Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I now own four cell phones. A surplus of riches, I'm sure. I had good reasons for buying them all, I swear. The first is, of course, my US cell phone (an old phone, replacing the one I stupidly ruined last summer). That's my only phone for use in Illinois, and with the commute of the last three years, and the hockey travel before that, it can only be considered essential. The second is the phone I bought in India in 2006. Not absolutely essential, but making phone calls while standing along side the road got old really quickly. The unreliability of public ISD service was making me break out in hives, so that phone felt pretty essential, too. Oh, and I had to buy the new phone, because the US phone wouldn't work. Third, the phone I just bought in London. My US phone was locked, and the India phone needed an adapter, both of which would have required I find a new store. The fees for unlocking and cost of an adapter were equal to the price of a new handset, so I just got the handset and thought, well, now I'll have yet another backup the next time I carefully place my phone in a pool of water.

That brings me to the fourth phone. I won't tell the whole story of me visiting FIVE different mobile phone stores yesterday, but let's just say that arranging for a cell phone provider in India can be a super headache. I didn't need a new handset, only a SIM card--both my first India phone and the London phone will work here--but in the end, my need to call my parents was greater than my need to get exactly what I wanted. India can be a very complicated place, and it tends to make you go for the compromise more often than you would otherwise. [Sidenote: Mark, you were in the Airtel store, dressed in all white. You made your own verification call, during which you told your friends that Airtel wanted to "verify if you were human"--thanks, you made me laugh. Also, your Hindi is brilliant.]

My journey through five stores probably wouldn't have been so exhausting if I hadn't stood in line at the FRRO (office for registering foreign visitors, necessary if you are going to stay longer than six months in India) for approximately 4.5 hours beforehand. Well, I stood in line for two hours to get the green form, on which I wrote my name, address, passport and visa numbers, and incoming flight information. This might look exactly like the information one has to write on the landing card before going through immigration and customs at the airport. Well, it is. I'm not sure why they need it a second time. Filling out the green form took approx. 2 minutes, then I had to leave the office, go outside, down the street, and get two copies made of the green form. Then I had to paste passport photographs on these three forms and in the visitor's booklet, then get back in line. That all took about 15 minutes. Then I stood line to get my forms stamped. After approx. 1 hour, the entire office went to lunch, leaving all in the office. After lunch, which took approx. 45 minutes, I waited approx. 20 minutes. My forms were stamped, and then I went to In Charge, where it took approx. 15 seconds to deposit my forms in a wire basket.

So, you can see that was approximately 4.5 hours well spent.

Actually, my friend Rebecca did her registration today, and she showed up at 8 a.m., an hour before the office officially opens. She was 3rd in the queue, and was done by 10 a.m. So, there you go.

I've done all my tasks. I am waiting now for my letter from the U.S. Embassy, necessary for access to the National Archives. All I can do is wait now, the request has been made. Claire says that I can keep trying to be the first person ever to get into the archives within two weeks of her or his arrival date, but I will just end up exhausted and frustrated. After yesterday, I suspect she's right. I'm going to take this time to try and write up some of my London research more formally, even though I'm not quite sure where it's all headed yet.

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