We drove the three hours to Houston and then sat for another three hours in the visa office. As a complete neophyte to international long-stay travel, I was expecting something a bit more grandiose for the office that sends away all my documents to another office far away. But the building is a regular office tower with multiple companies housed inside and an elevator with a touchscreen. Even though I had an appointment, there was still a wait. I sat nervously, hoping that I read all the paperwork diligently and accurately. When my name was called, I felt my heart skip a beat. This is the next phase of “this is happening for real.”
As it turns out, I did make a couple blunders in the process, but nothing extraordinary. Thank goodness for our little computers we hold in our hands as I fished for a missing document to print in a slight panic.
In the sad cafeteria, the kiddo and the dude wait for me. All the while, my stomach chortles with hunger pangs.
Eventually, all the papers are in order, the monies paid, and we must get our biometrics taken. We place our fingers on a glass pad that glows green while a computer scans the print. Are my biometrics now filed away in international databases? Will need to research this for my continuing curiosity related to privacy and electronic data.
The others in the waiting room were almost all citizens from other countries. I heard four different languages while waiting in a 20 x 40 foot room. Houston is actually one of the most densely diverse cities in the U.S. And it is astounding to me the performance of bureaucracy in such spaces where bodies intend to cross borders and the patience, persistence, and tension tied up in the process.
Finally, after the long wait, the ever-calm agent behind the counter finished my application. We now wait, again, for the visa to arrive. Tick tock. Very exciting.
Even though Houston was my birth city, I rarely visit, but when I do, I go to Galveston, only an hour away. We had swimsuits and towels in the trunk and headed southeast. Once we go over the bridge to the island, everything shifts. We are now in a beach town. And it’s summer with lots of tourists.
My hunger demanded a stop, so we did, on the Seawall, at a tourist bar/restaurant called The Spot, which had multiple decks that overlooked the Gulf. I ordered seared tuna tacos and a piña colada served in a coconut. Looking around the restaurant, it is clear that this joint is for working-class and locals as much as tourists. One thing about Galveston is that it is a beach town for all. Sure, you can find a resort here and there and overpriced hotels, but you can also pull into the state park for a full day on the cheap. So we did. Keep in mind that Galveston State Park is only open for another month as they go about some repairs.
The ocean heals me. The beach calms me. The waves energize me. I needed the sea. The water here is gray and warm. The waves are modest and almost nonexistent. But we boogie-boarded anyway, my favorite beach activity. If I had lived by the sea, I would surely have been a surfer.
After hours at the shore, as dusk descended into scorching pinks and purples, we determined it would be best to drive home…so, we go another 4 hours back to Austin…and the next day, something shifted in me.
I met someone in my dreams that night of our return. I woke up hearing a word over and over again… Melpomene…
Melpomene, the ancient Greek muse of tragedy (song and dance, as well.) Her counterpart is Dionysus. Henceforth, as they proclaim, Melpomene will be my protector, guide, muse, and companion along the path.