The 3 flights home from Langkawi to Houston were uneventful and on schedule. The trip took a total of 19.5 hours sitting in planes and additional 5.5 hours sitting in airports. Bill slept a good bit but I couldn't sleep a wink. Finished my book and watched many movies. Glad the traveling part is over and now we can enjoy being in Texas for a month.
First thing the next morning found us at a doctor's office down south in Webster for our physicals for renewal of our USCG captains licenses. The drug tests will be ready on Monday morning so we should be able to submit the renewal applications early next week. Here is hoping these license renewals get processed so we can pick them up before our return flights to Malaysia on November 30. We also must renew the TWIC but cannot do that until we submit the USCG renewal applications. Lots of trouble just to have captains licenses so we can have discounts on our boat insurance. Only other reason to have these licenses is for proof of competency when we visit Greece. I don't think any other EU country yet enforces the EU requirement of proof of competency in order to operate a boat within EU waters. But we have heard from several people that Greece does enforce this requirement. Hence, we spend lots of time and money to be licensed captains -- at least for the next 5 years. Don't know if we will bother to renew these licenses again when they next expire.
Friday morning found us at Travisa services on Westheimer to submit the application for tourist visas for India. India no longer will process visa applications at their consulates in the USA; processing of visas is now outsourced to a company called Travisa. India has a goal to outsource all visa processing worldwide. Visas can also be obtained in Kuala Lumpur; again, NOT at the consulate but at the outsourced company. One can also obtain an Indian visa in Penang, but that is using an agency that simply couriers your passport to Kuala Lumpur for processing. And that usually takes 9 days. We did not want to remain in Penang that long. The only other option on the typical cruising route toward the Red Sea is to obtain the Indian visa from Emotion Travel in Phuket. Emotion couriers your passport to Bangkok for visa processing. I contacted Emotion Travel and was told it typically takes 4 weeks to obtain an Indian visa through their agency in December or January since that is their busiest time of the year. Lucky for us we had scheduled this trip back to Texas. And very lucky for us the Travisa office and the Indian consulate are both located in Houston, Texas. This made the process very simple for us.
After visiting the Travisa office, we can certainly understand why the consulate does not want to deal with this anymore.
We had gotten online while still in Malaysia and downloaded all the required forms. One of the things required was a government issued birth certificate stating the birthplace and citizenship of your parents at the time of your birth. Bill only had a hospital birth certificate and that would not be acceptable. So his brother John had obtained a certified birth certificate from Austin for Bill. That saved us lots of trouble. With certified birth certificates, photos of drivers licenses, and many forms completed, we arrived at the Travisa office for our scheduled appointment early Friday morning. Where we encountered many other visa applicants standing in the hallway waiting for the office to open. When the office opened we were called into a line by scheduled appointment time, and we were assigned to be third and fourth in line. Our application packets were checked and approved for processing. We were about the only people in the place who had correctly completed their applications with all the required supporting documents. Most everyone else was missing at least one item and their applications were denied. Much yelling and complaining ensued. We stepped up to the window and paid our $146 fees and were told to return at 17:30 to pick up the visas.
That was a shock!! The website had warned that the Houston office was extremely busy and the normal processing time right now was 3 weeks. The sign on the door stated it would take a minimum of 3 weeks to obtain a visa. Yet the girl at the counter was telling us there would be same day service.
Bill was busy working on our new computer that afternoon, so I went to pick up both our visas. When I returned to Travisa at 17:30 I was the only Caucasian in the place. Every other applicant was of Indian or Pakistani heritage. And they were just as verbally abusive to the staff as the other group had been earlier that morning. They all seem to think that rules do not apply to them. I decided this must be a cultural thing. Rules apply to others, but if I want something then those rules do not apply to me. They get quite loud about demanding what they want and why rules should not apply because they have a special circumstance.
Visiting India will be a different experience for us. Seeing the behavior exhibited in this visa office was an eye-opener. This should be interesting. The only location we will visit in India is Cochin (Kochi) and will probably stay there only a week or so. Looking forward to it.