Tracing Roots, Chasing a Dream

I’m now sitting in the Prague Airport waiting to catch a flight to London to sit through DevelopMentor’s week-long course, Guerilla Essential .Net 2.0. I haven’t got much time before the plane boards, but I thought I would take the opportunity at least to start this blog, seeing it’s been a couple weeks since my last post and a lot has happened since then.

First of all, we just returned from a week-long visit to Zuzana’s family in the middle of Slovakia. Her parents live in what is probably the third largest city in Slovakia (next to Bratislava and KoÅ¡ice), called Banska Bystrica. That said, its population is less than 300,000 (the size of a small suburb in Los Angeles), and it retains quite a bit of old fashioned charm, with many of the blocks of flats painted in bright colors.

The purpose of our trip was two-fold: First, to spend some time with Zuzana’s family – our failure to visit them during our first month in the country was taken as a major offense and required some damage control. Second, to overcome some bureaucratic obstacles for obtaining permission for me to stay in Slovakia for more than a couple months without a visa.

The family visit was a big hit, with Kerrigan the undisputed star of the show. Zuzana’s parents flew to California back in November and spent the first month of Keri’s life with us, so they were anxious to see him in person once again (although our photos on the web helped placate their yearning for a short while). After a few days, we headed off for a visit with Zuzana’s grandmother, Maria, in a small village called Vel ice (literally, “Wolf Town”). Again, Kerrigan, with his irrepressible charm, was a smash hit, not only with his great grandmother (now promoted from “Stara Mama” to “Babka”), both also with his great aunt, Valika, and second cousin, Janka, who drove down from Nitra to see us.

After two days of playing with Keri and talking about everything under the sun (I mostly listened), we headed back to Bystrica, with a one hour stopover in Sklene to visit an Oasis of Koinonia John the Baptist, where about a dozen consecrates live and our good friend Vladko is pastor. Kerrigan, once again, stole the show. I was amazed to watch one little boy (he seems too big to call him a baby) reduce a whole crowd of people to bursts of laughter with his ear-to-ear grin and effervescent babbling.

The other objective of our trip to Zuzana’s old stomping grounds was to push through my residence application. American citizens don’t require a visa to stay in Slovakia for a couple months, but to stay for longer periods requires a residence permit. Of course, being married to a Slovak citizen certainly helps, but I still had to file an application and submit all sorts of documents, such as a medical report stating I am free of communicable diseases, and criminal reports from both Slovakia and America stating I’m not a criminal on the run. In addition, I had to write a letter and have it notarized stating I would not burden the Slovak social system, and both Zuzana and her parents had to write letters sponsoring my application. The one hitch in the whole process was a new requirement from the Slovak government (starting in May) that all documents from foreign governmental agencies require a special seal, called an Apostille, allowing that document to be recognized by countries that signed a treaty from the 1964 Hague convention. We had obtained the Apostille from the California Secretary of State for our U.S. marriage certificate, but back in April, when I filled the application at the Slovak Consulate in Los Angeles, there was no requirement that the FBI report have an Apostille.

Long story short, the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava had advised me to send my FBI report to the Authentications Office of the U.S. State Department in Washington DC, to have them issue the Apostille. Well, it turns out I was the first person to face this situation, and the Embassy gave me the wrong instructions. After about a month, my FBI report returned without the Apostille. To make matters worse, my application had a deadline of June 15th, and even with an extension I would not have enough time to re-send the report back to America. So on the advice of the consulate in L.A., I obtained a letter from the FBI saying they don’t do Apostilles. Armed with the letter, I turned in the FBI report and held my breath. Thankfully, the authorities reviewing the application accepted the report and granted me the residence permit. Whew!

So that leads me back to where I started this post, on a plane bound for London. Seeing as I’ve rambled on a bit longer that I had intended, I’ll defer writing about this trip to my next post. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.

About Tony Sneed

Married with three children.
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