Wifey is here…finally

She finally got here roughly 274 days since we submitted her paperwork. It’s been a long and tedious process. Just like the Air Force, immigration is a “hurry up and wait” kind of a process. Most people wait for much longer than we did so I’m not complaining.

We got the interview confirmation at the end of September for a mid November date. We prepared all the necessary paperwork then went ahead and requested for an earlier date. We put in the request and fortunately it went through.  We got a mid October date. 

The interview went well,  nothing out of the ordinary. Just the regular expected questions normally asked at these interviews. Where did you meet,  ‘how long have you known each other-where was the wedding-proof he pays taxes-kind of questions’. We were still nervous about it before the D-Day.  You never know what to expect from the consular officers. 

Wifey needed to serve her notice at work,  dispose of some of her stuff before making the big move. Luckily for us she got 8,000 pounds worth of personal goods shipment approved by the Air Force. I’m forever grateful for that. We could only use less than 1,000 pounds. Roughly 4,000 kgs is a lot of weight. All electronics were out of question as Kenya uses 240 volts and here it’s 110 volts, most of the furniture too didn’t need to make the trip. She shipped just the necessary stuff as I already have most of the household appliances we need. They ship by sea so the stuff should hopefully get here in 2 months or so. 

That calmed our nerves quite a bit as I would have been forced to pack my 2 suitcases to the max on the recent return trip from Kenya. That wasn’t necessary with the shipping gift.

The month went by really fast, she served her notice at work. I prepared for her arrival here, as I’d been living a bachelor life and you know how guys live. 😆😆..I did my best before she got here. 

The Air Force also sorted out her airfare. I’m grateful to them for taking good care of us despite the long distance involved. 

She arrived this week and I drove the 70 miles from my base town to pick her up.  Finally we get to live together in the same space nearly 17 months after our wedding. 

It’s not been easy being so far apart but we made it work under the circumstances. The biggest challenges in the reunification process are the long wait times with USCIS and the National Visa Center (NVC); and the many processes to navigate between the two agencies. 

We had forgotten to pay the USCIS Immigrant fee which is required to be paid for a green card to be produced. It’s supposed to be paid after the immigrant visa is issued but before travel. We paid it today. Well see how it affects the paperwork. 

If you have any questions about the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative do not hesitate to hit me up. Been there done that. 

Grateful to the Big guy upstairs. Happy holidays. 

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Emergency Leave to Kenya

I lost my mum at the end of October, It’s painful losing a parent. This is especially hard when you are thousands of miles away in another country. I got to see her 6 months ago when I was last in Kenya. I last talked to her 3 weeks before her demise. She was sick and had been admitted to hospital 2 weeks before she passed on.

I was kinda prepared mentally for the unimaginable eventuality but it still hit me hard when I received the news that she was no more.

I informed my leadership at work and they immediately started working to get me out to Kenya as soon as was feasibly possible. My emergency leave was approved immediately. The process of getting clearances to travel was set in motion. All agencies involved were very accommodating given the circumstances. I’m immensely grateful to everyone who made it possible to travel on short notice.

I didn’t travel for a week after it happened as the funeral was set for much later. It was a difficult time being so far away. Friends and colleagues were there for me. Keeping me company and making sure that I wasn’t alone. 

I made the sad trip to Kenya, my wife was waiting for me. Plans were underway for the funeral. Everyone was somehow coping with the loss. It had been a tough month in the family. We lost two aunties and now mum all in a space of a month.

Going to see mum in the morgue was the most difficult thing I’ve done in a long time. I needed closure. I saw her lying there and I thanked God for taking the pain away from her. I cried and mourned for her but I also thanked God for the 75+ years she gave her to be with us.

I made the trip home away from the city and kept dad company before the funeral. It’s much harder for him losing his companion of 54 years. He was holding up well surrounded by family and friends.

The day of the funeral came and the funeral service was touching. Hearing her life relived by all present, seeing family, relatives and friends from all walks of life giving her a worthy sending off brought tears to my eyes.

The funeral went well. We laid her remains to rest as the rains threatened to come down on an early Thursday afternoon in the Kenyan countryside. 

It felt empty afterwards, not having her around the house, not hearing her voice, her cooking and the happiness a mother brings. Her presence will be dearly missed. She’s in a better place now.

I’m still mourning her, it will take a while to fill the void left by her departure but eventually all will be well by God’s grace. I’m grateful for the virtues she instilled in all of us siblings and all who got to know her.

I spent a few days after the funeral with dad. Trying to make sure there would be someone to take care of his daily needs and the day to day running of the home without his better half. 

Soon it was time to head back stateside to work. I’m now back to work but it hasn’t been easy.Hopefully time will heal the wounds.

A big shoutout to family, friends, colleagues and everyone who has supported us through prayer, financially, emotionally and physically during this trying time. A special mention goes to my wife for being by my side throughout this ordeal. 

Thank you for bringing me forth in this world. I’m eternally grateful. Fare thee well mum. 😪😪

Interesting observations about Americans

I’ve been in this beautiful country for slightly over 2 years now and I’ve noticed some things that weren’t very common back in Kenya.

The first is how common buying new cars on credit is. I first noticed this trend when I was in technical school in the bunduz of Texas. Young airmen straight out of high school were buying $ 20,000 cars without a care in the world. That surprised me. Most didn’t have a lot of money or very good credit history but that didn’t stop them. They were getting into a life of debt very early in life. They would be offering rides for gas on base after spending their whole paycheck financing those hot 5 liter engine cars.

The number of car dealerships that were willing to sell to these young airmen surprised me. As I’ve moved to my new base I’ve realized it’s not a young airmen thing but a general culture with the populace. 

There are very many affordable used cars that wouldn’t dent one’s finances that much but I guess I think like a Kenyan who wants to save for a rainy day instead of blowing it all on a 2017 Subaru WRX that will set me back $500-600 a month for years inclusive of comprehensive insurance.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to own a brand new car but you can have a nice car for less and have some change without having to dig yourself deeper into debt.

It’s not uncommon to see people change cars in a short period of time. They just refinance their loans and get the next newer, faster rides and with it becoming financial prisoners of the lending institutions.

Most people swipe credit cards wherever they go but a study I read the other day said a very small population of Americans is capable of raising $1,000 if an emergency arose. 

I guess it’s good having come from a different country with a smaller economy and maybe a different way of doing things.

The other observation is eating out all the time or most of the time. The hospitality industry in this country makes a killing. People have fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not all but the queues you see at fast food joints says a lot about those habits. Dining restaurant’s parking lots are typically full during meal times and especially on the weekends.

I try to avoid the temptations that come with peer pressure. Everyone at work going out for lunch and you head home to make a quick meal. It’s not easy sometimes and it does get expensive when you do the maths. In the end is well worth it.

It’s also unhealthy and this is more evident in my fellow airmen who you see struggle with their physical tests. Bulging waist lines and panting on the track like they are about to collapse. If only they would make changes to their burger and fries choices they’d avoid ‘fat camp’. That’s where they send you if you fail your PT test as we call it. 1.5 mile run, less than 35 inch waist line, 60ish pushups and sit ups is the standard test for the Air Force.

You’d think it would be easy but you’ll be surprised at the number of obese service members.

Those two observations have really stood out since I’ve been in this country.

In other news I’m getting my flying time in and it’s so much fun. I fly twice a week and hopefully should be done with the Private license by early next year.

Hurricane Matthew

We got hit by the hurricane and lived to tell the story. I was without power for 5 days. The city got flooded and some people have lost their homes which are still submerged. Businesses are counting losses. 

I survived on bread, milk and cereals until I got power back. It had been predicted that Florida, Georgia and South Carolina would get hit by the hurricane. Unfortunately North Carolina got the brunt of it all. 60 mph winds took out trees and with it power lines. 

Interstate highways were closed for days, local roads were closed and some are just reopening. It’s going to be a long road to recovery for a lot of people. 

Losing power back in Kenya courtesy of Kenya Power & Lighting Company was a common occurrence whenever it rained. Mostly you’d lose power for a couple of hours but sometimes it’d be for days. Candles, a headlamp and a good attitude did it for me. Luckily the water heater insulation is good enough here and it kept the water hot for a few days before I got power back. 

Hundreds of high water rescues were conducted in the local area and some people unfortunately lost their lives. 

Luckily for the base, most aircraft had been repositioned further inland. Some families on base housing had to be evacuated to the gym for a night. 

A river that runs by the base crested at 29.7 feet, flooding part of the base buildings in that area. Damage to some buildings won’t be known until the water subsides enough for their structural stability to be determined.

It’ll take a while to recover for sure but I’m grateful that I’m safe above everything else. Here are a few pictures of the devastation in the area.

Photos courtesy : sjafb, news Argus cops, Connie Wise Richards

Third Class Medical

I finally got my medical and student pilot certificate today from the Lieutenant Colonel on base who is a certified Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). It’s valid for 5 years. The dream continues.

I went to the local flying school a couple of months ago and got all the information I needed towards starting my Private Pilot License (PPL) certification. You see even with the GI Bill which is the military veteran benefit that attracted me to the Air Force, I still need to have a PPL in order for VA (Veteran Affairs) to pay for my flight training.

The nice lady at the airport informed me a doctor on base does aviation exams at no cost. I called up the hospital and they just took me around in circles and finally told me the aviation doctor only does renewals for those renewing medical certificates. 

School was starting around the same time so I got busy with classes and school work and relegated the medical to the back burner.

Until last week when it hit me that I needed to get going with that PPL. I called the flying school and spoke to the main boss. Surprise, surprise..I was misled by the hospital..they do 3rd class medicals on base after all..what the..she even have me the name of the only Colonel on base who does them for military pilots here. I was in luck.

Third Class is for pilot students, second class for commercial pilots carrying under 19 passengers and first class is for airline transport pilot license.

I called the flight medicine department early this week and voila..got a quick appointment. I only had to do my Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) medical pre application, get a confirmation number and do a urinalysis before then. I downed a liter of water and headed to the hospital lab immediately. I gave a urine sample and was on my way.

I reported early for my medical. Waited for a bit and was sent for a hearing test. I’ve done a couple before but this one felt extra long..luckily I passed with flying colors..you missed the joke? 😝😝..Aah.

Next I did the visual test..reading those tiny letters and numbers while head butting this microscope looking thing. Done. Next was a color test. It was kinda challenging that one..the faded letters in blue, green and purple on faded background did not help. I passed though.

The doctor did a physical..the-breathe-in-breath-out routine, joint reflex, eye exam, questions and finally getting all the info to FAA online.

He gave me the low down. The certificate must be on my person anytime I’m flying or else..

He gave me two original copies. If I  lose them I have to apply to FAA in Oklahoma City for a replacement which takes a while..and finally no copies allowed. Only originals with a wet signature. 

Wished me luck in my flying career and I was on my way..the journey of a thousand miles has started with the first step or maybe the second step. I’m enrolled in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University already.

Next get the PPL show in the air..buckle up for the long journey ahead.

Your dreams are valid..keep keeping your body, mind and soul on them.✈✈✈

In other news, I drove to a national park hours away on the long labor day weekend a couple of weeks back. Here are a few pictures from that roadtrip.

North East US

The wait is nearly over..key word ‘nearly’. The cogs are moving slowly to the beat of government red tape. A week at a time. The process to get the missus here is getting somewhere. We are waiting for an interview date at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. It’s gone much faster than we’d been told. 4 weeks instead of 6. Not bad.

The case is complete now. They’ve reviewed all the paperwork we sent them and they are satisfied to let us proceed to the next ‘hurry up and wait’ process.

We are waiting for interview scheduling at the embassy level to open up. In the meantime I’m grateful that the missus has a visitors B1/B2 visa to visit. She was visiting for a couple of weeks. It was the first time she was visiting my East coast pad. Summer is coming to an end but she got a taste of temperatures exceeding 90 degrees fahrenheit (32C) with 100% humidity. It wasn’t pretty but hail air conditioning. I’m ok here. Houston was much worse heat wise.

The wife visited, got the house in order..literally. You know when a dude lives alone. The house turns into a bachelor’s pad. I hope I can maintain it while she’s gone.

We planned on checking out Europe on the short break but that didn’t work out as we’d anticipated. Plan B kicked in. We headed to New York City first. It’s a huuuuge expensive city. It’s landmarks are legendary but oh my that life isn’t for everyone. From crazy traffic jams ( no wonder majority of New Yorkians don’t drive) to dilapidated subway system to human traffic in downtown Manhattan..It was a hot mess. Missus was excited to be heading to the big Apple but after a couple of hours, you could tell she wasn’t amused. We checked out the George Washington bridge, 911 memorial, Times Square, Hudson River, Broadway and a few other landmarks before we had to head up north east. The New Jersey turnpike to get across the Hudson river and head towards Connecticut cost $15 one way. What the..

We headed towards Rhode Island, crazy traffic on the only artery connecting that part of the world..I-95. We went through Rhode Island, continued to Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. 

We had great Mediterranean food in Portland, Maine..Iraqi’s who’ve settled there have brought with them all the middle eastern flavour. Samosas, Falafels, spicy meats and rice..finger licking stuff.

We then headed north west to Maine. A mountainous, beautiful and scenic state. I loved it. You could tell that during winter it becomes a ski state of sorts. Snow mobiles and cabins everywhere. We went into Burlington and I got to see my basic training comrade who lives and works there. 

We even made made it into Canada via a border crossing north of Burlington albeit for a short time. Missus had a Kenyan passport and didn’t have a visa so we couldn’t enjoy some Canadian hospitality. Had to turn back almost immediately. Will be back sometime.

Our plan was to head across to Niagara falls but the Audi started acting up and wouldn’t start in the mornings..Arghhhh. It was so frustrating and we spent many hours at auto garage in upstate Syracuse, New York.

We couldn’t risk it and decided to head home. Disappointed but it was a great road trip through 13 states. Will be back to that part of the world soon.

Got to watch some Olympics too and it was interesting to see some random sports like horses dancing to some music. Kenya kicked ass as always in track and field. Finishing only second to my adopted home the US.

Wife is back in Kenya as we await the next stage of this process called family reunification..Soon and very soon.

Pics from the trip.

Hurry up and wait

That seems to be the motto adopted by the National Visa Center (NVC) whom I’m dealing with currently for wifey’s paperwork. The go-ahead came after the Affidavit of Support (AOS) and Immigrant Visa (IV) fee posted. The next step was filing out DS 260 which in long means Application for Immigrant Visa & Alien Registration. 

To call it a long form is an understatement..it’s looooong and its online. You need a steady internet connection to finish filing it and a ton of information ready. For example, residential addresses since the age of 16..wow.each.and.Every.one.of.them.

It took me a minute to compete. I submitted that in and  only then could I proceed to the next step.

Affidavit of Support(AOS) was the next order of business. It’s basically the “don’t ask the government for assistance to help take care of your spouse/family” pledge. You collect all the tax paperwork for the last 3 years or so. I haven’t been here that long but I’ve been paying my taxes. I did collect all the paperwork. 

Then to the next one..supporting documents. Anything that proves that your relationship is legit. Pictures together, marriage certificate, phone call logs, whatsapp message log, birth certificate, affidavits from peeps who know you well, wedding pictures, police certificates from every country you’ve resided in since age 16. Good thing was the Kenyan one wasn’t hard to get but missus lived in South Africa for 4 years for school. We have to send in the finger prints to the South African Police (SAP) down in Pretoria and wait for God-knows-how-long. So I wrote a letter requesting a waiver to bring it to the interview in Nairobi. Will see what they say.

Lastly I arranged everything into one package and sent it out to them.

Guess what..more wait time. Six weeks for them to go through all the paperwork and then get back to us. Now to wait some more.

In other news I took a trip to Washington DC from my neck of woods to plane watch..yes, to plane watch. I had great time up there and even managed to check out a few attractions while I was there and saw the July 4th Independence day parade. The famed fireworks did not live up to expectations as the cloud cover was too low. Here are a few pics from that trip..Ooh and got to have some tasty fish and Ugali(Kenyan corn bread/dough) up in Swahili village in Laurel, Maryland..Great stuff.