Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!

Today, the new year began in Russia and the celebration begins for the holiday season.
In Russia, they celebrate Christmas and New Years day beginning January 1.
Anna, the children and the entire country of Russia will celebrate during the next 9 days. Tomorrow the children will open gifts from Santa Claus beneath a fur tree just as we do here. Tonight the whole country welcomed in the new year. This time occurred at 1:00 P.M. Mountain time. Anna had to close her windows in fear that a rogue firework would enter her home. It is common that they light off fireworks to celebrate the new year.
We hope that this will be the last New Years Celebration that we will experience apart. In fact we hope we will all be together in a few months. The average time it takes to get and approval on our petition is 5 months and we have already waited over 2 months so we think we are halfway there.
Anna and I have discussed how we will celebrate the future holidays and we have agreed that we will begin the celebration on New Years day as they are accustomed to in Russia. We may celebrate Christmas on the American Holiday but we will also celebrate the Russian Holiday as well.
So today, Anna and I wish everyone a Happy New Year and Merry Christmas.
We will see you next year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hurry up and Wait!

I have hesitated to make a new blog entry over the past month because there is nothing new to report. We are still waiting for the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to approve our petition for the alien fiance (Form I-129F).
They sent me a notice informing me they received the request on the 22nd of October.
Unfortunately we must continue to wait until we receive an approval letter from the USCIS. I must admit though that every day seems like an eternity as we wait for the approval of our petition. Unfortunately the approval process takes an average 5 months. There is not much we can do until the time it is approved so we can only sit and wait.
Anna has been busy trying to sell some property she owns in southern Russia as well as trying to get the necessary papers that will allow her to take her daughter out of Russia. It seems her lawyer has found a document that indicates that her ex-husband is dead. So we hope when our petition is finally approved, she will have no difficulty taking her daughter here.
She is also trying to find the time to learn English as I am also finding some time to learn Russian.
We have now exceeded 2400 pages of written correspondence. Interestingly enough, every word we ever spoke (not including the words we spoke while I was in Russia) is in a 2400+ page document with almost 1,000,000 words. We find it interesting to refer back to our correspondence from over a year ago and read the words we spoke to each other and discover how much our relationship has developed over the past year.
We are also working on writing our individual stories to include in our future book. We hope to focus on writing the book over the next year. In fact I interviewed an author who is very interested in helping us write the book. But as in any story, it will need an ending before we can finish it. We hope that the end will be "and they lived happily ever after." but none of us can predict the uncertain future. Especially since it is assumed that the end of the world will occur in 4 days (12-21-2012). It seems even in Russia they consider this a possibility.
But if the world doesn't end on that day and we have to wait for the 3 more months, we can expect we will have over 3000 pages to edit and publish in our future book.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bad news from Russia

Anna received some bad news from her employer today. It seems her days are numbered there. She has been an employee at this particular educational institution for over 7 years.
Today, during a meeting, the director of the institution announced that they will be closing their doors. While this came as no surprise to Anna, approximately 70% of the other employed personnel were shocked at the news.
This is all part of a major plan to shut down many universities throughout Russia with the thought of improving the quality of education vs. quantity of education. It was a plan that was started with former Prime Minister (and now president)  Vladimir Putin and supported by the current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
This will not only take away jobs from many people in Russia, but it possibly will limit the abilities for many potential students to find further education in Russia.
While I will not get into any political debate regarding this issue, my biggest concern is for Anna. I am glad that we have already begun the process to bring Anna and her children here. My only hope is that our petition is approved before her employment is terminated there.
It has been one month since the Department of Homeland Security received our petition and the average length of time is 5 months for an approval. Now we are in a race against time. We only hope that our I-129f Petition will be approved before the scheduled closure. The last thing she needs to worry about is to look for a new job there.
If you are new to our blog and you haven't read our story yet Click Here to read our story.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A mother's work is never done

As we continue to wait for our papers to be approved by the Department of Homeland Security, Anna must file papers with the courts in Russia to allow her daughter to leave Russia.
The father of her daughter disappeared 9 years ago and now Anna has to get a judgement in court to allow her to leave the Russian Federation.
This will be required for her to come here. So Anna had to retain the services of a lawyer to file papers with the court system in Russia to either declare her first husband dead or missing.
Unfortunately we are at the mercy of not only the USCIS, but now we are at the mercy of the Russian Court System.
But we are confident that the court system will rule in her favor and when the USCIS finally approves our petition, she will have no difficulty getting a visa for her daughter to come here.
If you are new to our blog and you haven't read our story yet Click Here to read our story.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The official start of the process.

Finally we have a confirmation letter from the USCIS (The Department of Homeland Security) indicating they have started processing our petition.
I received an email early this morning from them indicating the receipt of our application. This is a copy of the actual E-mail.

USCIS Acceptance Confirmation

Your case has been accepted and routed to the USCIS California Service Center for processing. Within 7-10 days by standard mail you will receive your official Receipt Notice (Form I-797) with your Receipt Number #############. With the official Receipt Notice (Form I-797) you may visit where you can check the status of your case using My Case Status. We suggest you wait until you have received your Form I-797 before checking My Case Status.
This confirmation provides notification of the date USCIS received your case.  This notice does NOT grant any immigration status or benefit. You MAY NOT present this notice as evidence that you have been granted any immigration status or benefit. Further, this notice does NOT constitute evidence that your case remains pending with USCIS. The current status of your case must be verified with USCIS.

Fortunately, now we have an official timeline we can follow. We still have many forms to file among other things and there will still be at least 5 months before Anna's Visa can be approved but at least we have started the process.
If you are new to our blog and you haven't read our story yet Click Here to read our story.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The clock starts Monday!

Finally after sitting in U.S. customs for 8 days, Anna's letter arrived with the signed papers necessary for me to submit the I-129f to begin the process to file for the K-1 Visa.
After I received the papers, I was able to overnight the package to the USCIS office in Lewisville Texas using FedEx. The estimated date of arrival is Monday, October 22 after I sent it on Friday Evening.
Once the U.S.C.I.S.(The Department of homeland security) receives the package they will review it. This will begin a long process that may take between 6 months to 1 year. In fact statistics have proven that the average waiting time for the approval of the K-1 Visa is 250 days.
I must admit this is not very convenient for either Anna or I. But, we have no choice than to wait. We hope that somehow our petition will be expedited in some way. But at least we can expect that Anna will be here within a year. Finally!
If you are new to our blog and you haven't read our story yet Click Here to read our story.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

At the mercy of U.S. Customs

Anna sent her signed papers to me using the express mail service on the 29th of September. Unfortunately, Express Mail means nothing when it comes to U.S. Customs.
Since Anna used the Express mail service we are able to track its location. It appears that it was delivered to U.S. customs at 3:30 AM on the 8th of this month.
It is hard to believe that a letter containing 2 sheets of paper can be held for such a long period of time. I guess they must suspect that those 2 pages must contain something that compromises the security of our borders. In truth, all that is contained in the 2 papers is a letter of intent and the Form I-129F signed by Anna so that we can send the complete package to the USCIS in order to apply for the K-1 visa.
I tried calling Customs to ask them why it must take so long and they told me (and I must say very rudely) that they can hold a letter for up to 45 days. Government efficiency displayed at its finest.
But now we are held at the mercy of U.S. Customs. I only hope that it will leave customs this week.

So much for express mail I guess!
If you are new to our blog and you haven't read our story yet Click Here to read our story.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waiting and Waiting And Waiting...

Both Anna and I have filled out the necessary papers to file the I-129F, Petition for the Foreign Fiance. My papers are all packaged and ready to go, but now we wait for Anna's signed papers to arrive in the mail.
She sent the papers using the express mail service on September 29th and it took nearly 5 days for the letter to leave Moscow after waiting in customs for almost 3 days. It finally arrived in New York almost 3 days ago and now it sits in customs again.  There is nothing I can do but ask myself the question "Why must a single envelope with 2 papers enclosed spend over 6 days waiting in Customs?".
Unfortunately we must continue to wait for the time that customs will allow a letter to pass through. It seems neither the Russian Postal service or the U.S.  Postal Service knows what the word "Express" means.
I can only hope that the letter will leave customs in New York tomorrow.
So Anna and I will lay and wait until the papers finally arrive so we can file the necessary paper. Unfortunately though we must continue to lay in separate countries.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Filing for the Visa

Anna and I have began to fill out the necessary paperwork to file for the K-1 Visa which is a Visa that is issued for a foreign fiancee. We will also need to get K-2 Visas, one for each of her children.
We have found that this is not an easy process and it will take a great deal of time until we can finally have her come here to be with me.

I had to fill out and sign the form I-129F which is the Petition for an Alien Fiance. Both Anna and I had to fill out the G-325A Forms which are Biographical supplementary forms that will be included with the petition. We also had to write and sign letters of intent to get married in addition to providing proof of us meeting each other in person within the past 2 years. That is the easy part. I have included photos of us together along with a copy of the plane ticket and the letter of invitation she originally sent me. Also we had to both get passport style photos taken to include in the petition.
Right now, I am waiting for Anna's signed papers that she mailed me last week so that I can submit the application. We hope the paperwork will arrive early next week. Once I receive the papers then I can get all the documents into one package and send them to the USCIS in Texas.
Once again we must wait. I can only hope that our Visa will be approved soon and Anna will be here soon.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Photos from Russia

I am sorry it has taken so long to upload the photos from Russia but I managed to finally get many of them uploaded to my Google photos.

Unfortunately I don't have the time to post them all here but you should be able to access them with the following link. Hopefully everyone can view them without difficulty.

Friday, September 21, 2012

So what is next for Anna and I?

Many people ask me, what Anna and I are going to do now. We have been corresponding through Skype using Google Translator for a year now. And now I have returned home after spending over a week with her. So "What is next?", you may ask.
Anna and I are still very much in love and we plan to get married as soon as we can. But an international marriage is not a very simple process. It will require a lot of time and effort to file the necessary paperwork with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services controlled by the Department of Homeland Security.
Anna and I are preparing to file for a K-1 visa. A K-1 visa will allow Anna to come here for a period of 90 days as my fiancee with the intent to marry me while she is here. In fact this has been our plan for quite a length of time and I must admit it was one of the motivating factors for my visit to Russia. My trip to Russia was a very crucial step in the process. One of the main requirements to file for the K-1 visa is to prove that we have met in person within the past 2 years.
Both Anna and I must provide many documents to the USCIS. Fortunately we prepared many of the documents during my visit with her. In fact we had to pay a company in Russia to translate birth certificates as well as other documents so we could include them with the application.
I hope this will answer everyone's questions for now and I will let everyone know when the visa is approved.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My visit to Russia, Continued...

I cannot say how much we enjoyed our time together in Russia. Anna showed me many places and introduced me to much of her family.

I wish I had time to post all of the pictures we took while I was there but, unfortunately I do not have the time.

We had a great time. But unfortunately after a period of 7 days, I had to leave.
I must say this was not a very happy time for us. I wish I could have spent more time there but my visa was scheduled to expire on the 31st of August and I had to leave.

Once again we had to get on a bus and make the long trip to Moscow for my scheduled departure.
We were able to spend the day Touring Moscow together before I left though. She showed me Red Square and many other popular attractions there before I left.

I hope to add a special page showing many of the pictures I took while I was in Russia but unfortunately this is all I have time to post at this time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My visit to Russia, Continued...

Anna and I really enjoyed our time together. She showed me all around her hometown. She brought me to a place they call the "Valley of the beggars" which is ironic because it is where all the government officials live. While the average Russian lives in a 400 square foot flats in complexes like this,
the government officials and religious leaders live in nice homes like the ones seen here.
Thus the irony stated in the term "Valley of the Beggars".
Anna and the children took me to the mall where we had a great time shopping and having lunch. 
I must say the Russian food was excellent, but I have to admit Anna cooked much better meals than were prepared in any of the restaurants there.
Anna even treated me to a haircut while I was there with her personal hairdresser. If you ever find yourself in Russia and want a haircut, look up this place and ask for Natasha. She did an amazing job.

This is the Salon she works at.
To be continued...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My visit to Russia!

I am sorry it has taken me so long to write this but I have became sick soon after I arrived.
But for all of you who have been waiting for the details, I will try to remember them. Fortunately we took many pictures while I was there so I hope it will trigger my memory.
After I arrived at Moscow, Anna picked me up at the airport and we briefly toured Moscow before taking a 12 hour bus ride to her hometown which is approximately 450 miles from Moscow. For those who want more information on the first day you can refer to my previous blog entry titled "My first Day in Russia".
After resting for a while Anna began showing me around her hometown. I must admit we did struggle a little bit with communication because neither Anna or I were as well prepared as we had hoped. Fortunately she had a cross-translation dictionary that we used quite frequently.
We spent time shopping at the local meat market as well as other local shops to purchase some things for dinner.

We had to visit the post office twice in order for her to contact the U.S. Embassy to notify them of my arrival.
We even spent time at the park with the children.

While we spent many hours walking the streets in Russia, from shop to shop and from attraction to attraction we would pause briefly at night to handle any communication problems we had using, yes, you guessed it "Google Translator". In fact I took a picture of Anna preparing a message for me to read. Our only regret is that we did not save our written correspondence while we were there. It would have been nice to be able to add those words to our over 1800 pages of correspondence.
On a side note, this is the very location I met Anna online. She was sitting in this corner on this laptop and read my first message to her "Privet Anna!".

To be continued...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The first day in Russia

After 30 hours from my departure from the Boise Airport I finally arrived in Moscow at 6:00 AM Moscow time. I must say the sunrise was beautiful over Moscow. I was able to get a picture through the window of the airplane.
After I passed through passport control and picked up my luggage at the baggage claim, I exited the main terminal and Anna was right there waiting as she promised. We recognized each other right away and it was if we had already known each other for years.

After leaving the Airport we took the Metro which is the subway system in Moscow to the bus station to check my bags in for our trip in the evening.
Despite the rainy weather in Moscow that neither Anna or I had been prepared for me managed to briefly tour a few of the attractions there in Moscow.
It is unfortunate that I do not remember the name of this place but it was beautiful. Here are some pictures.

I took so many pictures that I cannot spend all day uploading them to the blog. But after about 14 hours of touring Moscow and riding the Metro back and forth we arrived at the bus station to take us to Anna's hometown which is approximately 450 miles away from Moscow.
The bus ride was about 12 hours and we slept most of the way. We arrived at her home at about 6:30 AM. Both of us were very tired even after trying to sleep on the rough bus ride and felt fortunate that the children allowed us to sleep the remainder of the Morning.
That was the first day!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I have arrived home.

After another 12 hours on the bus overnight, Anna and I spent all day Monday touring Moscow where we saw many amazing places.
We very much enjoyed our time together and took many pictures. I will upload many over the next few days.

We were both very tired from walking all day when we arrived at the airport in Moscow at about 10:30 PM, Moscow time.
We spent the rest of the night and and much of the early morning hours waiting at the airport for my departing flight that was scheduled for 5:35 AM. I finally had to leave her at around 4:00 AM to pass through passport control and security. It was not a happy time for either of us.
I left Moscow at the scheduled time and had a quick flight to Amsterdam. I had 5 hours to spend at the Airport in Amsterdam and I must say it was a very interesting layover. There was a bomb scare that caused a portion of the airport to be evacuated. Someone had left a bag unattended so naturally Airport Security assumed there must have been a bomb inside the bag. I think there were maybe up to 6 officers at one time on the scene. It was later discovered that the bag was a garment bag only containing clothing. It was good for a laugh.

Also, I met a gentleman by the name of Thomas from the UK who told me that he too met a woman online and fell in love with her. She lived in the Philippines. They are now happily married and live together in the UK.

After departing Amsterdam, it was a 9 and a half hour flight to Seattle. I had yet another 4 hour layover in Seattle waiting for my flight back to Boise. Finally a 7:00 PM, I arrived at the airport where a friend had arranged to meet me to take me home.
Now I am trying to rest and recover from the Jet-Lag.
Tomorrow I will submit details and pictures of my first day in Russia.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preparing to go back home.

Today will be my last day with Anna at her hometown in Russia. Tonight we will be getting on a bus and returning to Moskow.
It will be a 12 hour bus ride from where she lives to Moskow. We hope the weather will be good when we arrive in Moskow so we us to tour various sites in Moskow. We did not have much time when I first arrived and were  unable to see many of the various attractions there. We would like to be able to visit Red Square and other popular attractions in Moskow.
My flight will be departing on Monday at 5:55 AM Moskow time and will not be back home until 6:40 PM on the 28th.
This will be my final blog entry while in Russia. I promise when I get back home I will give more details about my trip and I can assure you I have many pictures to share.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Having a great time in Russia!

Both Anna and I are having an excellent time together. The day before yesterday, we took the kids to the park where we had a great time with each other and the children. We even rented a rowboat that we were able to take on the river briefly.
Yesterday we went to the mall and spent some quality time together and with the children. In the evening Anna took me to her personal hairdresser to get me a haircut. Then in the evening Anna and I spent about 2 hours walking through town watching the sun go down.
Today we are planning on going to the beach if the weather permits.
Do not worry, I am getting plenty of photos and I will be able to publish them when I return to the states when I know I will have plenty of time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

At Last I am together with Anna in Russia!

After approximately 15 hours of airtime and 15 hours of layovers, I finally arrived at the Airport in Moscow. After I passed through customs and I claimed my luggage, I exited the terminal and Anna was right there waiting as promised. I arrived at just past 9:00 AM in Moscow.
We spent the entire day touring Moscow while we waited for the next bus ride to take us to Anna's home which is over 450 miles outside of Moscow. It was scheduled  to depart at 20:30 Moscow time which is actually 8:30 PM. We spent many walking the streets of Moscow and taking the Metro from place to place. The weather was not the best it seemed to rain the entire time we were touring Moscow. The rain did not stop until we were ready to leave.
We finally left a bit late because the bus was behind schedule. We spent 12 hours trying to sleep on the cramped bus and did not arrive in her hometown until 6:00 AM.
Fortunately we had a brief opportunity to sleep after we returned to Anna's house. Now she prepares lunch as I prepare an entry for the blog.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I'm leaving on a jet plane!

Finally after 11 months of correspondence through skype totaling over 1800 pages, I am finally flying to Russia to see Anna for the first time.
In 2 more days, Anna and I will meet each other face to face for the very first time. We are both very excited to say the least.
I am flying out this evening. Unfortunately It will take me 2 days to get there but I think the time will pass quickly. Anna will meet me at the airport in Moscow and then we will proceed to her home town from there.
I regret that I do not have much time to post on the blog but I do hope I will be able to make some blog entries while I am there with Anna. And of course I promise we will get many pictures to post on the blog.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Only two more weeks until I can finally see Anna!

Finally after over 10 months and 1700 pages of written correspondence, I will finally see Anna!
 I have my passport with a visa to visit with her and it is valid until August 31 of this year.
My plane ticket has already been purchased and I will be flying out of Boise Airport on the morning of August 18.
Unfortunately my schedule is not very desirable but it was all I could afford at this time. I have a 5 hour layover in Salt Lake City and then a 10 hour layover in New York.
Then after that it will be a straight overnight flight to Moscow where Anna will be waiting for my arrival. Needless to say, I am counting the days and hours until I can finally see her for the very first time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

One chapter ends, Let the new chapter begin.

After a long battle, my divorce is final! I cannot say that it has been easy but I managed to get primary custody of my son and I was able to keep the house also. I am one of the fortunate few that benefited from the "Making Home Affordable" program. My loan was modified significantly. In fact the payment was lowered almost $600.00 and the interest rate lowered from over 6% to 2% fixed interest rate so I can continue to afford the payments now.
I did however have to take on all the acquired bills and lost a significant portion of my retirement but in all honesty that is of little importance to me. The important thing is the future.It has been a long time coming but now I can begin to plan a future with Anna!
As many of you are already aware I am flying to Russia next month to visit her for the first time. I have purchased the passport and my visa has been approved. Thanks for the help from a good friend, I was even able to purchase the tickets to visit Anna in Russia.
Now as one chapter of my life has ended, a new chapter begins. In fact it is not a chapter, it is a whole new story.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It is finally here!

After over 1650 pages of written correspondence between Anna and I, my passport was returned with an approved Visa to Russia! Finally I can go visit Anna!
Thanks to the generosity of a good friend of mine, my plane tickets have already been purchased so now it is time for us to wait.
I will finally be able to see Anna in person for the very first time. As I prepare for my trip she is working out the details regarding the sights we will visit and where we will stay. To be honest I don't care what we see or where we stay. The only important thing to me is that I will be with her.
It will be a very long flight there with a 10 hour layover at JFK Airport in New York, but it is well worth it to me. If I spent 1 week in the air to spend an hour with her it will be worth it. Fortunately I will be there just over a week. So we will be able to spend many hours together.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Babies and Zombies on the highway

Today Anna informed me that one of her best friends that lives in Miami, Florida was on the news because she gave birth to her a baby girl on the highway I-95. Her husband tried to rush her to the hospital but the baby would not wait. So her husband had to pull over to the side of the road and deliver the baby himself.
They called emergency services but the paramedics arrived shortly after the baby arrived.
It was very funny when Anna tried to share this story with me because she tried to send me a link to the story but the link she sent was of a completely different story.
Here is the link she sent me
This was a link to a story of a man that was arrested for eating a man's face off on the side of the road. Anna tried multiple times to send me the story of her friend but for some reason it was always the same link to the story of the "Highway Zombie".
Finally I was able to look up the story of her friend on Google and found the story she intended for me to read. I thought it was funny and told Anna I felt sorry for her friend because she gave birth to a zombie on the side of the road. Anna, however did not find it too funny.
Here is a link to the story she wanted me to read.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Process-The Beaurocratic Nightmare

Anna and I are currently researching the process to obtain the K-1 visa for her and the K-2 visas for her children when the time comes.
It is not as easy as 1-2-3 by any means.
I thought is was a difficult process to apply for my visa to Russia. This iss nothing compared to the process Anna and I must go through to bring her and her children here from Russia.
The first thing we must do is prove that we have been together within the last 2 years. This is my main reason for going to Russia so that we can get some photos of us taken together in front of recognizable national attractions such as Red Square and other popular tourist sites.
Next we need to provide proof of our correspondence. This should be the easy part. We now have 1600 pages of written correspondence between us and I think we will have no difficulty proving this.
Then we must provide various documents that may be difficult to obtain. For instance, Anna's first husband has dissappeared and no one has seen him in a number of years. In fact it is not known if he is dead or alive. He must sign papers to allow Anna to take her daughter out of the country. Finding him will be virtually impossible.
Because of this complication, Anna will probably need to retain an attorney to present her case before the court in Russia. This is probably the biggest obstacle that we must cross in order for us to obtain the K-2 visa for her older daughter.
In addition to all of this many documents must be submitted along with the application including birth certificates, school records, employment history, etc...
Hopefully we can obtain all the necessary documents and get the application processed in a timely manner which is considered to be 8 months.
So if anyone ever considers attempting to follow in our footsteps, I hope you are well prepared. In the words of Anna's grandmother "It is best if you find love down the street."