Recently our Tajik visas expired. Since we still have a few months left in Dushanbe, we had to get new visas. When we had to extend our visas the previous two times (yes, I will have three Tajik visas in my passport. How many Tajik visas do you have in your passport?? All the glamorous places I get to visit...), we handed the forms to HR and they submitted them to the Tajik government. Evidently the procedure has changed because this time I had the pleasure of submitting them all online.
The procedure goes something like this: fill in about twenty-five drop-down boxes. Every two boxes causes more boxes to appear, and fill in those too. Go to the next window and fill in all of the relevant information by hand. Then, after that is done, upload about fifteen different documents that you had to scan (some will get randomly rejected because they are too big, even though they are the same size as everything else). Then you're done!
That doesn't sound too bad, does it?
Now try doing it eight times. By the end you will be ready to drop-kick the computer out the window. I promise.
This is what my life is filled with - forms times eight. When we flew to Dubai, we purchased one-way tickets on two different airlines. This means that I got to fill out names, birthdays, gender, country of citizenship, phone numbers, and passport information for eight people, twice. And, as an added bonus I got to do it all over again when my credit card didn't go through.
Let's talk about doctor visits. The last time I took the children to the dentist I spent almost the entire visit filling out forms. And because we seem to use a different dentist every time we go back to the States, I get to do this every single time. With every single provider - eye doctor, pediatrician, specialists, you name it. I wish they had universal forms that I could just keep a big old stack of and hand out like candy. This past year I finally managed to memorize our insurance ID numbers and then they changed providers on us in January. Sigh.
Every time we book tickets with the travel office I get to write down everyone's birthdays and United Mileage plus numbers. After awhile I got smart, and just saved them to a document so I can copy and paste them.
I don't want to even think about renewing our diplomatic passports next year. Last time Brandon and I split the forms up and we raced. I beat him by three forms. Amateur.
My favorite is when the forms don't have enough spaces to list all of the family members. I've used various methods in the past - write names in the margins, write them on the back, staple another sheet - but have settled on squeezing two names in one box. Who is this male/female Joseph Henderson Sherwood Eleanor Sherwood who was born in two different years???
Sometimes I get the names and birthdays mixed up - was Sophia or Eleanor born the 18th? - and then have to start all over again. But I'm in good company because Kathleen's most recent Tajik visa has Sophia's picture on it and Sophia's has no picture at all. After awhile one little blonde girl does look a lot like another and there are just so many of them! I guess the passport agents in the Dushanbe airport figure they're all probably ours because who voluntarily smuggles six children into Tajikistan??
It's also fun keeping track of the documentation that comes with eight people. Our family has gotten so large that we can no longer purchase tickets under one record locator - evidently the limit is six people and we blew past that almost four years ago. So when we show up to check in at the airport and hand over the reams of documentation (I always print double sided to save a forest or two), we always have to explain to the very confused agents why only some of the people are listed. Theoretically having eight people means that we can take sixteen bags when we fly, but I've never been brave enough to attempt it. I'm not sure how we'd get that many bags to the airport. Rent a U-Haul?
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to pull out the Chunk of Passports. Have you ever seen a stack of eight passports? How about one that has sixteen passports? I feel like an elite member of the world-traveler class when I pull out that stack and then watch the passport control agent's eyes widen in shock and awe. It was almost birthing six children just to get that reaction. Almost.
I suppose I should be proud of my elite status form-filling and document-managing skills, but I'm not quite sure how useful they'll be when my household eventually gets back down to manageable size (not that it will happen for awhile yet). Maybe I can volunteer my services somewhere. I'm sure someone has need of a woman who can wield a pen like a master.