February 2015

Well, February just kinda slipped in and moved along, as they tend to do in our lives these days. Again, it’s 3 weeks into the month and I have to try to remember what’s happened. Work settle into a pattern of alternate weeks of morning and evening shifts. Unfortunately for the aircrew, maintenance and parts for the aircraft has been a real issue, and they are struggling to keep up their currencies. All too often, there is an issue with the aircraft during the day, the maintenance crews rectify it as best they can, it’s back to Functional Check Flights, before any further flying can be planned, let alone conducted.

And our small team drove to Sydney for the day, to install our gear on HMAS Perth for the First Of Class Flight Trials. Very interesting day!

Even the dunny has its own building number.

Hmm. Things have to be bolted down on a ship.

We were told that, yes, the 3-pin plugs are not Australian, so we figured they would be American. Wrong again. European?

The ship.

Views from on board.

Meanwhile, Julie has still been pretty depressed, but has finally started setting herself small goals for each day. So one day, I might come home and find that the dishwasher has been run, and I have a shiny clean coffee pot and mug. Or she has done a load of washing, and the contents are spread out on the dining room table to dry under the fan. Of course, Buddy, aka Mr Nosey, aka Mr Supervisor, aka Bloody Heavy FurBall, invariably sits on the washing to help it to dry.

Progress on the bus has finally taken some forward steps. I did manage to get the third ceiling panel in on my own, after several attempts to position it correctly, and removing the top hatch drawers to get their hinges out of the way. Since then, the aircon unit has gone back in, light fittings have been placed in position, followed by grouting gaps of anywhere up to nearly 8cm between the ceiling and the walls or hatches. It’s not perfect, but it certainly looks better. We got approval from the owner to turn the bus around and park it on the lawn, which has freed up the driveway for putting cars away so that they are not directly under the gum tree and all its branches, leaves, flowers, pods and sticky stuff, all of which make such a mess. And just yesterday, I got the floor laid, after a huge amount of preparation, and accompanied by a shirt soaked in sweat.

I also worked on organising the dumping materials.

Meanwhile, my Green Card application was approved, and the parcel was sent out via Express Post. We waited, and waited, …. and waited, until at Julie’s insistence, I started to follow it up. Problem was, when I prepared that package, we were still at Bywong, so the Express Post satchel was addressed to Bywong.

It took several days of phoning the Post Office and anyone else we could think of, that I finally contacted Grey at the cottage property. Oh yeah, we got something in the letter box, he said. How it managed to slip through the Australia Post mail redirection is a mystery. Anyway, it finally transpired that Kara had simply taken it into the Post Office in Bungendore and returned it to sender. Bloody Hell! One phone call to me, and Julie would gladly have driven up there to collect it! Fortunately, I also along the way, discovered the email address for contacting the US Consulate which actually invokes a response, which was yes, it’s here, please send another self addresses Express Post satchel. That one arrived within day.

Now, remember when we went to Seattle in December. Prior to that, I had used the same email contact to ask what else they needed to process my application. The answer came back that they needed my Passport. But by then, we were only about a week away from going to Seattle, and I wasn’t sending my Passport anywhere. When we arrived in SFO on that trip, the immigration official mumbled something about a Green Card, so we thought something must be imminent. When we returned to Australia, we took a short diversion into Sydney to see if I could hand in my Passport. No, it must be posted in. Sheesh.  Such a pity I didn’t ask the question much earlier, because we could have had it done and dusted by now.

And it turns out the Sydney doctor was correct, the visa expires on 14 March, and must be activated before then by me. So I’m writing this on United flight UA840 to LAX, where I will hand over the package and present my Passport with the lovely new Visa in it.

To make it easier to return in 12 to 18 months, I will continue to Seattle, stay with the kids, and have an appointment on Tuesday morning to submit an application for a Re-entry Permit, which negates the need to keep going back to USA, until we are ready to go there permanently. As always, it’s a major bullshit process, where they will WRITE to me with an appointment date and time for my Biometrics Service (fingerprinting) session. I have marked the application with EXPEDITE, composed a letter explaining why, and asking that if I can’t get a Biometrics appointment this week, then how about we make it in a few months’ time on a Friday afternoon in LAX, so that if necessary, I can leave on Friday, get in on Friday, get it done, and fly out that night, thereby losing only one day from work. That saga continues …….

Hmm, it’s seems the only time I get to sit and write is on an International flight. After the plane landed at LAX, the purser announced that the captain had performed a near-perfect landing for his last one, as he was retiring. Round of applause. I presented my Passport and Visa package at Immigration, the officer did a quick bit of standard fingerprints and facial picture, then escorted me down to the end of the line for another officer to take over. He did more processing, took a thumbprint, and when he was finished, explained that the stamp in my Passport referencing the Visa on the adjacent page was a temporary substitute for the Green Card (which I have since been told, is not green), and is good for 12 months, as the card itself takes about 6 months to produce, and I was free to come and go as necessary. I specifically asked him whether I would need a Re-entry Permit, and he said, no I was good to go. OK, wow, I have a flight booking to Seattle in just under 2 hours and I don’t need to go there after all. But I still need to collect my bag and get through Customs, and then find someone at a United counter who can help me change everything. Which I eventually did, with the plan being to fly to San Diego instead, to call in on the PAC main office there. The end result, after I realised that San Diego was only a few hours away by road, was the return flights to Seattle being cancelled, and while she was adjusting my return flight to Sydney, I was booking a hire car. All of this on about 5 hours of sleep during the flight, and probably not much more during the previous night. Consequently, the drive to San Diego was punctuated by frequent rest breaks.

I tried calling the office admin person’s number, and got no answer, before I finally realised that it was still Sunday, and that I had all day to get “somewhere” close enough that I could head into the city in the morning.  As I sat in the Maccas in Irvine, trying to figure out what I was doing, having a nice breakfast, and trolling through my PAC emails to find any other number, I found one for Ben in Texas. Knowing that he was at least an hour or two ahead, I called him first and he gave me the boss’s number.  Checked in with her to get the address, and arranged to be there tomorrow. I got as far as Encinitas before I was too totally wacked to drive any more, and had just turned off as she called. Aha! there’s a Howard Johnson motel just over the freeway.  Checked in and followed the very good directions to where I could get some seafood and beers, by which time Julie was trying to get through to me, saying, “Where are you?” And of course, that when the prepaid on the phone ran out. Skype text reply: “Audio issues. Will contact soon.” At least then, she knew I was still alive, but expecting me to be in Seattle.

Back at the motel, multi-tasking, eating, drinking, emailing, recharging the credit, updating the eBay Store. Explained the change of plans to PAC colleagues and Julie via email. Next thing I remember, I woke up in the chair, dinner was eaten, a few beers had been emptied, some messages had been sent, and my phone was showing the 8pm “Evening meds” alarm. I don’t actually know how long an alarm sounds, I suspect it’s 30 minutes, but I had slept right through it. Clearly it was time for bed!

Next morning, awake at 4am, faffed around until 6, showered, packed, and went down for breakfast at 6:30. Finished packing, scanned the room and glossed over the electric toothbrush and toothpaste, which I had specifically left out until after breakfast! (I remembered them about 12 hours later, back at LAX.) OK, hit the freeway parking lot, way too early, so headed towards the beach and found a place just opening for breakfast. Yay! Good coffee, followed by yoghurt, berries and granola. Good start to the day, having a great breakfast, looking out over the ocean! And time to find the office. Found it, met the people who work there, went into downtown to do some touristy stuff, before realising that I was dog tired and still had to drive back to LAX. Several more stops along the way. OK, I’m here at LAX, it’s 2pm, and my flight leaves at 10:40. Not much else to do but sit in a bar, eat come food and sample some different beers. A few hours later, find the gate lounge, leave my boarding pass visible, and crash. Trouble was, I picked lounge 74A and the flight left from 74B. Fortunately, I woke up at just the right time to hear my name being called! So here I am, coming back across the Pacific, and will be home on Wednesday, just in time to go back to work on Thursday for my birthday!

I am now home. At least we slept until 5am, and I’ll be at work at 7, as usual.