzzles of our time.

I am very proud of this discovery!

One of the reasons the current US president was able to get elected was due to his well-known and well-publicized religiosity. He is, publicly, an individual of strongly-professed faith and has expressed intentions to transform and affect the culture accordingly.

However, his policies come-up a little short of what you might expect from a religious person. I'm mainly referring to the reliance on violence in foreign affairs which has brought-about the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Afghans. Not to mention diplomatic support and military aid which has abetted the slaughter of scads of Lebanese, Somalis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and similarly unimportant folk. Not to mention the creation of a global network of secret prisons into which hundreds of terror suspects have “disappeared”, and all the other outrages to which we are now accustomed.

None of this seems to fit-in very well with someone who claims to be “religious”.

So this quandary creates a puzzle. Strongly professed faith, coupled with behavior which can't be easily rationalized if the tenets of Judeo-Christian morality were taken at face value. Up until now, I'd simply dismissed Bush's shows of piety as being an empty bullshit pose calculated to sucker his base.

But today I discovered an answer that works because I stepped outside the box:

Mr. Bush is indeed religious... but he worships Tonatiuh, the bloodthirsty Aztec sun-god who can only be appeased with a mountain of freshly-removed human hearts.

And that's why the earth hasn't been plunged into eternal night.

Finally. An explanation that makes sense.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

What we're drinking

Oak Grove Vineyards (Lodi Sacramento Delta, California) Viognier, 2003.

We sampled this after it was brought to us by a friend, (you know who you are). We were pleasantly surprised by this white wine. Neither of us had heard of Viognier variety before so it was something new.

It shared many features of a light-bodied Chardonnay but had more of a flowery, perfume-like aroma. Taste was crisp and semi-dry with a sour finish.

No, I'm not trying to look pretentious.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Upcoming trip...

As a gift for our upcoming trip to the UK, I got Mari a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to England, which has proven to be invaluable for planning.

Although they're heads and shoulders above other books on low-budget travel (the guide to Mongolia was indispensable there), LP books occasionally throw-in snarky commentary which can get annoying PDQ.

It might be wise to give a bit of background about our upcoming trip. I've been looking forward to it for months. In 1990, Mari spent about a year studying in the UK and has a number of friends living there, especially around the Somerset area in the south-west.

Mari's time in England was a formidable experience for her and she's looking forward to going back. Our lodging will be very cost-effective because we'll be staying with her friends for much of the time. As for myself, the last time I was in England was as a ten year old on an extensive family vacation. I remember some things, but a lot of important items are foggy. For instance, I recall being in a yellow van at one point. And the movie Firefox starring Clint Eastwood was on Thames television one evening. I might have seen Cleopatra's Needle, some castle in Edinburgh and some manner of Danelaw-themed museum in York but those are kind of a blur to me. Maybe it's not a good idea to take a ten-year-old on a big trip like that?

This time I'll be sure to savor the sights of historical significance in and around London more carefully. On the way back, I'm especially looking forward to our 3-day stopover in Iceland. We're flying Iceland Air out of Boston. The selling-point of that airline is providing reasonable rates to Europe in hopes you'll stay a few days in an overpriced Reykjavik hotel.

To wit:

I'm very proud of this map. Can you tell?

We're going to leave on the 30th and we'll be back on the 11th of June.

Arranging this trip required occasional reassurances to Mari. Although she wanted to visit the UK again, part of her reluctance stemmed from the fact that she took a trip all February long to visit her family outside of Nagoya, Japan. Going on TWO international trips in the same year felt excessive to her.

To this, I replied: “Flimshaw!” and flailed my arms madly in the air.

This solved the controversy once and for all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Baghdad Embassy Campus

The US Mega-Embassy in Baghdad is nearing completion according to this item in the Washington Post.

Apparently, it's a "...27-building complex on a 104-acre tract of land..."

For comparison, for many years the US embassy in Beijing was divided among several buildings scattered across the Jianguomenwai neighborhood, each one about the size of a large house. (They'll be opening a grander one in 2008, apparently.)

I'd heard the Baghdad embassy was going to be big, but I had no idea it would be the size of a freakin' amusement park. My understanding is that up until now, the largest US embassy in the world was in Cairo while the most expensive was in Moscow. Baghdad is going to put both of those to shame.

Kamen doesn't mention that the embassy is going to have satellite offices in every major Iraqi city as well. Wonder if those are included in the $500+ million price tag?

A bit of explanation...

The purpose of this blog is primarily to keep people informed of the goings-on in the lives of its primary authors: Eric and Mari.

Here's some background: Eric and Mari were married in Hawaii in the summer of 2005. In the photo on the left, we are trying to hide our disdain for the cameraman. Eric looks pretty awful in this photo, probably due to his neck being twisted into an unnatural angle.

But no matter. Here's an action-shot:

As you can see, Mari's relatives are on the left and Eric's are on the right. They've each ripped-up their wedding invitations in howling disgust and are flinging the tattered remnants at the bride and groom in a fit of rage over the anticipated acts of miscegenation which will surely take place in a hot tub later that evening.

Seriously though, they were all pretty great to us.

Since that day, Mari, as a Japanese national, has spent the last two years living with her husband in a snow-blasted, post-industrial wasteland on the edge of the U.S. Great Lake system. As a result, she is sometimes forced to make near-comical adjustments to fitting-in. As you might imagine, this kind of situation can give rise to endless intrigue and minor mis-adventures with the ensuing hilarity taking place on an almost-daily basis.

Come to think of it, Mari's Green Card is up for renewal later this year. That could be a pain in the ass.

At the end of this month, we'll be on a trip to the U.K. to visit Mari's friends. The plan is to visit London, then Somerset. On the way back we'll have a 3-day stop in Iceland, which is a place Eric has wanted to visit since the 7th grade at least. We'll be sure to let everyone know how it goes in mid-June.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Crème brûlée!

Today is the first post so I think the time is right for a little celebration.

What better way to celebrate than with a hearty custard beneath a crispy, caramelized crust?

WHAT BETTER WAY, I ask you?!