When you work freelance plans are never easily made. Personal plans and travel plans are always placed on hold. Because you always hope that something will come up. A casting, an audition or maybe just, something that pays. Inevitably what happens is after eventually deciding to make a plan the night before you get an email from your agent and you end up cancelling on the last minute. Its an actors way of life.
And so after a meeting with a corporate to see if I would work for their show (who I cannot and will not name in the hope of being hired again) I got a phone call from my husband, quite literally as I got into my car to go back home:
“I have to go to Belgium for work. And you can come with”
Insert Friday evening date that my husband wanted us to leave
“And that way we get an extra weekend in Europe.”
Unfortunately the Friday my husband wanted to leave was the weekend of performances for the corporate I had just met with. Of course.
After one meet to see if I fitted the requirements all I knew was the rehearsal and performance dates, and that I fitted the requirements. And if of course, the “we’ll let you know” thing. I decided honesty was the best policy. And after settling on a minimal amount that I would do the contract for I phoned my contact at the company:
“I am not sure if you are planning on using me, but I just found out that I have an opportunity to go to Europe. So if you could let me know if you in fact want to use me, and what the contract details are so that I can decide about the opportunity I would really appreciate it. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, and would like to let all parties know as soon as possible”
And then I waited. That evening I received a phone call. They wanted to use me and they were offering double the minimum we were going for. The decision was made, and I would be doing the contract. That left the trip to Europe. My husband wiggled the dates, and we would be flying on separate flights. As his work would be paying for his flight, and we would be paying for mine I was on a much cheaper flight, and it was also later in the evening. Which we desperately needed as I would be working until about 4 on Sunday afternoon.
Which meant that on Sunday, after performing and dancing the whole day I would basically be going to straight to the airport stopping only for a quick shower. My packed luggage and carry-on bag was standing ready by the front door when I left my house that morning already.
After performing I stopped at home where my brother was already waiting for me as my husband was already checking in for his flight. I showered in record time (for my sake as much as the people who would be stuck sitting next to me) and we were out the door. My special travel bag with my flight details, earphones and passport in hand. 3 hours before my flight I confidently walked towards the gate to board my flight. As the airport attendant for British Airways paged through my passport she asked for my other passport. I didn’t understand why.
“When you fly through Heathrow you require a UK transit Visa”
“No, there’s my Schengen Visa. I just have a layover in Heathrow, I’m not even leaving Terminal 5.”
“You still need a UK Transit Visa because you are South African”
As you can imagine, I went into full panic mode. And phoned my husband. My options were to change my flight, or to go and get the visa on Monday morning. Like a spreading virus my brother was on the phone with contacts of his to find out about the visa, as were my husbands parents.
A manager from the ground staff of British Airways came and spoke to me.
“Have you been to Europe before?”
“Yes, but my old Schengen Visa is in my passport that expired.”
“Which country did you fly through?”
“Have you been to America before?”
I had. My American Visa, issued 9 years before was still valid for a year. Although it was in my expired passport, back at home. Apparently if I had a US Visa I didn't need a UK Transit Visa.
“How far away do you live?”
We had enough time to go back to my house and get my old passport and be back in time for my flight. So we did.
My brother, like an ocean of calm, drove me back and forth as I fielded phone calls. My husband phoned and googled to make 100% sure that my US Visa would be sufficient. And in all the chaos no one we spoke to had ever heard about the UK Transit Visa. It wasn’t even mentioned on the British Airways website. But apparently it was required. As I run into my flat the electricity was off due to load shedding, but I knew exactly where my old passport was.
As I returned with my old passport containing my US Visa my husband was already boarding his flight. As I checked in my luggage I called to tell him I was making my flight. His aeroplane was already moving onto the runway. A minute later and he would have had to turn off his phone. We were both on our way to Belgium.
|One of our only sunny days in Europe, exploring the city of Brugges after my husband's meeting.|
A week into our trip my husband and I were sitting on the edge of the Seine drinking a bottle of wine after walking around Paris all day. As I took of my shoes I could still see the blisters all over my feet from performing the weekend before.