4th of July Fireworks

This was put together on the 4th and is our view of the fireworks of the town of Orting below us in the valley. You can see Mt Rainier in the background on some parts of it

Grand Hotel

Postcards from Alaska – Fur Rondy 75th

This picture is of the hotel we are staying in – with a kitchen of course. We are the floor above the red awning and the middle cluster of windows.

Mt Rainier

Sunrise and Dad’s status

To begin with, this was sunrise this morning. Sure is nice to have that first cup of coffee and watch the sun rise and see how the mountain changes. But I have been remiss about making a post regarding my Dad. For those that know what happened.

The court date was 1/24 and Dad and many friends showed up at court along with the Attorney for the other side. But not the two German guys that did the beating. The Judge was not happy that they didn’t show up and scolded their Attorney. So things are not settled at all. New court date is 6/30 now.

Will keep you posted.

Panama Canal

Panama Canal

Panama Canal

Panama Canal

What an amazing trip it is to go through the Canal. You go up 85 feet from the Pacific Ocean side, go through a very long lake, and down 85 feet into the Caribbean. Watching ships along side, in front and in back makes it seem like ships are rising and sinking around you.

I am sure I could talk for an hour about the Canal but you just have to experience it for yourself. You can see the progress they are making on the new locks for the really big ships too. That is due for completion in 2014.

All in all it makes for a very entertaining day.

Legal Immigration – the other side of the story…

I know you are thinking an odd topic for a place about travel and food. But everyone talks about illegals and amnesty, the Arizona bill and so on. But no one talks about this side of the story…until now [insert dramatic music here]
Patrice is a Canadian, well at least until 12/16/10 when she saluted Jose. Ok the Jose reference might have been just blown past a few of you reading this so let me digress. When the national anthem starts says “Jose can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars, ..”, you know we are in trouble – But back to the story at hand, that being Patrice’s immigration story…

Let’s start by jumping into the “Wayback Machine” with Sherman and Mr. Peabody…and set it to 1998 when Patrice got here to the US. We spent many thousands of dollars getting her “legal” status. More than I care to even think about. Whether it was a wise investment or not is still the subject of huge debate. Especially now that I brought it up again. Now as the “Wayback Machine” quickly passes us to just a few days ago. We see Patrice sitting there huddled by her computer calculating what the costs of becoming a citizen is, of course not taking into account the previous sums that we mentioned. $700 is what it cost to APPLY!!

Now get this… You send in all the stuff and they send you a letter telling you when you come in for an appointment. It is impossible to call them and get an answer about anything, let alone deal with changing the appointment. What you have to do is send them a letter, registered of course so you have proof that you did attempt to contact them. Because if they think you didn’t respond, you go back to square one and start over and pay another $700. Now if your proactive when you send a letter you provide them with the days you are available. Little do you know that they are incapable of putting things together and saving time and effort. This is the government after all. Go through that same loop of receiving a letter and returning a letter with the dates you are available through the end of the year about 3 more times and you get your “biometrics” done. It doesn’t matter that she had them done to get her green card – gosh that was before “Homeland Security” was invented and they of course are protecting America from alien threats so they have to have their very own biometrics on her.

Finally at last something is completed!
But no, wait there is more, she receives a letter saying she needs to go in for her biometrics, (am thinking she just did that), and another letter saying she needs to come in for an interview. Huh, no sorry, in Canadian speak that would be “eh”? Just as she comes out of the fog of bewilderment, two more letters arrive. One cancels the Interview and the other gives her a new interview date. Immediate confusion sets in. Does she need to retake her biometrics or not? What day does she go for her interview…or not? Oh the suspense, frustration, what should she do. There is no time for a letter. The only thing left for our heroin to try is the phone…Can she get answers this time. Oh My God!!! What is going to happen?
Fortunately I can answer those questions  Nope, nope, and yup. I know you want more details than that. She got on the phone and wouldn’t let up until she got her answers – you know how she can be. They couldn’t explain why all the letters and wanting biometrics, but 12/16 was the date for the interview. A time of intense studying sets in. Patrice studies her Civics day and night. If there is a moment she is working on it.

12/16 finally arrives and the appointment was for 7:00am DOWNTOWN. I didn’t think the government had rolled out of bed by 7 let alone be at an office. So to be there on time it was a 4:30am alarm to do that. See it would be rush hour traffic and it is easily a 1 and a quarter hour drive to downtown. But she made it. Parking in the lot of the government building, was $7 with no ins and outs (you will see why I say that in a moment).
Patrice goes in and finally gets her interview, and passes with flying colors; even the part about speaking and reading English if you can believe that too. Now she is free to go until noon for the swearing in ceremony. So she drives back home and we get ready to drive back for the big show. We arrive and pay another $7 for parking and go through security again.

Now we take a seat and wait…

They tell all the people that are there, like me, that are not being sworn in to go downstairs and take a seat. While we all go down stairs and stand like a bunch of cows outside the barn door waiting for milking time, we get to hear what they say to the people being sworn in. They tell them to go downstairs and take a seat too. Now there is this huge crowd filling the stairs and hallway waiting. Even though people are slipping in and out of the auditorium door they aren’t opening it. Wait the door is opened now.

We go in and sit, Patrice and her gang of 71 from 32 countries files in and are seated. The ceremony begins. I should tell you about all the pomp and circumstances, but there wasn’t any, it was all pre-recorded. In fact they started the Star Spangled Banner – with no music playing, we just saw the words for it on the screen. Finally they started the music and we got through all the who ha stuff and Patrice was sworn in and became a US Citizen. But wait there is more to the story. They took her Green Card – without it she can’t get back into the US. This poses a problem, you see we are leaving the country on 12/24 and on the weekend there are activities in Canada with her family that she was thinking about doing. OH NO! If they had told her they would take her Green Card she would have put it off. Oh what can our heroin do now? Now that she is a legal US citizen will she be trapped in her new country with no way of getting out?

Alas, there still is hope. She can go and get a passport and expedite it. Of course that is an extra charge, but maybe that will work. She calls, it is an automated system. She gets a confirmation code for a 8:30am appointment in downtown SEATLLE!!! Maybe this will work; after all it is only another day blown, along with another tank of gas, doing government stuff that you get to pay for. Oh and in this case pay for a government mistake too – oh the joy that this new found freedom has given her.

We make it there on time and I drive around to find parking, we get her stuff in and it is accepted. Now we can come back at 2pm to pick it up. What it is 9:15am now. Ok back home and then do things we have needed to do for the past couple days but couldn’t have because we are doing this streamlined government stuff. We show up precisely at 2pm and I park in the street with the truck running as she goes in and goes through security yet one more time.

Upon arrival she finds out the passport isn’t done she has to wait. Now these are the same people that warn you not to come early to get your passport be on time. After a 20 minute wait she has her US Passport; now only a 1 – 2 hour drive back home through rush hour traffic to go.

In summary, this has only cost us thousands and thousands of dollars, many days of preparation and work; many days of standing in line and waiting; many times paying for mistakes the government has made. But finally she is a US citizen and has a passport too.

Now that we are sitting back trying to rest after the ordeal…Why did we do this again?