Chapter 11 – The Visa Interview
The next week was nerve-racking. Winnie did e-mail me on occasion from a local cyber cafe. From her e-mails I knew her medical exam went well and she was meeting a lot of women also waiting for their interviews. She was staying at a hotel only ten minutes walk from the consulate, in a local hotel used by many women waiting for interviews. Several women she was meeting were going back for their second, third, or even fourth interviews. I was more emotionally charged than I had ever remembered.
One of the things she did during that week was organize all of our pictures taken together, and pictures of my family that I and my Mom had sent to her, into a small scrapbook. She also added labels with our names against each picture.
Winnie’s appointment was for 8:00 AM but with the time zone difference it would be 9:00 PM in Mississippi on a Thursday night. A cousin Grace, living in a neighboring town, offered to come over with her kids and wait with me the night of Winnie’s interview. I gratefully accepted.
The night of Winnie’s interview was one of the most tense nights since my divorce. I expected to hear from her by 11:00 PM my time, allowing two hours for her to go through the interview line. Grace, her kids and I all had dinner, then the kids did their usual things with my computer and TV while Grace and I went out on the porch to talk. By 11:00 PM I was doing shots of rum to “relax.” By midnight I was pretty “relaxed,” worried sick that we hadn’t heard anything yet, and Grace had to get the kids back home for school the next day. I promised to call her the next day. Grace and her kids left, I had a few more shots of rum and finally laid down about 1:30 AM fully dressed, next to a telephone.
Meanwhile, over in Guangzhou, Winnie was having a long day.
She left her hotel early armed with a 12 inch thick stack of documents, CDs, and her scrapbook all organized and stuffed into clear plastic bags; Security restrictions at the US consulate only permitted see-though bags. Winnie was at the consulate in line at 7:00. She was allowed into the consulate at 8:00 AM, and waited until 9:40 to pay her USD$100.00 non-refundable visa fee. They gave her a number (#64) and told her to wait. She sat until 10:35 when she was fingerprinted.
The consulate officer told her to go to lunch and come back at 1:00. Winnie later told me that during the morning session they were only interviewing “older women” and those women with children. She had lunch and was back at 1:00. She waited until 2:16 to be finally called. I don’t know what window she had, but it was a man and seemed to be one of the decent officers. Her interview was in English, but the Visa Officer (VO) was decent enough to speak slow with her. The VO went through all her paperwork and asked her:
* How did we meet?
* When did we meet?
* What did I do for an occupation?
* When was the date of my divorce?
* When was the date of her divorce?
Then the VO inspected my income tax records. He asked Winnie how many times I had been to China, then asked to see our pictures together. Winnie presented her scrapbook and our professional wedding album, went through the pictures with the VO and explained who each of the people in my family were. When she finished the VO complimented her on her nice scrapbook.
At nearly 4:00 AM my time the phone rang, and as “relaxed” as I’d been earlier I came fully alert. It was Winnie. Although I couldn’t understand much of what she was saying, it was apparent she’d beaten the odds and had been approved for her visa on her very first interview. The interview we had waited 19 months for had lasted about 15 minutes. I went back to sleep.
Winnie told me later that she was one of the very few women that day who had been awarded their visa.