If you can’t have a good time when plans fail, you need more practice: Immigration problems in New Zealand

I don’t think I’ll whine or I’ll wail

 Because often plans tend to fail,

     When things go wrong

    Just keep singing your song,

And save enough money for bail.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  Just back from a six-week assignment in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States, we just got into New Zealand.

 “I don’t see why you’re not foaming at the mouth,” Bethany said.

We were holding hands and lying on the blue and green carpet of the Auckland airport with our feet propped up on the chairs of the Immigration waiting area.  We spent seventeen of the previous twenty-eight hours in airplanes, and we’d just gotten off the twelve-hour flight from Los Angeles.  We were letting gravity drain the swelling from our ankles.

A very friendly, professional lady at Immigration had told just told us that we probably wouldn’t be allowed entrance into the country.

Bethany had no problem getting a tourist visa by telling the truth: the visit, for her, was for pleasure.  I, on the other hand, also told the truth: the visit, for me, was for business, and I intended to do locum tenens (substitute doctoring) work in rural or otherwise hard-to-staff clinics. 

Over the last six months I sent dozens of emails arranging work; I filled out form after form and sent scores of pdf and jpg files.  We spent thousands on tickets despite my experience with the fickle locum tenens industry.

If worst comes to worst, I said before we left, we vacation till we’re tired of it and then we come home.

But the friendly, professional lady informed me that my name wasn’t on the list and she’d never heard of the agency.  And, because I’d said that I had come to work, I couldn’t have a tourist visa.  She would, however, look into the matter, and pointed to some comfortable seats along a wall.  The hundreds of people from our flight had already gone through the lines and moved on with their lives.  (If you’re old enough to know Arlo Guthrie and Alice’s Restaurant, we felt like we’d been sent to a very upscale Group W Bench.)

The weekend compounded the problem.  I didn’t expect the recruiter to be available outside of working hours, and I didn’t have a way to reach her.

I slept poorly on the plane, my circadian rhythm was trashed by moving eighteen time zones into the future, my feet hurt and I needed a shower.  My calm approach surprised Bethany.

“I’m used to disappointments,” I said.  We looked at the tastefully decorated ceiling as my thoughts continued to arrive.  “How many jobs have I said ‘yes’ to?”

“Nineteen,” she said.

“And how many haven’t fallen through?”


“Well,” I said, “There you go.  Stuff like this happens.”  We didn’t say anything for a while.  “The first one, Torrington, disappointed me.  That one hurt.  Then when the next three fizzled out I figured I was going to have a lot of grief, and after that they didn’t hurt much till the deal with Prince of Wales Island fell through.”

“Why that one?”

“I don’t know,” I said because I don’t.  “But you know life is full of uncertainties, and I’ve had a great time not getting my first choice in general and especially during the last year.  Whatever happens, I’m going to have a good time.  And if you can’t have a good time in the face of failed plans, you need more practice.  Wanna check out Australia?”

“Sure.  It beats going right back to L.A.”

I rolled to a sitting position and pulled out my laptop computer.  “I have an idea,” I said.

With the miracle of wireless routers, the Internet, and my stash of saved emails, I located the recruiter’s cell phone number and left this message: “We’ve run into a frightful cock-up at Immigration, there’s no visa for me, and the lady, who is quite nice, is on the verge of putting us on an airplane back to L.A.  My phone is about to run out of juice, but if you could call Immigration at the Auckland airport, we might be able to clear this up.”

An hour and a half later, we were called back to the desk.  Things had been arranged on a one-time basis only, she said pleasantly, and we could stay, but we needed to get it taken care of first thing Monday.

We caught the flight from Auckland to Wellington, but just barely.


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4 Responses to “If you can’t have a good time when plans fail, you need more practice: Immigration problems in New Zealand”

  1. Team Oyeniyi Says:

    I’m very glad to hear all was well in the end. I was born in New Zealand, so tales of my homeland always interest me!

    • walkaboutdoc Says:

      There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip; I haven’t gotten my work visa yet, and I’m sure if I weren’t both a doctor and traveling with my wife I would have been packed onto a plane and sent back to L.A.

  2. AussieAlaskan Says:

    Anyone who has traveled internationally much knows just how much fun it is! All the best!

  3. Team Oyeniyi Says:

    Yes, AA – the joy of sitting around transit lounges wears off REALLY quickly!

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