Monthly Archives: June 2016

Hustle of getting wife here

It’s about 4 months since I completed the citizenship process and immediately started the process of getting my wife here through a process of getting her a CR1 (Conditional Resident) visa by filing a form called I-130 or Petition for Alien Relative to the Chicago Lockbox. I wonder if there is a lockable box, or the reason behind the lockbox term 😄😄. There are 3 filing centers around the country based on where you live.

I sent in the paperwork to USCIS aka Immigration. You pay a filing fee of USD 420. They acknowledged a few days later they’d received the paperwork. But I got a response from a filing center called Potomac. I didn’t know where that was until I did a bit of research online, and learnt they’d recently opened a new center because the other 3 are overwhelmed with applications.

They send you a priority date. It’s the date USCIS formally acknowledges receiving your stuff, and more importantly it’s a date used to determine an immigrant’s place on the visa queue. There are limited visas available if the petitioner who is the person filing is a green card holder. This means first-come first-served. When the available visas for a particular country are quickly used up, you wait for the following year.Luckily for citizens there are unlimited visas available throughout the year.

Then the wait begins. A loooong wait. Nothing happened on my end. Who knows what they do on their end. More like our AirForce “hurry up and wait” philosophy. There is nothing you can do to speed up the process unless you are being deployed then maybe they might consider it on a case by case basis ; or there is a life and death situation going on. Pregnancy doesn’t count by the way.

Then out of the blues about 5 weeks ago there was some ‘action’ taken notification. USCIS had finished their bit and had approved the application. They were forwarding the case to the NVC (National Visa Center). Yeah, another of the government agencies that does something else that the other agency doesn’t do..

But..wait for it. It takes time to send the paperwork from that agency to the other one..Reminds me of Kenyan government bureaucracy, being tossed from office to office. I kept following up by calling the new agency but apparently it takes 2 weeks from sender to receiver confirming they got the stuff.

Finally they received the file..Yaay..or so I thought. Nope. It takes another two weeks to sign a case number. Common on now..wait, wait, wait..call..yea, we receive the file but haven’t assigned a case number. Wait for 2 weeks then holla..wait.wait.wait.

Finally they assigned a case number and an invoice number. Phew, at least I can move on with the process. But..wait for it. I have to assign an agent who will receive the correspondence with the NVC. What agent. I’m the petitioner and the wife is the applicant. No, no..choose an agent first. Fill out this DS261 form confirming you are indeed the agent. I did and sent it back..but..but..I have to wait for 2 weeks for them to process this new form. 

No, like seriously. I’m not even joking. So I have to wait for 2 weeks before I move on to the next step, which can’t happen until they ‘process’ my ‘agent’ who happens to be me :roll:. And I’m lucky my application was approved by USCIS after ‘only’ 2 months. Some people wait for seven or even nine months or a year before they move to the NVC step. I’m grateful despite the hurry and wait mode I find myself in. 

It reminds me of the refugees who I used to work with before in Kenya and the Sub Saharan Africa who would wait for years before they could be united with their relatives who were stateside.

Patience is the name of the game.

Life in the Air Force

It’s been 10 months since I joined the US Air Force. The beginning was kinda stressful due to the stringent rules and proximity of living in the same space with 50 plus other souls. I got used to that life in no time. Little things the training instructors made us do didn’t make sense at the time. Like making hospital corners when making our beds every morning or rolling our t-shirts a certain way and getting yelled at if we didn’t do it right or cut corners. It only make sense later when it was explained to us it was all about instilling in US the importance of attention to detail in everything we do in our careers. Some of us would be in careers handling jets and aircraft worth millions of dollars and small mistakes could cost lives and money.

Tech school was more relaxed. There were more freedoms but still very controlled. You could drink alcohol but only at the airman’s club. None in your dorm room. Some airmen thought they could beat the system but found out military justice too swift and uncompromising.

In both basic and tech school classes occupied majority of our time. In basic it was more of learning the military discipline, matching, firing weapons, customs & courtesies. In tech school more about the specific job one would be doing in the operational works. The majority of jobs in the Air Force involve maintaining aircrafts.

We finished tech school and headed into the operational Air Force thinking we were done with books for a while. How wrong we were. Upgrade training was awaiting us. More studying..Arghhh!!! Those who thought that by joining they were avoiding school had a rude awakening.

Life is more relaxed now. I drive everywhere I go as opposed to matching around base either with your flightmates or wingmen. I can count the number of times I’ve saluted an officer since I’ve been at my current base. I’m nearly always in a car. Growing up in Kenya as military kids we saw it all around us. Junior members saluting officers. Now I’m doing it here.

Life is very structured here. I work an 8-5 kinda job. I have all the weekends to myself. We have mandatory physical training 3 times a week in the gym and the running track. We report to work an hour and a half late on those days as PT is considered official business.

Most people I meet think I fly jets..oh how I wish. I’m not even allowed anywhere near the jets or aircraft. I’m in the civil engineering squadron. We are in charge of all the construction on-base. My job is Operations Management. We are the middle men between customers and the technicians. Electricians, plumbers, heavy equipment, air conditioning, pest control, fuels technicians. All repair, maintenance and construction is done in-house and through contacting. We are a big airport with everyone supporting the aircraft mission.

How is life different from before?  I’m in uniform during the duty day. 0730-1630. I can’t have a beard and keep hair short. Women have theirs tied a certain way. Dress and appearance they call it. I have a shaving waiver meaning I use clippers and can keep upto a quarter of an inch of facial hair. This is due to having bumps whenever I use razors. Some airmen though push the limits on the quarter inch rule and have a full grown beard. It’s a risk because even though the waiver is given by the clinic, it’s at your commander’s discretion to allow it.

Accommodation wise, if you are single you live in the dorms on base and if you are married there is base housing or you can live off base. I live off base. Single airmen who’ve served for more than 3 years can also get base housing or live off base.

We still have to maintain military readiness for when we deploy. Use of equipment, training and weapons in expeditionary conditions worldwide. I haven’t deployed yet but some of my shopmates are currently deployed around the world. Maybe my turn will come soon, we’ll see. That’s usually tough because you are separated from your family for the duration of the deployment. Ours are not too bad at 6-9 months down range as we call it.

We have a clinic on base, if you have major surgeries you are referred to the big local hospital outside base. There is a theater, airman’s club, chow hall or mess as the Army calls it for single airmen, a base exchange or mini mall, a commissary for groceries, a shoppette for alcohol, a day care center and other recreation facilities to occupy our time off.

I had my four wisdom teeth removed a couple of months ago. They check them out for everybody and if they think they’ll present a problem in the future, they operate and remove them. It was an interesting recovery when you are allowed to use powerful painkillers like percocet.

The other branches of the military have nicknamed us the ‘Chair Force’ due to our being the ‘soft’ cousins who just sit. We are the ‘Mighty mighty Air Force’ and they are the ‘Groundpounding Army’, ‘Jarhead Marine Corps’, ‘Deck Swabbing Navy’ and the ‘Lazy lazy Coast Guard’..all friendly rivalry.

What do I miss most? Being in a big city like Houston or Nairobi. The town i live in now is small. Luckily I’ve connected with the local cycling club and I do what I love. The mountains and ocean are not far off so my outdoor adventure continues. Can’t wait for the wife to get here so that we can do this together.

Use of the terms Sir/Ma’am when addressing others comes as second nature. I don’t notice it even when I’m in local stores and restaurants off base.

We can use military aircraft to travel around the world space permitting. It’s called Space ‘A’ travel. As long as you are on leave, you can hop on a plane to Europe, Hawaii, South America, Asia or within the US for 20 dollars. Not a bad deal at all. Sometimes it can be on cargo planes or the tanker refuellers or contacted civilian passenger jets. And you get 2 checked in bags too. For Africa though the only place they go to is Djibouti. It’s like a matatu (passenger minibus in Kenya) on military business and you are hopping in for the ride. I’ll use it to sight see in Europe soon.

I’ve had a great time since I joined last year. I don’t regret the decision. Military life is not for everybody especially if you don’t like being told what to do without asking questions..and following a chain of command when reporting.

I love it and I’m the only one in the family who has followed in dad’s shoes. He served in the Kenya Army years ago and is now happily retired. So I’ve always been a military kid growing up in Gilgil watching the paratroopers free falling in their chutes. It was a no brainer when I decided to join. I look forward to going to taking advantage of all the education opportunities at our disposal by going to flying school while I’m still in.