Warning: This one is long. I wrote this… wow… about a year ago now. I’ve been meaning to post it on my wedding page, but I still have some writing to do that chronicles what happened before this stuff. I had been waiting (in vain?) to complete that first. I’m posting this on my ‘blog, today, because it has some background information that not every knows about. Unfortunately, it’s background information for some bad news that I need to post tomorrow.
The day after our wedding, Oksana and I awoke in our opulent room at Pearson’s Pond. The room was expensive, but it was also comfortable a quiet. Lying there in the late morning, enjoying the distinct lack of stress, I decided that it was worth every penny. My only regret was that we were not able to stay there much longer – our checkout time was rapidly approaching.
The day before, Oksana had dropped off an overnight bag in our room. I was glad that I’d married a smart woman – it meant that I wouldn’t have to wear my tuxedo again. In fact, because I was back in casuals, we dropped it off on the way home.
Our arrival back at our apartment was a rather rude awakening. It seemed as though every item from the wedding and the reception was piled in up our living room and kitchen. Flowers, clothes, decorations, leftover cake, and computer gear was everywhere. For some inexplicable reason, there was a pair of men’s dress shows on the kitchen counter.
Having said our goodbyes at the reception the previous night, we knew that our friends and family members would be leaving on separate flights throughout the day. We regretted not spending time at the airport to see them off, but we were quite relieved to have a day completely to ourselves for the first time in weeks. Even if we would have to spend it cleaning.
Joe Nell stopped by at some point to track down those countertop shoes. Turns out that they were my brother, Kegan’s, and while he was able to arrange for the return of the rest of his rented tuxedo, apparently he forgot the shoes. I suspect it had something to do with the rumor that many of our guests had continued partying around town after the reception.
Joe left to take the shoes (and our thanks) back to the Wedding Shoppe. He also mentioned that the owners were interested in looking at some of our pictures for their web site… Flattering, but not high on our list of priorities today!
After the house was finally back in order, Oksana and I sat down to open our wedding gifts together. Wow. We didn’t expect much since we specifically told our guests not to bring wedding gifts, but after opening dozens of cards and presents we were shocked at everyone’s generosity. The only down side is that it looked like we wouldn’t get off easy on the thank you cards…
With plenty of time left in the day, Oksana and I did the only rational thing; we took a nap. Another luxury that had been sorely missed these past few weeks!
Late in the day, we awoke and checked our answering machine. Noah had been spending the day with Joe and Karl and they were going to have one last little get together for him before he left on the late, late flight. Having recuperated somewhat, Oksana and I felt we could see him one more time before he returned to Los Angeles and we showed up at Joe’s apartment around 7pm or so. Karl, Mike and Leah, and the Nells were also there and we spent a few hours in the company of our friends before heading back home for bed.
Oksana was lucky. She didn’t have to work in the morning.
Monday morning and I was right back at work. I couldn’t believe that I had to wait a whole week before being able to go on my honeymoon!
Oh, and after all that preparation, you’d think that the work would be done. Not a chance! Today Oksana and I spent my lunch break going downtown to submit our completed marriage license. While downtown we stopped at the university’s personnel department to pick up the various forms that I needed to fill out, too. Change of marital status, insurance, tax form changes, change of beneficiaries, etc. I had no idea there was so much paperwork involved in getting marriage!
By the time all that was sorted out, I had to go back to work, but Oksana decided to stop in at the social security office to inquire about her impending name change. Check this out: Before she can change her last name on her driver’s license, credit cards, bank accounts, etc., she needs to get a new social security card. But the social security office won’t issue a new card until they’ve seen proof that her INS paperwork has been submitted. Guess it’s going to take a bit longer than we expected to do the simple things – like combine our bank accounts.
At least one thing worked out quickly in our favor. Oksana went to the university’s records and registration office and picked up a tuition wavier form. Since I’m a full-time employee there, Oksana’s last semester of school would be free of charge!
Another long day at work, but at least I had a pleasant evening with Oksana and her family. Their trip to the States was almost at an end, and everyone (except me) had plane tickets to Anchorage the next morning. Oksana was going to accompany them as far as Anchorage, spend a couple days shopping, then make sure that they got on the right plane.
We spent the evening at the Hanger on the Wharf, with Oksana, once again, finishing her dinner last because of all the time she’d spent translating.
On Wednesday, Oksana and her family left for Anchorage… and left me alone to go through the motions at work for a couple more days. While they had fun shopping and sightseeing with Anya, I basically cleaned up my desk, sorted e-mails, and generally avoided starting a bigger project before leaving on my honeymoon.
At home in the evening I decided to call Bluebeard’s Beach Club in St. Thomas to confirm our reservations. This turned out to be a good idea because they had no idea who we were. The receptionist said that it wouldn’t be a problem, though, since the resort was essentially empty (what with it being hurricane season and all!) Still, I sent an e-mail to my grandparents and mentioned it to them, since they were the ones that owned the timeshare and arranged for the room in the first place.
Oksana’s parents got on their scheduled flight Friday morning and, later that same day, Oksana returned to Juneau on hers. After picking her up at the airport, we returned home to pack our bags for the looming honeymoon while Lonnie, our roommate, began moving his stuff out of our apartment. Late Friday night, we boarded our jet and began the long trip to the Caribbean.
Before the wedding planning began in earnest, I had suggested that we put off our honeymoon until December – after Oksana finished her finals. But after putting on a wedding like ours, we couldn’t get away fast enough. Honeymoons are important.
Our honeymoon behind us, it’s time for Oksana and I to rejoin the real world. For me, that means returning to work at the university. For Oksana it means catching up in her final three classes and resuming work as a student assistant at the computer center (after almost six weeks away!)
One big surprise upon returning home – Lonnie had yet to move out. Apparently there was some miscommunication as to our return date and he was expecting us the following week. It took just a couple more days for him to move out and wasn’t a real inconvenience, but we had been looking forward to returning to an apartment that would be, for the first time, completely ours.
Oksana has been working hard to craft us some wedding albums. While the many duplicate photos of the disposable cameras we ordered filled at least two of them, our photographer, Scott, took only slides. I set about scanning all 11 rolls of them into a digital format and then showed Oksana how to manipulate them in Photoshop before printing them out. In no time at all, she had created a very nice album of only the best pictures to take back home to Russia.
One of the most frustrating things about marrying a foreigner is the mountain of paperwork that needs to be filed. Oksana and I had already talked to the local INS official and gathered up the appropriate forms. I had asked, at the time, if there was a deadline for the forms and was told that they just needed to be done. For me, not having a deadline is a dangerous thing – I tend to put things off. That didn’t seem like a good idea when our government was involved, so I devoted one of my precious weekends to the INS.
And that was enough for me. While there was some information that I needed to supply (about my taxes, my parents, my location, etc.,) the vast majority of what they wanted was information that Oksana would know. I was under no delusions that the responsibility wasn’t mine, but Oksana was just so much more familiar with the INS that it seemed natural that she lead this particular little project. So, the following week, Oksana got to devote her time to government red tape.
I worked, instead, on getting precise INS-type photos taken. You wouldn’t believe the perfection they demand! Rather than trust a professional (I mean, pay… pay a professional) to do it, Oksana and I decided that we could pull it off with our digital camera, Photoshop, and Ofoto.com. After experimenting with backgrounds, the flash, and neck-craning positions, we finally had two digital photos that looked like they would work. I cropped them to the specifications, resized them to specifications, and then duplicated as many of them as I could fit on a 8×10 document. When Ofoto sent it back a few days later, perfectly printed on Kodak paper, all we needed was a pair of scissors!
October 4th, 2002
Oksana stopped by the INS office today and discovered that the rather evil lady we had been dealing with before had been replaced by someone new. Oksana was trying to find out how a newly married alien relative goes about getting her name changed. And hey, do you fill out all the INS paperwork with the new last name or the old? (Use the new name, by the way.) The new guy was very nice and supplied Oksana with all the information she needed. Unfortunately, she couldn’t change anything before dealing with the social security office first.
It was reassuring to discover that the INS does employ actual human beings at times. Or one, at any rate.
October 7th, 2002
We ordered thank you cards today from the same web site that sold us the wedding invitations. I have decided to use pictures from our wedding in an attempt to personalize each one as much as possible. I know it’ll be hard work, but like the invitations, I expect it to be something I’ll later be proud of.
October 11th, 2002
The blank thank you cards arrived in the mail today. Taking measurements from the paper stock, I toyed around in Photoshop and with my printer for quite awhile before settling on a template that I like. The task ahead seems daunting.
October 13th, 2002
Oksana received word a few days ago that her mother suffered a mini-stroke and was taken to the hospital. While the news scared her, after talking to her father and brother she decided that it probably wasn’t necessary for her to abandon school and work to return to Russia.
However, today Oksana received even worse news: While in the hospital, her mother had a major stroke and was subsequently paralyzed on one whole side of her body. After hearing this, we worked to get Oksana on the next available flight.
October 14th, 2002
Oksana booked her plane tickets today. She’ll leave on the 17th. They’re opened-ended tickets, but it appears that she’ll be gone for at least a month. Even if her mom regains the use of the left side of her body, which doesn’t seem likely right now, she’ll still need Oksana’s help in the short-term. Until she arrives, her father and sister-in-law are doing what they can.
With three days to wait, Oksana is justifiably fearful that she may not get home in time. Tensions are high and I decided to take a few days off from work to help Oksana get through this.
To add insult to injury, Oksana isn’t yet able to travel under her new status as an alien relative because we haven’t had time yet to complete the INS paperwork. Instead, she’s going tmao leave her wedding ring behind and travel under her student visa instead. We’re hoping we get lucky for her reentrance to the States because we’ve heard horror stories about how our friends, Thane and Yana, were separated for six months while they worked through the red tape after a situation like this.
Isn’t married life supposed to be happier than this?
October 17th, 2002
Oksana left for Russia today. And last night I received news that my aunt Betty had passed away. She had been fighting ovarian cancer and although it wasn’t completely unexpected, it hit hard. It’s going to be a long month without my wife.
Oksana has been having a hard time of it in Russia. For most of her stay, she’s been with her mother in the hospital – and from what I hear; Russian hospitals are not good places to be. Nadia is recovering – slowly – and Oksana has been struggling to put into place a system by which her mother can be cared for after she leaves. It looks like the best plan is going to be to hire a physical therapist to stay with her for $8 a day. With her father there to help at night, it should be enough to keep her mom under close observation and, God willing, bring her along the long road to recovery.
As Thanksgiving approached, I received word that I’ll have to go on my yearly visit to Ketchikan alone – Oksana needs to extend her trip by three weeks to make sure everything goes well. I’m not terribly excited by the news, but I am at least happy to have a date on my calendar to look forward to.
I’ve also been taking Russian 101 at the university. Anatoli, rather than Jana, is teaching this semester and his loud, gruff instruction has been… interesting – and rather fun, I must admit! I still feel as a bit as though learning Russian is like free-climbing glass walls, but I do enjoy the discovery of the occasional Spanish-Russian or Russian-English cognate. And at least now I have a big enough vocabulary to ask for Oksana on the phone.
In the meantime, the burden of the thank you cards has fallen squarely on my shoulders. Somehow I could not find the will power to work on them after work each night, so I used the entirety of three weekends writing, selecting appropriate photos, printing, stamping, and mailing them.
For your wedding I recommend either one of the following options: Requesting that no gifts be given, or investing in robotic thank you card writers.
November 29th, 2002
Cutting my typical Thanksgiving vacation short by a day, I joyfully flew back to Juneau to reunite with my bride today! Getting to that moment was a far more difficult process than it should have been.
About a week before Oksana was scheduled to fly back to the States, Anya (in Anchorage) called to ask her what she was going to do about Mavial’s cancellation of all flights until Christmas. Excuse me, what? It seems that the airlines didn’t have enough passengers for its weekly route and simply canceled all flights for a month.
Without notifying their customers!
Thanks to Anya, at least we had enough warning to do something about it. Oksana got on the phone and confirmed the bad news, then called up a competing airlines to seek alternatives. Vladivostok Air had just one flight leaving the next day, and it would go through Vladivostok, Korea, and Sea-Tac… did she want to buy a one-way ticket for $1100?
Oksana called me in Ketchikan and we decided that our only real option was to buy the ticket and have her speed-pack her bags to make the flight the next morning. Costly, yes, but I was scheduled to leave for Peru in a couple weeks and we couldn’t stand the thought of going another six weeks without seeing each other. We’re newlyweds for Pete’s sake!
Ironically, Oksana’s final flight was due to arrive in Juneau about 10 minutes before my own from Ketchikan. After over twenty-four hours of travel, including a mad dash through the Vladivostok airport to catch a plane with seats held just for her and her giant suitcase, Oksana landed in the Juneau airport. Once there she realized that I’d managed to fly standby on an earlier flight just to be there when she arrived.
For a time, happiness.
December 10th, 2002
After only 12 days together, it’s time for me to leave for a month-long Spanish class in Peru – without Oksana. Want to hear a depressing thought? Sometime in the second week of January, Oksana and I will have officially been apart more than together since our wedding five months before. I’ll have plenty more time to dwell on that sad fact in Peru.
January 12th, 2003
Today I returned from Peru with a resolve not to continue with Russian 102 this year. This semester, I want to have every possible evening available to spend with my wife. Happiness does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
Besides, after the first week in Peru where I kept trying to use Russian words, I promptly got back into my Spanish groove and proceed to push all the Russian rules and vocabulary right out of my head.
February 3rd, 2003
Today, after much work on Oksana’s part, we sent off a huge stack of INS paperwork, in folders, with sticky tabs, everything duplicated, itemized and correlated.
Every time Oksana packs my guilt trip bags about how much work I didn’t do on the INS forms, I get to remind her how much of a pain in the ass the thank you cards were.
February 28th, 2003
Today we received word that Oksana’s father passed away in a tragic accident.
March 1st, 2003
After much energy expended in trying to find a way to get Oksana home again to attend her father’s memorial and to be with her family, we have been forced to give up in despair.
I went so far as to call the central INS office in Nebraska (Of all places for the department of immigration, why Nebraska?) and grilled them about the Travel Authorization Document that we had submitted a month prior and was told curtly that only the Anchorage office could supply me with information about it. But I had already tried that route and learned that correspondence with the Anchorage office could only be achieved though the U.S. mail system or in person. Neither are viable alternatives when time is of the essence.
I asked them, hypothetically speaking, mind you, what would happen if my wife were to leave the country without a Travel Authorization Document? Simple. First, she wouldn’t be allowed back into the country. Second, they would immediately terminate processing of all of her paperwork. Great.
It turned out to be a moot point, anyway, because while I was on the phone with the INS, Oksana was busy calling all the airlines and no matter how she tried, she just couldn’t find the connections that would get her home in time for the funeral, anyway.
Match 11th, 2003
We received a large envelope in the mail today from the Anchorage INS office. Inside was a copy of all our paperwork and a hand-printed note that said simply: “Everything is OK. Please send $50 check for fingirprint [sp] fee.”
No word on the status of the Travel Authorization Document. Not that it would do any good at this point, anyway.
March 12th, 2003
We made a check out to the INS office for $50 and photocopied it before mailing it back to Anchorage today. I made sure to print “For fingirprints” on the memo line.
March 15th, 2003
Armed with a new Social Security Card, Oksana paid for a new driver’s license today. Now all the cops that stop her for reckless driving can snicker at her new last name.
March 27th, 2003
Seven months after getting married, Oksana and I finally opened up a joint checking account today. We would have done it sooner, but we had been waiting on the INS paperwork. Once we had received proof that it had been processed, Oksana took that information to the Social Security office to exchange for a new Social Security Card. Once that was processed, she was able to get her driver’s license changed. Finally, with a new driver’s license in hand, we were able to sign up for a bank account under the same last name.
Well, three bank accounts, actually. We opened a joint checking account for personal use, a joint checking account to manage the electronic billing of all our monthly expenses, and a joint savings account. For a short time there, we actually had seven accounts! (One old checking account each, Oksana’s old savings account, and a business checking account.) The person behind the counter obviously didn’t believe us when we told her that having all these accounts would actually help us keep track of our money.
Online bill payments and an Alaska Airlines Visa card are wonderful things.
April 1st, 2003
Oksana started her new job as accounting intern at the Mendenhall Auto Center today. No foolin’.
April 9th, 2003
On the way to work this morning I found another letter from the INS in our mailbox. It turns out that Oksana already had an appointment scheduled for her on the 23rd to have her fingerprints taken… in Ketchikan. Apparently, they don’t think it much of a hassle for an immigrant to travel over 200 miles by boat or plane for a 15-minute task.
Fortunately, the new guy at the INS office had told us earlier that we should expect a letter like this and that we should definitely ignore the location (Anchorage or Ketchikan). Instead, he asked us to bring the letter to him when we received it. That afternoon, on our lunch break, we did just that.
We walked in, showed the letter, and were finished with the entire fingerprinting process in less than five minutes. Visiting my mom in Ketchikan would have been nice, but spending $400 to get us there wouldn’t have!
While at the INS office, we also inquired about our tardy Travel Authorization Document. The officer told us that he was scheduled to make a call to Anchorage the next day and that he would ask about the hold up then. Good enough!
April 15th, 2003
Oksana received her new Social Security Card in the mail today. Coincidentally, she also received her first paycheck from Mendenhall Auto Center.
April 16th, 2003
Today Oksana received another letter from the INS ordering us to appear for our personal interview in mid-May. Perhaps the organization is finally getting Juneau into the picture now, because the section listing the address of the Anchorage office was covered up with a sticker for the Juneau office.
This is it, though. This is the scary interview that we’ve heard so much about. The one where the separate us and ask all sorts of embarrassing, personal questions before comparing our answers. And the list of things we need to bring was daunting: letters of employment, passports, completed INS forms, tax histories, rental agreements, “photos of our shared lives,” etc.
And, of course, we have a whole month to sweat it out.
May 12th, 2003
We stopped by the INS office today to confirm our May 15th personal interview. The pleasant, knowledgeable guy with whom we’d come to enjoy working told us that he didn’t know anything about it. For the personal interviews, a different person flies down from Anchorage. Let the panic begin.
May 14th, 2003
Returning home from work today, we found a message from Joy, or perhaps Joyce, from the Anchorage INS office on our answering machine. Joy/Joyce told us that she was working on our Travel Authorization Document and needed our “A number,” which confused us at first because we’re not that familiar with INS lingo. She did mention that it should be on a receipt that accompanied our returned paperwork. After digging that up and checking it against Oksana’s temporary green card, we learned that it was her “Alien Number” that the Anchorage office had misplaced.
Joy/Joyce left us a telephone number that, after multiple listens, we finally puzzled out, but in the next two days neither Oksana nor I were able to get a real, live person on the line. At least we knew we had the right number, though, because the answering machine identified itself as the INS office in Anchorage. We repeatedly left a message for Joy/Joyce and hoped it would find its way to her.
I guess it’s not surprising that no one ever answered the phone because, as we had discovered before, you can only communicate with the Anchorage INS office in person or via the U.S. mail.
May 15th, 2003
On Thursday, Oksana and I arranged a long lunch at each of our places of employment for our INS interview. This was it. The big deal. We had heard so many horror stories about the questions that they might ask – everything from anatomy to feminine hygiene was fair game. Not that we had anything to hide. In fact, I think we have very good communication in our relationship and can probably answer just about any personal question about each other. Without blushing, though? That’s another question entirely.
We arrived at the INS office 15 minutes early and waited for the official to finish with the married couple ahead of us. Oksana had a nice, three-ring binder with her that had all the important documents organized and tabbed. Our rental agreement, our tax filings, all the legal evidence of our shared lives together were in that folder. I, on the other hand, had the personal evidence. Two photo albums and a CD-ROM full of digital images, ready to be displayed on my laptop. Waiting, we weren’t exactly worried. Anxious, maybe, to have this behind us.
A couple minutes before we were actually scheduled to start, Mr. Official motioned us up to the counter. He cheerfully began to ask us questions – where can I find this form? Where is your tax form? Oksana was ready with it all. She was fingerprinted again and after precisely signing his name on each of a dozen documents with the help of a sharp bookmark’s edge, he neatly collated everything into the official Arlo/Oksana binder that he had brought from INS HQ.
At one point, he asked Oksana for her Visa. He cancelled it and wrote a note into her passport that she could re-enter the country up to one year from that day’s date — She would need that until her Temporary Green Card arrived. (The Temp Green Card will last for two years, but we’ll have to remember to apply for a Permanent Green Card 90 days before it expires or they’ll deport my lovely wife!) We asked about the tardy Travel Authorization Document, to see if he could look into it when he got back to Anchorage, but he explained that by stamping her passport, she no longer needed. In fact, it was superceded by that act completely. The TAD was no longer useful.
We asked him if he wanted to look at our pictures (wanting to know without saying it if we were getting ready to go into seclusion for the personal questions). He explained that he was working his way through a stack of folders 2 feet high and if everyone came to their interview on time, he might just be able to cut his Juneau time down to a single day. He assured us of his confidence that our wedding pictures were top notch and then recounted the story of another couple who came in earlier in the day who belligerently asked, “Do you want to watch us have sex?!” I guess, you know, to prove that they really love each other.
By the time we left the INS office, our paperwork finished and presumably bound for their Nebraska headquarters, only 25 minutes had passed. We had dodged the “personal” portion of the interview completely and the only hitch in our whole bureaucratic odyssey was a missing Travel Authorization Document.
May 16th, 2003
Oksana’s Travel Authorization Document arrived in the mail today – exactly one day after it was rendered obsolete during our personal interview. I guess that $110 filing fee was a waste. It pisses me off, too, because it was the lack of this exact document that prevented Oksana from returning home when her father died. We thought about calling them on it, but then decided against making waves in the otherwise smooth process we’ve enjoyed so far.
July 1st, 2003
Oksana’s official Temporary Green Card arrived in the mail today. It’s pretty cool – very official looking and seemingly tamper resistant with all its holograms and covers-the-entire-back-side magnetic strip! Her name is printed “Kadachigova Midgett, Oksana,” which I’m not sure is right, but I think any reasonable official would overlook a first and middle name mix-up. I dare say that my wife is the only Oksana Kadachigova Midgett in the United States – very likely, in all the world (though there may be one on Mars.)
September 4th, 2003
Oksana was offered a full-time position at the Mendenhall Auto Center today. Originally the plan was to hire her as an intern (the only way they could hire her before her temporary green card arrived) and she would continue in that capacity until she took over the comptroller position. Also, she was only supposed to work 20 hours per week.
Well, after the first couple months she was already putting in around 30 hours per week and had quit her student job at the university. That worked fine for awhile, until they noticed that she was inching up towards 40 hours a week over the summer. Eventually they just decided that she was indispensable and committed to paying her for full-time work. Which was fine, but she wasn’t getting benefits for it.
So, today the considerate owners decided that she was officially full-time – not only that, they pushed her “full-time start date” back to the date of her original hiring. So now, upon her anniversary of employment, she’ll get all those groovy things that a one-year employee deserves. You know, benefits, vacation time, uh… cake. I don’t know. I don’t work in the private sector.
October 8th, 2003 to November 8th, 2003
Oksana traveled to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski and Irkutsk in Russia to visit her mom. One year after her stroke, Nadia is doing much better – she’s walking again and is able to do many things on her own. She still has little mobility in her left arm, but that should improve if she can be convinced to use it more often.
Nadia has been living with her sister-in-law in Irkutsk, Siberia for some time now. It’s been a situation that has worked out well for everyone involved, and it’s her help that had enabled Oksana’s mom to recover to the extent that she has. But Nadia didn’t want to spend the winter in Siberia, preferring to stay in warmer P-K instead. Oksana needed to fly to Irkutsk (with her brother) to sort things out.
They were able to convince Oksana’s aunt to spend a good portion of the winter away from home to be with Nadia. Nadia returned to P-K with Oksana and her brother, and her sister-in-law will fly down a few weeks later. She will care for her until April when, I suspect, they’ll go back to Irkutsk next summer. In the meantime, Nadia is staying with Oksana’s brother’s family.
December 11th, 2003
After much fear, uncertainty, and doubt, the university has decided to offer another trip to Cuba this year. I committed myself to going – unfortunately, again, without Oksana. So, just like last year, we’ll be separated for another month over the holidays. For the last time, I hope.
The End (Or, rather, The Beginning)
And that’s about it. There isn’t much left to write about with regards to our wedding. And actually, the last few items don’t really relate at all, but I hope that they help to bring closure on a few of the happenings earlier on. With the exception of the INS paperwork we’ll have to fill out for Oksana’s Permanent Green Card and U.S. Citizenship (if she chooses to get it), there isn’t much in the foreseeable future to add.
If you’re still interested our shared lives together, I’m sure that a story or two might find its way into my weblog.
It’s been… long. Thanks for reading!