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A long day - our arrival in the USA

written by Birgit

semi-overcast 9 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

Our last night in Germany was extremely short. The alarm clock went off at 3:15 am. Once in the gate area, we really deserved a cup of tea to observe the sun coming up before boarding the plane to Berlin and eventually taking off - not without the obligatory take-off kisses that experienced flyer Max reminded his parents of. A bit of waiting time in Berlin, then another flight - this time in a much larger A330. The inflight system helped to keep us entertained, some sleep and good food. But no matter what, after roughly 10 long hours everyone of us was extremely happy to leave the plane and to encounter the 'Welcome to Chicago' sign.

Standing in the line for immigration, I told Sam that I was a bit nervous. I'm not sure why, as I never had any trouble in entering a foreign country. Still, what happened then, deserved the ingoing nervousness. The immigration officer simply did not believe us in what we're planning to do. So what followed was a conversation over probably 10 minutes or more with one question followed by the next:
- So how long will you stay in the US?
- Why do you have a visa and are not using ESTA?
- Do you have enough funds to stay as long?
- Do you have proof of the funds in your bank account?
- Can you show me an account statement?
- Where do you work?
- How come you're getting so much time off?
- Where will you stay in the US?
- Who is it you'll be living with?
- So if you'll be traveling around, will you rent a car?
- What, you bought a car - how much did you pay for that?
- Do you have some kind of proof for having bought this van?
- What will you do with the camper van after your travel is over?
- Do you have a flight out of the US - can you show me proof of that flight?
All of these questions came interwoven with statements like 'I never heard a crazy story like this before' or 'I get to see lots of German tourists every day, but never encountered someone planning to stay for so long or doing this kind of trip'.
The turning point probably came after his question if we had told this crazy story as well at the embassy in Frankfurt and what their reaction had been. I told him that we had laid out exactly this 'crazy' plan to the officer in the Frankfurt embassy and that there had been no strange or wondering response to that at all, but just the agreement to grant us the visa. Presumably he then just gave in and with a very frustrated expression in his face moved to questioning us about our customs declaration and which kind of food we were bringing with us.

I can't tell you how much my heart was pounding by the end of this whole ordeal. And even though I had admittedly been nervous before the immigration interview, I had not been expecting an interview of this dimension at all! The good news is that after this episode, at least we're now prewarned that US immigration is not to to be underestimated and will consequently prepare a bit better with print outs of some of the relevant pieces of information.

All the rest was easy going: waiting for our baggage to arrive, getting through agricultural screening, walking though the sliding doors into the arrivals area of the airport. And this is where Janis - my host mother of 25 years ago when I was an exchange student in Chicago - waited for us eager to hear the story of our flight and the immigration process.

And soon afterwards we arrived in Glenview, it was time for greeting Phil, Sam and dog Junie. We tried to use the classical jet leg avoidance strategy when moving west: staying up as long as possible to get so tired that sleeping is no issue. And between lunch, going to the playground, grocery shopping, playing with Max, eating Sloppy Joe for dinner it was already 7:30 pm (respectively 2:30 am the next morning German time) by the time Max moved over to the sofa to go to sleep. This made it 23 hours in which he only got 2 hours of sleep - impressive for a four year old! That means that it had been a long day in fact. Sleeping deeply until 6am next morning is what I'd call success in a 7 hour time difference...

What followed was a very nice Saturday in which the greatest fun was watching little Max enjoying himself. He never complained about his parents and everyone else speaking English with each other, but seemed to accept that without any concerns. Eventually he started playing with 27 year old Sam and even though Max does not speak any English and Sam does not speak any German, they did get along extremely well. At least Max was constantly talking to Sam and asking him all kinds of questions. And Sam was smart enough to just use Google translate to translate his messages to German and to having the system say it to Max. Unfortunately his strategy did not work out perfectly, as Max instead of answering Sam's questions or reacting to statements in any way, simply repeated whatever sentences he heard the computer say. Very funny indeed!

So we've adapted to our surroundings and are very content. So we'll be mentally prepared to get to know our camper van... Which we've obviously noticed parking in the drive way, but quite frankly were simply not ready to get to know. So that's the plan for tomorrow morning!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 09:28 Archived in USA Tagged jetlag immigration arrival

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