My alarm cruelly brought me back to reality and I throw my stuff in my bag and headed downstairs. It was 4:40. I had reserved a cab for 4:45 am.
4:45, a beggar asks me for change, still no cab. I call the company and the dispatcher says the driver is on his way.
5:10, I call again and the dispatcher gives me the same message.
5:45, finally the driver shows up. I’m guessing he was celebrating last night by the smell of his breath.
I took the $30 cab ride to the USCIS office and found it to be not yet opened. Strangely, there was no line. There was a sign mentioning that online reservations were necessary for all appointments… great. I went on my phone to try to get an appointment, but they were full until tomorrow. Then a security guard came by and shook his hand at me and communicated that the office was closed. I checked with a few other people who all gave me the same message. “Three Kings, closed!”
Of course it’s closed! Only a tourist would line up at 6 am on Three Kings!
Now what? Well, I could go to St. Thomas anyway since the US Virgin Islands is a US territory and I wouldn’t need a visa. So I booked my flight and headed to the airport.
I was to fly on a Cape Air 8 seater Cessna 402 to the nearby islands. The plane is much more sensitive to winds and movement, but flew at a low altitude so I could see the beautiful island scenery below.
Landing, I picked up my luggage from the luggage belt, though I could have just grabbed it from the wing where it was stored. I went outside and waited for my pick up, which came in the form of scooters.
I reunited with the group for a quick chat before grabbing a scooter and heading off to the USCIS center in hopes that it was 1. open for business and 2. able to help me secure what I needed so that I could board the cruise.
In the government center, I found several offices closed and was told by several people that the USCIS was closed for Three Kings… this was not looking good. I eventually located the correct office and to my surprise found it OPEN!
Walking in the security guard asked me if I had an appointment. Of course I did not and when I tried to make one from the kiosk, the system was pulling up the appointment I made in Puerto Rico and wouldn’t let me make a new one. I guess not too many people take a plane to another island to find an open office. I eventually convinced the security guard to have a look at the system that didn’t let me make a new appointment after trying three times under his supervision. He sauntered over and tried it himself with the same result. Then he noticed my scooter was parked in the lot, which apparently was a federal offense. He was kind enough to only sternly warn me to move the scooter, which I did in a matter of minutes.
With much pleading, the guard eventually took my case inside and spoke with someone who granted me an opportunity to come and plead my case.
I went through the metal detector and sat in the waiting room for them to call my name. It was around 10:30 am.
Eventually a lady at a window called me up and I explained my situation and the urgency of needing the documentation in order to catch a cruise.
For the simple process of confirming my identity by my passport picture, she took my passport and looked at my photograph, then shifted her eyes to me. I looked at her and gave an awkward smile. She looked back at the picture, then back at me. Then told me to “stand up straight”! As if my posture really affected the way my face looked… I straightened my back and stood at attention like a soldier, arms at my side. This seemed to satisfy her and she grumbled and gave a slight nod. Every other step was just as painful.
Long story short, after she made me jump through hoops and beg her for something that is in no way an extraordinary request, she eventually begrudgingly gave me the documentation I needed. Success! I was going to board the Victory today!
I left the USCIS at around 4 pm with a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and happily rode to meet up with the group.
My group was waiting for me at Magens Bay, a popular tourist beach. The ride from the south of the island to the north offered some excellent views from the top of the mountain and some difficult turns to handle on a scooter.
On arrival I paid the park’s $4 entrance fee ($2 for locals) and found the group. They were enjoying the white sandy beach and bird watching. They were all much relieved to know I figured everything out and could join in on the cruise. Disaster averted!
After a brief moment of relaxation, we were on the scooters and tourist buses back to the ship! I checked in without an issue and made it to my room.
We had a nice dinner together and I recounted the struggle of getting my paperwork in order. Everyone had a good laugh and the episode was now something in the past.