Visa Shuffle!

Lek and I dropped our pens after a full day of mind bending K-1 USA Visa conscription; we were both drained, yet happy to be free of it. Splayed across the hotel kitchenette counter lay neat stacks of documents: notification by State Department, medical exam reports, birth certificates & passport photo copies, criminal investigation inquiries stating my sweethearts clean record, my financial statements and evidence of support, various forms stating over and over Lek’s family history. Yet the largest bundle contained proof of our collective five year relationship- letters and emails and a wad of photos illustrating our collaborative travels by bus, train and jet to Chiang Mai, Lampang, Sukhothai, Khorat, Phimai, Khon Kaen, Vientiane, Phanom Rung, Ko Chang, Jomtien, Hua Hin, Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan, Trang, Trat, Krabi, Ko Lanta, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Hat Sichon, Suret Thani, and all point in between. As well as a plethora of pictures recording special moments with Lek’s family in Thonburi; clearly showing the magical growth of her (now mine too) daughters over our years spent together. Everything was signed off and completed, nothing to do but send the official statement that we were ready, and to request an appointment with the American Consul.

We sat back and enjoyed a drink, and a few well deserved hugs; then off we went on a short stroll up Silom Blvd to the UPS kiosk to send the sacred document, and afterwards some side street shopping for holiday things; and a bit of gai yang and som tam to take back to the hotel for lunch.

Today is farang NEW YEAR’S EVE and everyone is in a festive bustle and there is a band of HS students from Yala jamming drums and voices on the corner. The temperature is unusually mild and not so humid; the street full of honk honk downtown BKK traffic, skid marks of tourists heading to over priced, crowded holiday parties and chaos, as time marches on…

After lunch Lek was sleeping on the big bed, and I drift into timeless contemplation behind a few beers. Ten months since filing the K-1
petition with an emigration attorney in San Francisco, then a stream of couriered paperwork between California and Siam; and sweating out the Homeland Security background check, before moving onto to more of the same with INS; and can’t help chuckling a wee bit while pulling off a fresh Singha, recalling my first visit to The Kingdom in 1996.

Upon clearing immigration at Don Muang International I was struck in awe by the playful, relaxed friendly Thai vibe, especially juxtaposed against the rude pushiness of Hong Kong where I’d been staying; and I like HK. But instantly realized I’d entered a magical sphere of exotic smells and sights, where the Buddha walked hand and hand with common people; a place where doing the Right Thing was practiced in graceful everyday movements, and human interaction; yet still enough edge to make it delightfully real, modern and interesting.

That was then and this was now, with our only one common goal- to be legally married in the country in which I was born, in front of my family and friends, and to share with Lek a slice of the terra firma of Northern California and my origin. And then Lek to return to her heart country and daughters, and momma and family on the Klong stop by Wat Intharam- where boys become monks and at sunset golden rays slide off the temple spires like illuminated fingers reaching out…

On March 1st Lek was granted her K-1 visa at the American Embassy; we will be married in California in April.

All the Best- S. Stampfli

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