January 2012 – I wasn’t sure what to do with my career this Year of the Dragon. (Do I have a career, in the first place?) I was desperate for a long break, a w a y (awaaaaay, awaaaaaaaay, awaaaaaaaay) from it all. If not, then there’s no telling what could have happened – ah…tattoo???
Feb 8 – I dialed my soul sister Cashmer’s number. She is currently based in Singapore. I told her that I need to visit her again for some serious soul searching. She invited me to go with her to Paris, instead. I didn’t sleep well that night. I always wanted to go to Paris, but I never had a timeline for it.
Feb 9 – I sent a note to Cashmer. Bonjour! We’re going to Paris. Ang dali ko kausap! =)
Feb 13 – I dialed the French Embassy hotline. I wasn’t surprised that a guy with a thick nasal accent would pick up the phone, and greet me with ‘Bonjour! (Bon shouw!). I read in some travel web fora that the Filipinos who are working in the French Embassy have this kind of ‘air‘ – as if they are superior beings, and they do speak English with a French accent. I was prepared to engage at that ‘level of conversation’ . I simply stated what I needed in straight, firm words – English, without the slightest attempt to sound French.
Though, I had one ‘laglag-panga’ (jaw-dropping) moment, when towards the end of our conversation, the guy suddenly spoke in plain Tagalog. All the while I thought I was talking to a mean French guy (na medyo ‘gwapo’ man lang sa isip ko, yun na nga lang, eh!).
Me: Is your calendar still open for an appointment either on March 13 or 14? I plan to leave on April 21.
Officer : (akala ko French, tapos bigla nag-Tagalog, at parang may kaaway lang) Ay wala na! 5 days lang naman ang visa. Sa March 29 kita ilalagay. 8AM! (at binababa ang telepono ng walang ni ha, ni ho).
It was enough for me to say that by the way he responded, he is not our best role model for customer service. I didn’t waste time trying to make myself angry with the level of service I got (wala ako panahon galitin ang sarili ko). Just to be in the safe side, I opted to send a short email to the Embassy to confirm the schedule, and in 2 hours, they sent me a very straight-forward message: “Confirmed.” (Prompt and in plain English.)
Starting April 10, 2012, requests for visa appointment must be coursed through their hotlines. Though, there’s a tradeoff in terms of cost. With the high call rates, which is close to the current Peso-to-Euro exchange rate, I’m under the impression that the service would have improved this time around. The numbers to dial, plus the call rates are posted in my previous blog entry. Here’s the link: https://meowthmoments.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/schengen-visa-application-for-pinoy-tourists/
I initially requested for the interview be conducted on March 13 or 14, but the earliest schedule given was March 29. The volume of visa application has probably gone up. Take note of the period of application, as well – tourism activity in Europe peaks during spring and summer seasons. To avoid unnecessary stress, it is advisable for you to set an appointment, at least 3 months before your planned date of entry. The buffer could give you enough time to prepare the required documents – it’s a tedious process, especially for busy folks. Complete and consistent supporting documents could mean a ‘quick and painless’ interview.
C’est tout pour aujourd’hui! (Tha’ts all for now!) =)