So it was with a certain amount of shock to find out that my husband and son had been turned away at the airport when they tried to join us in Mongolia. Apparently Irish people require a visa - moreover, it is something the country is strict about. Worse, in order to get a visa, someone in Mongolia has to actually invite you to visit. Who knew!?
I could say, maybe someone who traveled as much as he did would google Mongolian visa requirements more than ten minutes before arriving at the airport. He could say, you organized the Chinese and Russian visas, why didn’t you get the Mongolian ones? Well, I would answer, Americans don’t need visas to enter that country and after 15 years of marriage I forgot he wasn’t American. Mind you, never once in all the countries we visited last year did we come across one that had separate visa requirements for each of us. Sometimes the fees were different, but there were no countries that required a visa for him and not for me or vice versa.
In any event, the question now became - how MUCH did he want to fly to Mongolia? He was just coming off of four transatlantic flights for work, not to mention driving 4 hours in each direction to pick up David Evan from camp. One would think he would jump at the chance to skip a 14 hour flight and go home for a well deserved nap. David Evan certainly wouldn’t mind an extra day of being reunited with his beloved electronics. But no, he immediately decided he could reschedule their flights to the next day thinking he could quickly pick up the missing visa and still make the flight out that evening.
He had only about 12 hours to get together all his documents before the embassy opened in the morning. Mongolia, naturally, asks the standard requirements - passport, greencard, photos, proof of onward travel and cash for the visa fee so Vincent needed to get an official photo taken and stop at the bank for a certified check before the embassy opened at 9 am. But Mongolia also has a couple extra requirements, namely a letter of invitation or “LOI”, plus a letter from your employer stating what you are doing while in that country and finally a detailed description of where you will be while in said country. The guide organizing our trek across the Gobi sent over a day by day itinerary and his agent wrote up an employment letter which left only the LOI. Fortunately with the time difference, Mongolia was just waking up while NY was going to sleep so the kids and I headed out.
We had met a Danish couple on the train into Mongolia who had mentioned their hostel had helped them secure their visas so we decided to start there. We rustled the manager out of breakfast and explained our predicament. Normally, he told us, they only write up letters for people staying with them but never underestimate the power of a ten year old. One look at the girls’ woebegone faces and he whipped up an extremely official looking document complete with stamps and signatures. So, armed with letters, documents, photos and fees, Vincent showed up at the embassy only to find - nothing. The consulate official responsible for visas was away until Aug 1. All the papers for visas were locked in his safe so even if anyone wanted to, it was impossible to hand out a visa in his absence.
It was at this point that I suggested to Vincent that he just pack it in and take the three days to rest up from his non stop traveling before embarking on a month long trek around the Mongolian countryside. But no, by the time I said this he was already in a taxi heading for Laquardia to catch a flight to the embassy located in Washington DC. Once there he jumped into a taxi and raced like the wind only to arrive and twiddle his thumbs waiting for someone, anyone, to return from lunch. Ten minutes after they officially opened, he had his visa and was back in a taxi on the way to Dulles airport. But, as he was looking up flights, he realized he had missed his return flight to NYC and the only other option was to fly out of Regan airport, ironically only ten minutes from the embassy but now thirty minutes in the opposite direction. He just made the plane and then had to sit fuming while it was delayed at the gate.
In the mean time, he had left frantic directions for my oldest daughter to look after David Evan who was at the hotel, without a phone, completely oblivious to his father's whirling dervish imitation. She however was deep in the basement at work digging through old records, cut off from all comunication. Fortunately, she returned to her desk and phone in time to drop everything, pick up David Evan and head to the airport.
Arriving on Laquardia, Vincent tore thru the airport and swept past the sixty people standing at the taxi stand shouting "my son is all alone at JFK!" And arrived, by dint of his Bagladeshi driver swerving madly through rush hour, at JFK, swooped up David Evan and made it to the checkin counter exactly two minutes before they closed the flight at 6 pm. They made it through check in, security and reached the plane just as they called for final boarding.
Which meant that after a simple 8 hour flight to Moscow, an 8 hour layover there and a final 4 hour flight to Ulan Baatar, they arrived. And were much appreciated.