Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Story of Us

26 hours of flight for the first time in his life! 

My husband and I made a promise that one day, we would share our story of love, sacrifices and faith. We hoped that this story would be an inspiration and source of strength to those who have waited and are continuously waiting for the love of their life. Ours is not a conventional love story and there’s definitely nothing conventional surpassing the difficulty of being far from each other for more than 700 days, dealing with more or less 4,800 hours of phone/video calls, exchanging about 18,000 messages, and completing countless paper works.

The Beginning 

February 2015 when David did the unthinkable. He flew for 26 hours to marry me. That was his first flight ever at the age of 42! Five days after our wedding, my husband left me in Jakarta so I could finish my job contract. April 2015 when he filed for my petition and we were optimistic that the processing of my papers would be completed by the time my working visa expired. But, things didn’t work out the way we planned it. After a few months of waiting, I signed one-year contract in another school reconciled with the knowledge that it would take longer than what we were hoping for.

Wedding reception at Kristal Hotel in Jakarta. 

We only booked this hotel the night before our wedding. 

It took about seven months before my husband was able to visit again in Jakarta. That was October 2015 and there was still no update of my papers and we were starting to worry. On the second morning of his visit, I checked my email and read the good news. The petition was approved! We hugged each other teary-eyed thinking that the end was finally in sight. Or so we thought. The approval was just actually the start of an even longer journey of completing all the papers to be submitted to another government agency, the National Visa Center.

Keeping the Faith

After dealing with US embassy and Philippine embassy in Jakarta, government of Indonesia, and different US agencies, we finally submitted all the documents (about 200 pages in all) by March 2016. However, when we were finally notified after 60 days, I was informed that I needed to submit more papers.

My husband's third visit in Jakarta during my birthday. 

Though I was scared with the delay, my husband was confident my schedule for interview would be soon. End of the school year was fast approaching and there was still nothing or confirmation that all my documents were approved. June 2016 when my contract ended. Thankfully, I was given grace period to extend the use of my visa until I finished my interview in the US embassy.

May 28, 2016 celebrating my birthday after 26 hours of flight. 

Dealing with more Setbacks
First week of September when I had my interview. My medical result was perfect and contrary to what I braced myself for, the questions were fairly easy to answer and the Consular officer was actually so kind and obviously convinced our relationship was genuine. However, more papers were requested and she assured me that it was normally required from immigrants. When she told me it would take another 2-3 weeks to process it, I was simply flabbergasted. My husband was equally dumbfounded but he continued to show positive disposition amidst the setbacks we were going through.

Since the papers would be coming back from my husband, that alone would entail another 2-3 weeks to process. There was no way I could stay that long in Jakarta without my visa. We decided that I would wait in the Philippines and my friends in Jakarta would continue the needed processing. September 17, 2016 when I left Jakarta convinced that I wouldn’t need to go back since I didn’t need to appear again in US embassy.

With people close to my heart during my flight going back to the Philippines. 

With my friends in Jakarta who helped me in so many ways. 

For more than two months after my job contract ended, we waited anxiously for the schedule of my interview. I got busy trying to comply with the vaccines required. One night while burning with fever and swollen arms because of the vaccine, I was told by the agency that I needed to pay the apartment for one year or they would not renew my contract for the current month. I only needed 1-2 months so my friend and I tried looking for a new one but almost all agencies preferred to rent their apartments for one year. Thankfully, I have good friends who invited me to stay with them while I was waiting for my interview. I packed all my things by myself in one day with swollen arms and broken spirit.

During the course of the waiting, my husband and I tried to be strong and put our faith that everything would be alright. We lost count of the times we were asked what was taking so long. He got teased that I’m just his imaginary wife and I got incredulous look for resigning with my job uncertain when I would finally be able to leave Jakarta.

Faith Amidst Adversity
It was only when we’re on the phone talking that we get comfort with the love we have for each other. We continued doing what we have started since we got married and that’s reading Daily Bread. He would also patiently read to me, ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, and I would read to him Bible verses. It did not totally vanish the frustrations, the longing, and sometimes the helplessness that we were going through, but, it helped us day by day as we continued to hope that our waiting would be over soon.

When I received the schedule for my interview, I just couldn’t wait for it to be over with. It was almost August and I had no job since June bringing me on the brink of madness. Finally, I had the schedule of my medical prior with my interview. The night before my doctor’s appointment, I knew I was not in shape to have it. I was not feeling so well and I was having on and off fever. But, canceling it was out of the question since I needed to bring the medical papers for the interview.

While waiting for the result, my husband and I would end up crying while we were talking so overwhelmed with frustrations and helplessness. I knew he was trying to comfort me but he was so despondent as well with all the anxiety of delays.

When I left, my husband already sent the needed documents. I had no idea if our love was really being tested but what were the odds that the documents would be lost? The tracking number was proven to be useless because all they could tell us was it’s probably being held in Jakarta customs. I was in the Philippines with no way to personally follow-up but, thanks to some friends who called several offices to track the documents. Meanwhile, my husband and I decided to fill-up new documents and again, he needed to make a pile of endless paper works as supporting documents. This with the help of friends who patiently stayed by his side while we were going through that difficult moment.

Lost in the Dark
While waiting, I knew that my husband who prided himself for his strength and faith, was starting to crumble in pieces. He refused to go out except for work and even excused himself from going to church. We would find ourselves both in tears while talking, scared that we might need to wait longer or worst start the process all over again. The last papers required would be the defining moment if my case would be approved.

Light after the Dark On October 4, the document was submitted by my friends in the US embassy and on the same day he sent it, the first one sent by my husband which was lost in Jakarta customs was finally delivered as well. During that time, my husband was almost constantly sick and feeling nauseous and we would usually end our time talking on the phone in tears. I was too scared to check the status of my visa but on October 9, I finally did. The status says that my visa was issued and printed on October 7.

Well, we were hoping that there would be no more glitches but I think we celebrated so soon. My passport was picked up by a friend on October 18 because he was out of town and the working visa of the other one I authorized was currently being processed. My husband was so excited that he got a pumpkin and was even more excited that he was already planning to visit haunted houses just in time for Halloween. He was so sure that I would be there by October 25.

I followed closely my document using the tracking number. I was expecting it to be delivered by October 21 since it stated 3-4 business days. On the day that I was hoping it would come, I saw in the tracking site that the expected delivery was October 28. However, by 4 p.m. on October 21, DHL delivered my documents. The previously stated expected delivery date was a system error. I was so happy but another unexpected thing happened.

My passport number printed on my visa was wrong. I started asking my friends who were also issued US visa. They were all convincing me it was impossible that they would have a mistake in a US visa. But, there was this nagging feeling inside me something was wrong with my visa and I knew there would be a problem in the immigration if it’s not corrected. When my husband learned about it, he suddenly became so quiet and before I knew it, he was crying. We have waited for so long and my visa had a mistake! The pumpkin and my husband needed to wait yet again.

Back to Jakarta
Upon contacting US embassy in Jakarta, I flew back there on October 30. I arrived 2 a.m. of October 31, returned my passport the same day in the embassy at 1 p.m. then claimed it the next day. Again, what were the odds that it would be raining so hard on that day that I needed to tread in an ankle-deep flood water in front of the embassy? I needed to wrap my immigrant visa packet and passport in plastic bag, then bought a disposable plastic coat just to protect all the documents while I was walking on a knee-high flood water!

My husband couldn’t book yet my ticket because I needed to make sure that I didn’t need to attend the seminar similar to the one they offer in the Philippines for immigrants. There was a huge demonstration with thousands of protesters set on Friday that week in Jakarta and there was news of it getting out of hand so my husband was insistent that I needed to fly out of Jakarta before Friday.

Finally, on November 2, we knew for sure that my husband could book my ticket without a problem. If I wanted to be out of Jakarta by Friday to avoid the rally, I needed to leave the following day. I started packing again my things hoping that by the time I woke up, my flight would be booked. At 1:00 a.m. on November 3, my husband called me and told me that tickets were almost triple the price and I needed to try booking it online. I checked and immediately booked one. I told my husband I did it and my flight would be at 5:00 p.m. the same day. After a few minutes, I received an email informing me that my ticket has been cancelled. With shaking hands, I asked him to check if they charged the money to his debit card. They did. So many calls to the company afterwards which boiled down to more waiting, my husband told me to get some sleep. No assurance when he would be able to get the money back or find another flight. That was around 3:00 a.m. and I fell back to sleep with tears in my eyes.

Reunited with my husband at Chicago airport. 

Dreams do come true. :) 

A heart filled with joy that we're finally together. 

At Chicago with Stacy, one of our friends who helped us. 

Finally, first time in Michigan which will be my new home. 

Our journey was definitely not the bed of roses nor was it devoid of hopelessness, pain and disappointments. But, everything that we went through taught us a great lesson about sacrifice and faith in the name of love. It was also the time of realization for us that though we couldn’t be strong at all times, we could always lean on each other for strength. We learned to assure each other that whatever happens, our love would sustain us. It’s easy to utter the words, “I love you,” when everything is smooth sailing. But, when faced with adversities in life, that’s the time that the authenticity of a relationship is truly tested.

I woke up with a heavy heart around 7:00 a.m. No calls from my husband. When I finally called him, he didn’t even want to call back the company and follow-up. He sounded so down but I finally convinced him to call and inquire about the status of my flight. While he was on the phone, I checked my email and there was nothing. I opened my booking account and there it was, my confirmed flight itinerary.

The rest is history as they say. The same day I had my flight booked, I flew to Chicago to be reunited with my husband.

First Christmas together after three Christmases away from each other. 

Our love is to infinity and beyond. 

Our relationship is far from perfect, but, there was never a time when we were facing so many obstacles that we said we’re giving up. There were tears and disappointments, so many times with pain and sadness, but there were also constant reassurances of, “I’m not giving up on you. Ever.”

And so that’s our story. A story of love, sacrifices and faith.

(Our heartfelt thanks to the people who made this journey possible: Mrs. Chitra and family, Sir JB, Topz and Myrna, Jun and Weng, Marjorie, Ms. Dina, Ms. Lian, Teacher Ana and Sir Kiko, Mitos and Perry, Ms. Shida, Ms. Marie, Mr. Akbar, Stacy and Chris, Uncle Fred, Dad, Casey and Jess, and to the rest of our dear family and friends whom we would be greatly indebted for the rest of our lives.)


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