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Plane tickets

Started: 2010-01-27 07:51:10

Submitted: 2010-01-27 08:32:25

Visibility: World-readable

Within the past week, the pieces all came together for my trip to India. Last week, I paid Skype for land-line credit and called Willy in India, twelve and a half hours ahead. I proposed dates at the beginning of March and he said he'd check. The next time I called, he'd heard of the new Indian visa rules requiring tourist visa holders to leave the country for two months between consecutive visits. This cast large sections of our plan into doubt, including his overall plan to stay in the country until the end of the school term in June.

(Most countries I've traveled to never asked me to get a visa. My most complicated visa prior to India was Australia, where my corporate travel arranger applied online and e-mailed me something to stick in my passport. But no matter how complicated India is, it's nothing compared to the United States. I did not have to travel to the consulate, in person, for a face-to-face interview. Any further complaints I may have about the visa process are entirely hypocritical given my own government's xenophobic antagonism to visitors and immigration.)

(The more I learn about India the more I think I understand little bits and pieces of the country's reaction to the western world. India's colonial repression is still a recent memory, and India's stated goal of remaining non-aligned during the Cold War did not go over well with the "you're with us or you're against us" anti-Communist attitude permeating the United States. India wants to be a great power on its own terms, which means growing up and making its own mistakes without outside intervention. This means India doesn't care about whether I visit or not.)

I called Willy again on my Saturday night (his Sunday morning) and confirmed the dates. I had one more moving piece yet to nail down: whether I'd take a side trip to my employer's office in Hyderabad while I was in the neighborhood. (Where "in the neighborhood" means "on the same subcontinent", since the closest I'd get to Hyderabad would be Delhi.) This would confer one main advantage: If I could stretch my trip out through the next weekend, I could take advantage of the weekend-multiplier effect to get an additional two days to come home, rather than taking actual vacation days on the return flight. (I've also come to appreciate the benefits of visiting foreign offices to get a feeling for how people actually work on the ground, and seeing people face-to-face whom I would otherwise see only by e-mail is also useful.) The more I looked at my schedule and timing, the less this seemed like it would work, and I'd probably need to get a business visa. On Monday, I e-mailed my tech lead (to whom I had previously floated the possibility) my analysis and he agreed that it didn't look like it would work.

With everything resolved, I set out to look at flights on Monday evening. I had previously identified three direct flights from North America to India (on American Airlines, Continental, and Air India); most other possible flights involved a stop in Europe. For early March, the direct flights were the cheapest, and I had my pick of schedules at roughly the same price. American's polar flight from Chicago to Delhi looked like the best option for both schedule and price. I stared at the proposed flights for a few minutes while I contemplated my point of no return, then clicked "Go" and bought the ticket.

After buying the ticket, I had a bit of trouble navigating American Airlines' website to find my reservation info, and they didn't send me a confirmation e-mail, so I wasn't entirely sure I had a ticket. The credit card charge appeared by Tuesday morning, so I knew I hadn't totally lost the ticket, but I feared I'd need to call them to get the confirmation (as was Kiesa's experience with her concurrent airline reservation). I went back to the website on Tuesday evening and found the link I was looking for to find my reservation while logged into my brand-new frequent flyer account. (I finally got my e-mail confirmation late Tuesday night, twenty-four hours later.)

I have plenty of planning left to do on my trip to India (and plenty of reading to do); the tentative plan is to fly to Guwahati, swing by Willy's school in Meghalaya, and work my way back to Delhi via Kathmandu. I have less than six weeks before I fly halfway around the world, and it should be interesting.