This will be my City, State and ZIP code for the period of 21-28 July, or should I say July 21-28.
This afternoon, I went to the US Embassy to pick up my passport duly affixed with a US visa. It was the last step of the procedural process of applying for a visa. If you want to know how it's done, go here. It's not so difficult, but there's a lot of things to do. First, I had to get a haircut and get a photo of myself specially for the US visa, following strict specifications -- 2" x 2" on white background. I had to renew my Malaysian passport because I had less than 6 months of validity -- I used the KiPPas kiosk system at the Malaysian Immigration Dept at Pusat Bandar Damansara, which is surprisingly easy and fast coz I got the new passport within 3 hours. I had to make online hotel reservations because Uncle Sam wants to know where I'll be bunking in. I had to go to RHB Bank to pay the application fee -- that was easy, it took only 5 minutes. Then I had to fill in the Electronic Visa Application Form (EVAF) DS-156 and Supplementary Form DS-157 in which they asked me whether I had training in nuclear or biological warfare. I had to print out the forms and glue my photo on it. Then I had to make an appointment via the website for an interview by embassy officers. Then I had to show up and queue to get into the embassy compounds. And then queue to get my interview. And finally the interview lasted all of 2 minutes. The friendly officer asked me 3 questions. She didn't even ask to see my supporting documents that I had compiled with help from my company admin dept. In all, it took one week to do everything to get the visa.
So I'm going to Atlanta, Georgia, USA for what? To attend a workshop on Water Quality Analysis Simulation Program (WASP7.2) by the US Environmental Protection Agency. WASP is a water quality modeling program to simulate water quality in estuaries, that much I know. So I'm gonna learn a thing or two from the sifus. A lot of hydrodynamics and environmental chemistry to cover in 5 days! Need to reactivate my brain before I go.
Atlanta is the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. I would like to visit his tomb and the Ebenezer Baptist Church that he pastored with his dad. Atlanta is the HQ of Coca-Cola -- in fact, it's where Coca-Cola was invented. It's also the HQ of CNN. It's got the largest aquarium in the world. My brother says it's got a good jazz heritage. So maybe I'll catch a jazz session at the aquarium on Friday night. Atlanta was the host of the 1996 Olympic Games. I hope to walk around the city after hours. Maybe take a ride on the MARTA, i.e. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority trains. The summer sun sets late, so that's good.
It's summer there, so I'm wondering what to pack. My colleague says to pack a suit. I'm like, what? I need to figure out what those USEPA guys wear to training workshops. My brother says it is hot. He also said it's a predominantly black area, so I'm gonna feel very small and puny around the 6' 6" hunks with ripping biceps and abs.
Oh yea, a coincidence. My sister-in-law will be flying back on the same flight as me from LA to KL. She's flying in from somewhere near Boston and connecting to the same flight. So I'll have some company. I hope they show some nice movies, like Die Hard 4.0. I also hope there's some nice sunsets or sunrises at 39,000 feet up.
I haven't set foot in the USA since my family and I left Chicago in 1987 after a good 1.5 years there. This will be some sort of walk down memory lane, though things would have definitely changed a lot.