Working on our immigration issue…Five days and counting….

The sun peeked out for a few hours while we were in Manly making our way to the ferry.

When we left the Australian Immigration office in Sydney nine days ago, we were told to watch for the Bridge Visa we’d received via email by the end of the day.  The officer at immigration had given us a phone number to call if we had questions in the interim.  We had many questions when we’d had a difficult time understanding the vague and complicated instructions given to us by the immigration officer who, with the best of intentions, was unsure as to how to handle our case.

Later in the day the email arrived stating we had another appointment at the same office on March 27th at 10 am. That was clear to us.  Thus, we didn’t call the phone number which we’d left on the kitchen table which continued to nag at me.  Should we call?  Or should we wait until our appointment?

Yesterday morning, we decided to call to see if there was anything additional we could do or prepare for the upcoming appointment on Monday.  After waiting on hold for 20 minutes in the queue, finally a friendly rep came on the line.

Sailing on a windy day.

In reviewing our file, she adamently stated we needed to apply for Visitors Visa #600 before our appointment on Monday.  When we asked this same question to the rep at the immigration office “Should we apply for the visa online?” the she wasn’t sure if we should or not, leaving us confused when we left.

Calling might provide us with an answer.  There was no way we wanted to show up on Monday having failed to do something required in this complicated process.  Yesterday, we were relieved we’d called when we were told we better not show up on Monday without having applied online for Visitors Visa #600, a necessary adjunct to our Bridge Visa which was in place for only two weeks (ending on March 27th).

If we didn’t get the Visitors Visa, we’d be in big trouble next Monday when the Bridge Visa expires at midnight.  The phone rep immediately sent us the link to apply for the Visitors Visa. 

An appealing candy kiosk in at the Manly Ferry station.

We each followed the link in the email deciding to complete the form simultaneously on each of our laptops in order to aid one another in ensuring accuracy.  There was no margin for error in this process and lately, as error prone as I had been (you know…wrong day at the opera), following along together made sense.

Before we could even begin the 20 page process, we had to sign up for an online immigration account which required a series of seven or eight security questions. 

Having to deal with answering security questions can be a tricky process.  If an answer is off by only one letter, one number or a single aspect of the answer, it may result in total frustration when trying to recall what was originally intended.  

Manly is a charming beach town with shops, restaurants and water activities.

We didn’t want to make a lengthy handwritten list for each of us.  We’d already written down the complicated passwords including all types of characters, capital and lower case letters and numbers.  You know how that goes.

It ended up taking at least a half hour to getting our individual accounts set up.  As we’ve mentioned, its been very rainy and humid since we arrived.  When we were 10 minutes into this process, I suggested we turn on the air con.  We were both drenched in sweat.  Oh, I don’t like this stuff.

Immediatey Tom turned on the air conditioning.  Besides, we’d done two loads of laundry hanging it indoors on the portable rack making the humidity all the worse in our little apartment. The air con was a welcomed relief.

Yummy looking mounds of interesting flavors of ice cream at the Manly Wharf.

Once we’d established the accounts, we proceeded to begin the 20 page online document.  It was a slow process when we continually received error messages for entering words in unacceptable formats.  We plodded along.

Once we completed page 4 and hit the “continue” button for page 5, we both received an error message, “You cannot continue from this point based on your current status.  Call the immigration office immediately.”  Oh, oh.

We called again, waiting on hold on Skype for another 30 minutes only to be told, when a different rep came on the line after looking up our file, that were not supposed to fill out this form.  We were to wait and see what transpires on Monday. Oh.  She was very kind and apologetic that we were told otherwise.  We asked her to note the conversation in our file which she promptly handled.

After dark this cruise ship headed out to sea from the Sydney Harbour.  Hopefully, that will be us one month from today on April 22nd.

In one way we were relieved to avoid completing the remaining 16 pages but in another way, we were further concerned as to the outcome on Monday.  There was nothing more we could do at this point.

Worse case scenario…we could be told to leave the country immediately and not return for three years, missing our cruise on the April 22nd, forcing us to fly to New Caledonia, book a hotel  for almost a month and wait for the ship to arrive at a port of call three days after the cruise begins and then have to load our bags on a “tender boat.” 

Best case scenario…we’ll get another Bridge Visa, good until April 22nd when we’ll board the ship in Sydney.  There’s another possibility that we’ll have to leave the country, fly to another country and return a day later.  Also, there are possible fines, penalties and circumstances we aren’t aware of at this point which by Monday, we’ll be well informed.

Kookaburra atop the roof of neighboring house.

We’re surprised how we’ve been able to still enjoy our time in Fairlight, Manly and Sydney based on our concern over this situation.  We’ve taken many photos, seen so much and have been out and about reveling in this beautiful area.  Also, we’re still able to laugh and maintain a hopeful and positive perspective. 

After all, the results of this scenario whichever way it goes, won’t cost us more than money, time and inconvenience.  In the realm of things, as we always say, “If we have our health, we’re safe and we have one another, we can handle it.”

So it goes.

May you have good health and be safe with those you love.

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Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2016:



Many farms in New Zealand have ocean views adding another layer of beauty to the scenery.  For more photos, please click here.

A Night at the Opera…Mixed reviews from this couple…

Luna Park at night.

What can I say?  Tom didn’t love it. I didn’t expect him to.  Although, in the past I’d noticed him listening intently when a few opera singers performed on various episodes of “America’s Got Talent.”

Last night, he didn’t express a glimmer of enthusiasm over the performance at the Sydney Opera House other than his pleasure at seeing how much I was enjoying it.  That’s worth something, isn’t it?

Cloudy night at the opera house.

He didn’t grumble or have a scowl on his face nor did he dose off.  It lasted less than two hours during which I was totally engaged and enthralled.  I’ve always loved opera after being introduced to it by my Harvard educated, musical genius, doctor uncle who could sit at his baby grand piano and play any aria from memory.  He left quite an impression.

When it ended, we made our way to Wharf 3 to catch the next Manly Ferry which takes off every 30 minutes.  Little did we know the treat we were about to receive in taking the photos we’ve included today, too many for one post.

Tourists chose the upper deck to take photos as we did.

As we entered the ferry terminal in Circular Quay, Sydney, I suggested we climb the steps to the outdoor upper deck to sit outside to cool off on the humid night.  It was a great plan when we found suitable seating and views that literally left our mouths agape.

Sure, we knew Sydney had a lot to offer.  We’d reveled in it on six past occasions when our cruise ships sailed from the exquisite harbour.  Over the past week on four occasions we visited Sydney, three by taking the ferry.

But, nothing we’d seen earlier could match the perspective from the top of the ferry even on a dark cloudy night after seven cloudy days and nights in a row since our arrival one week ago today.  Thus, we share today’s photos with excitement over this amazing city, in many ways, the most beautiful city we’ve seen so far in our world journey.

The interior of the Joan Sutherland theatre of the Sydney Opera House. 

As for the remainder of the evening’s photos, we took several from the interior and the grounds of the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House which we’ll continue to share in posts to come. 

Having ordered the tickets almost a year ago, we had perfect seats, four rows from the stage, dead set in the middle.  See our photo below taken from our seats.

Our seats were only four rows from the stage and dead center in the theatre which has  seating for 1507.  There are two large theatres and several smaller theatres in the complex. The cost for these two excellent seats was AU $190.15, US $146.50.

No doubt, the theatre is beautiful and interesting.  There are many steps to navigate to get inside the theatre. For those who may have difficulty with stairs there are elevators and a few escalators.  For the full experience, we did the many flights of steps, making our way through tourists who were sitting on the steps as shown in yesterday’s post.

As for the remainder of the day, we’d left the house at 1:30 pm in order to catch the bus arriving at 1:59 pm. We made it to Manly in time for the 2:15 pm ferry.  With the recent inclement weather about 10 minutes of the 25 minute ferry ride was particularly rough but we didn’t give it a thought.

The building of the Sydney Opera House has an interesting story.  Click here for details.

Arriving in Circular Quay, we walked through crowds and commotion to make our way back, the second day in a row after our flub of showing for the opera one day early.  We’d decided to dine early, before the show, since we hadn’t eaten earlier in the day. 

With a 3 pm meal, we’d be set until returning “home” when the evening ended and if hungry, we could have a snack of homemade coconut bread with butter with a small bowl of organic Greek yogurt on the side for me.  (I’ve been taking “big guns” probiotics and eating yogurt twice a day since since my recent two week round of antibiotics).

The Sydney Harbour Bridge after dark.

We’d considered the same restaurant as the prior day since they were able to accommodate my diet.  But, we tried to branch out and try something different.  Shortly, we were seated in a high end Asian fusion restaurant only to discover there wasn’t a single item on the menu that would work for me, except plain steamed veg and chicken which held little appeal.

We thanked the waiter but decided to leave.  I wasn’t sure the pans they’d use would be “gluten, starch and sugar free.”  Why take a risk?  We meandered back down the boulevard checking menus along the way only to discover the only restaurant that would be suitable was the same where we dined the prior day, Searock Grill.

I ordered the same grilled chicken salad and Tom had a steak and chips as opposed to the prior day’s fish and chips.  The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare and was thick and juicy.  We didn’t order beverages.

The Sydney Opera House at night.

What surprised us was the fact that the prices were higher on Sunday than they’d been on Saturday plus a 10% weekend service fee was added.  Then, we recalled mention on the news of increased prices on Sundays due to many workers receiving higher wages on Sundays.

Our bill was AU $41.80, US $32.20, still not to bad for the high end area which surely would have been considerably more in the evening.  The food was good and fresh although yesterday’s service was sketchy. 

With tips not necessarily rendered in Australia due to higher wages than in the US and many countries, we didn’t hesitate to leave the restaurant with nary a token tip left on the table.  While in Australia, we followed suit as per the locals, tipping only for exceptional service. 

View of a small portion of Sydney’s skyline at night.

Once back in the US, we’ll be tipping in the typical US manner, from 15% to 20% of any restaurant bill.  Add state and city taxes and a meal may be as much as 25% to 30% more than the cost of the meal and beverages.  I guess we’ll be heading to Costco for pre-made meals to bring back to our hotel, when not out  dining with family and friends. 

At the end of the ferry ride back to Manly, we crossed the busy street to a taxi stand and grabbed a ride back to our holiday home at a cost of AU $7.40, US $5.70.  Then, in the dark we maneuvered our way up the long steep winding walkway to the house.  Luckily, Tom had his LED flashlight attached to his RFID wallet, lighting the way for the uneven walk up the hill.


View to Circular Quay from an upper deck on the Manly Ferry.

Amid our immigration worries, overall it was a good weekend and first week in Manly.  Unusual for us, we dined out four times; once with Bob in Manly, another in the Rocks area of Sydney with friends Linda and Ken and twice in Circular Quay near the Sydney Opera House.

Today, we’re making a favorite dish and staying put planning this week’s menu.  We’re trying to figure out what we need to purchase to last only through next Sunday night, just in case we have to leave the country for good, as of next Monday’s immigration office meeting.  We shall see.

Be well.  Be safe.  Be happy.

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Photo from one year ago today, March 20, 2016:

One year ago we got a kick out of watching cattle wander back and forth through the barren vineyards Okurukuru Winery in New Zealand.  For more photos of the winery, please click here.