Continuing from my rant about visas - here is the Russian story. We now finally have our documents and, Russian Embassy willing, we will have our visas. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Don't know about the others in our team, but I have always been interested in going to Russia - curiosity mostly - so when my client wanted us to join the team at the event in Moscow I jumped at it.
Ziyad at work speaks fluent Russian (has something to do with women and blond hair I think!). So he picks up the application forms, has a chat with the guys there and we have a list of requirements including something called a voucher. So, of course we pass on the requirements to our clients who say they will sort out the voucher. Lovely, jubbly - no problems. We are seasoned travelers - we know how this works. Right? Wrong!!
A week later, we get the email copy of the vouchers for all passengers - great well in time. So we write back to ask for the originals to be sent to us. And the merry-go-round begins!!
Our client sends the contact details of the hotel to get the original vouchers or we go straight to their agency who have done the vouchers. These are tourist vouchers (much easier) not business (an even longer process I am told). Ziyad calls the agency.
Hello - we are calling from Dubai. Our client has received the copies of the vouchers you have organized for four passengers from Dubai - 3 Indians and 1 Jordanian. Could we get the originals sent to us by courier please or let us know where they are and we will arrange to pick them up?
Did you say Indians? We cannot do Indians.
But you have already issued the vouchers - we just want the original.
That is a mistake. We are not authorised to issue vouchers for Indians.
Do you know who can?
Okay what about the Jordanian's voucher?
Your hotel who originally requested us to do the voucher has to ask us to send you the original.
We call the hotel.
Hi - same introduction - we need your help with two things. One, we need the original voucher for the Jordanian passenger and we need your help with the vouchers for the other three passengers (Indians) since your visa support agency say "they cannot do Indians".
Sorry we only use one agency and for the Jordanian we cannot send you the original - we sent you a copy already.
Yes but the embassy here need the original to process the visa application.
Some gobbledygook and then - We cannot send the original.
Frustrated we go back to our client asking them to use their Russian office to speak to both the hotel and the agency and find a solution. In the meanwhile we move heaven and earth to find an alternative solution to sending our three Indians to Moscow. No mean feat I assure you.
We check with local agencies and find one that - Eureka - does visas for Indians but we need to book a hotel room with them. Not a problem - don't care - as long as we get the visa. They will check and get back to us. They do.
Sorry there are very few hotels in Moscow that are authorized to issue vouchers for Indians and the few that are - are full. The tunnel is closing. As a last ditch, we ask our versatile Ziyad to go back to the Embassy and enlist their help to resolve this problem. I cannot believe that a nationality could be so blighted!!
We are still following up on the Jordanian voucher - he is traveling somewhere else in between and needs his visa faster than us. After pressure from our mutual client, the hotel agree to do something but need us to send our credit card details and fill out some form or another. We do but it now needs to be faxed through. Frustration - after several attempts - it goes through. But to be safe, we call the hotel to check that it has gone through.
Sorry the person you are looking for has gone home. Its past 6pm.
But I just spoke to her.
Sorry - you have to call back in the morning.
We let our clients know that the chances of them getting any of us at their event are getting slimmer by the day and that if something does not happen by the next day (Thursday and the last weekend before we have to travel), they should make other personnel arrangements like temp staff.
But our resilient client does not give up. They are resourceful and wave their magic wand. And hey presto! we get emails the next day that they not only have vouchers for all four passengers but that the originals have been despatched by courier!! We even have tracking numbers.
The Russians may not want us but our clients definitely do. Now all we have to do is get our visas.