Monthly Archives: April 2016

Name Change Issues

Who knew a simple..Ok, not so simple name change would cause me untold drama. I changed..actually I dropped one name during my naturalization process. I updated my military records easily and my colleagues have a much easier time pronouncing my name nowadays.

I applied for a passport soon after my naturalization ceremony. They require all original documents be submitted with the application. In my case with the local post office. It cost me about $200 for the application.

That went well. I got my passport a week later since I’d paid for expedited service. The original documents came a day later except they didn’t return my original Petition for Name Change Court document. That is the document by the court authorizing me to change names. The National Passport Center indicated I should wait for two weeks for all original documents to arrive in the mail.

I waited for the two week period to lapse then wrote to them. Surprise, surprise..They have no record of ever receiving the name change document. They advised me to go ahead and get a replacement then send them a copy of the receipt and they’ll reimburse me. If I say I was not disappointed, I’d be lying.

I asked the lady at the Post Office. She sent in all the documents as I gave her. Now let the runaround start. A story of musical chairs with different offices I called the court clerk who said USCIS, the Citizenship agency keeps such documents. Unfortunately there was no way to contact the local citizenship office. More research and calls. Finally the base support office gave me a contact. I got in touch and was directed back to the court but this time the federal division. What would you know. They don’t keep the documents. This was now getting comical. I was referred to another 800 number, one of those with so many prompts that by the time you actually get to speak to a human, you’ve nearby given up. Luckily the human knew where I needed to go to get the much sought after duplicate document.

I needed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) Request to get that court document. Apparently they are filed in faraway St. Louis, Missouri. Luckily I could scan and send in the request. I’ll be required to pay $ 25 for my hassles. Not bad if they’ll get me copy of the document. I’m still waiting to hear from them on how I should proceed. What a couple of weeks it’s been. Luckily the copies I made before I applied for the passport have to suffice for now.

I was able to change the Social Security card easily, the same with utility bills and the credit card. I’m having issues with my bank and Texas Department of Public Safety for my Driver’s License.

My bank wants me to physically present my original documents at a branch. The only problem is they don’t operate in the state I’m in. Our relationship will have to come to an end. There is no way I’m driving three hours to a neighboring state to change a name at a branch. This is America and banking shouldn’t be much of a headache. And ATM fees have been killing me here anyway using other banks. Time for change.

With the Driver’s License. I sent it the required paperwork and fees. I waited for a while then contacted them when I didn’t hear from them. Apparently I’m supposed to physically present the original naturalization papers to a DPS outside down in Houston. There is a small problem with that. I’m stationed out of state. They told me the issue has to be sent up the chain of command to see if they’ll be able to do it since I’m a service member. I’m waiting to see what they decide. Interesting times I tell you.

The only thing I’m impressed with despite my frustrations is there has always been someone trying to help even when they don’t have the answers. The level of customer service is impressive. The Passport Center could easily have not bothered to reply, but they did call and sent a letter of apology for losing my stuff.

In other news, it’s ridiculously expensive to have foreign education documents evaluated here. It cost me $ 249 without considering the cost of the institution sending transcripts to the evaluating body. That aviation dream is still alive and well ladies and gentlemen. I’m officially a student at Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University.

Dare to dream.

Skydiving

I went skydiving last weekend and to say I was nervous before the jump would be an understatement. I wasn’t looking to skydive until our base outdoor recreation sent out a flyer. It was a done deal for a very subsidized price of $75.

I love flying but jumping off a plane has always been on my bucket list. Well, it came to pass sooner than I’d thought.

The jump was supposed to happen a week earlier. My colleague and I made the hour drive to the small airport on the Saturday ready for an adrenaline filled jump. But it was not to be. The cloudy weather made sure that didn’t happen. Apparently the US Parachute Association (USPA) rules prohibit jumping through clouds. I don’t blame them either. Who wants to going through clouds at crazy speeds.

We waited for at least 4 hours before it became apparent the clouds would not be clearing. It was a big disappointment and a waste of adrenaline. We were slotted for the following weekend.

I didn’t get too excited this time round. Luckily the skies were clear and sunny all day and after waiting for a while our turn came.

We suited, were briefed by our instructors on what to do when time to jump came. We were doing tandem jumps. The plane was ready, we jumped in. The engines were fired up and off we went. The plane had 2 benches. One on each side. We sat with our feet in between each bench, tightly packed crotch-to-back facing the rear of the plane in two rows. We were about 16 of us in there.

The plane steadily made its way to 13,500 feet from where we would jump. We had altimeters on our wrists. The moment of reckoning was fast approaching. As soon as we hit 12,000 feet a red light came on. Surprisingly I was very calm and just kept telling myself it would be like jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool.

Soon the door was slid open and all the solo jumpers inched closer to the door and were soon floating away in space.

My instructor nudged me to the door. I had paid for a video. I didn’t want to miss the magic moments. I was just hoping I didn’t pee my pants, throw up or even worse pass out. Apparently it’s happened before. The instructors had been there, seen it all. The camera lady was already hanging out the door holding onto this bar, waiting for me. The instructor tapped me thrice as we knelt at the door, then pushed me into the wind..the unknown. And in a flash we were off the plane and flying away..It wasn’t too bad. I’d expected to be nauseous. As we flipped around I saw the plane headed in the opposite direction. I was skydiving. Just like that. I was flying around like a bird. I was on top of the world literally. The camera lady was floating right in front of us filming away with her Go Pro attached to her helmet. She was in a sitting position. I guess when you jump solo you can do all sorts of tricks.

We were in a freefall for a minute hurtling down at 120mph covering a distance of 2 miles. It didn’t feel super fast as we were too high. I was enjoying it until the instructor tapped me and pulled the chute open. We were jolted in the opposite direction for a few seconds. Everything seemed to stop, then we started gliding earthbound. We were slowly making our way down. It was so calm and the views were so spectacular from up there. It was like an out of body experience.

We descended slowly making turns and turns towards the airport taking in all the views. Nothing too crazy. The instructor asked if I wanted him to perform a few crazy maneuvers but I declined. I didn’t want my tummy feeling queasy up there. As we were getting closer to land my instructor asked me to keep my feet extended out in a horizontal position. We landed fine and skidded on our butts a couple of feet before coming to a stop. I couldn’t believe it. I’d done it. I had overcome the fears in my head. It was one of the best experiences in this adventurous life of mine. I will definitely do it again. Another bucket list item ticked off.

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