Throwing a Rock

Last week I returned to the Italian consulate in San Francisco to get a student visa for my upcoming year at Helikos. I’ve been through the process before but like most people, I get edgy around that level of bureaucracy. It’s the feeling of border crossings, TSA screenings, CTBS testing. Anywhere where you are required to be interviewed by someone whose job it is to say no to you.

Here are some of the requirements of a successful visa application:

  1. completed application form
  2. one recent passport photograph
  3. original passport
  4. photocopy of passport
  5. original driver’s license
  6. photocopy of driver license
  7. original letter in Italian an accredited Italian Academic Institution
  8. proof of funds: a minimum of $900.00 per each month of stay is required.
  9. proof of adequate lodgings available for the entire stay
  10. round-trip flight reservations
It’s certainly not impossible to get it all together, really it’s a simple thing. But I still get completely nervous that they will find something missing or fibbed or wrong and bar me from ever entering Europe again. I imagine the big red stamp, written in block letters: DO NOT LET HIM IN.
All that scrutiny got me thinking of an improvisation class from the first year at the school I’ll be returning to Florence for. The exercise is simple: throw a stone. You turn to the audience and you’re alone on a pebbly beach in front of a vast ocean. You pick up a stone and toss it in the water, watch it splash and that’s all, the end. Dead simple right? It’s certainly not impossible to mime such a simple scene. What is difficult is to tell only the story of the neutral actor, the pebble and the beach. Much harder.
Take this video as an example of how seeing someone perform a seemingly a simple task—in this case throwing a stone with your non-dominate arm—reveals something very funny about human beings.
Submitting my visa application definitely feels like throwing the stone with my non-dominate arm. I performed the simple task but I also did a lot of unnecessary movement, stiff forgetfulness and the gyration of worry, before I lobbed that sheaf of papers over the desk of the consulate and said Grazie mille! when they were accepted.
Even after the application was accepted, the consular website urges me to remember: All visa applications are subject to further review. Applications do NOT guarantee issuance of visas. If an application is rejected, the applicant will be contacted and the passport will be returned along with an explanation for the rejection.