In a poorly ventilated Internet café in India, Jason stared at the computer screen as he typed his prayer letter to his friends. He was unmindful of the traffic noise outside and the loud interjections of teenagers playing video games nearby.
He wrote, "Today is September 29, 2001. The 9/11 attacks have all international airports on full alert. Please pray for God's traveling mercies on me. I should be flying back to India on October 8. Please pray that the Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka will grant me a one-year student visa. They only need 5 days to process my visa Thank you so much for your prayers. Please keep in touch. With much blessings, Jason."
A chilling 5:30 Monday morning saw the Air Lanka touched down at the International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Exhausted from his journey, Jason thanked the immigration officer who had stamped his Philippines passport, "Arrival: October 1, 2001, can stay for 30 days."
Carrying his dark blue shoulder bag that contained his clothes for a week, he easily found an empty chair at the terminal. "Well, I still have 3 hours to kill," he muttered glancing at his black digital watch. “Then, I will take a taxi from here to the Indian embassy at 8:30 AM.”
He put his bag on his lap and buried his face on it. He tried to take a nap but he could only see behind his eyelids some vivid pictures of the 9/11 attacks and its aftermath. "Lord, how could they do this to America?" he prayed.
The Indian embassy was packed with people. Jason immediately joined the queue in front of Window 7. He finally lodged his application papers after 30 minutes. When Jason came back to the embassy after 5 days, the visa officer told him that they had lost his papers and that he had to apply again. Shocked, he filled up a new application form but told them they were responsible for his lost papers. Now, Jason had to wait for another 5 days.
"By the way, the Indian embassy in the Philippines have to fax us your clearance,” said the visa officer.
"What does that supposed to mean?" Jason queried.
"That means, we just have to wait, sir,” the officer answered.
Jason was not a happy camper when he stepped out of the embassy. He quickly emailed his friends and asked for prayers.
Twenty-eight days had gone by but his visa was still unapproved. With 2 days left he rushed to the Sri Lanka immigration office and paid $50 US dollars for his one-month extension.
Jason had been going back and forth to the Embassy and been making phone calls. But they kept on telling him that his clearance from the Indian embassy in Manila had not been sent.
On November 9, the Consul of the Indian Embassy in the Philippines emailed him and told him that he had sent the clearance last 24th October. Jason immediately printed the letter and sent it to the Indian embassy.
The University in India where he enrolled to take his 1st year Masters Degree in English had distributed the study materials on the 2nd week of October. He had missed that already. Also, he was going to marry his Indian fiancée in February 2002 in India. He had to be in India soon to study and to prepare for this special event.
Jason had to extend his Sri Lankan visa for another month. The Indian Embassy had not been releasing his Student Visa.
“Christmas is going to be a lonely one.” he sighed while staring at the calendar.
On December 27th, he went to the Indian Embassy and handed a letter to the visa officer at Window 7. The officer read it slowly then looked at Jason over his glasses. Jason gave him a peaceful look as he felt God’s love was enveloping him.
“Well, give me a second.” the officer said and then went to the inner room. Jason followed him with his eyes. After a few minutes, he came back and said, “Mr. Jason Alba, why do you want to cancel your application when you are getting it today?”
Jason was flabbergasted but he was sure of what he had heard and said, “Well, then, Sir, can I retract this letter?”
“Sure, you can!” the officer said approvingly.
After three months of getting stuck in Sri Lanka, Jason got his student visa and flew back to India and reunited with his fiancée.