I had meeting #2 with the beit din, and here is a breakdown of all the expenses I remember just to get to that meeting. (It doesn't include stuffing my face in every kosher restaurant I could see!)
- Flight, $120. I saved $40 to use a different airport, and I will never fly into it again!
- Shuttle from boondocks airport to civilization, $45 (the alternative was 3 hours on public transportation to go 31 miles)
- Dog boarding for one night, $56
- Airport parking, $27
- Caffeine to keep me awake, $15
- Work hours missed (aka, income not earned), $150
- Two school classes missed, one of them being a class that only allows one absence per semester
- An all-nighter in a desolate, scary airport that was ripe for a zombie invasion (Literally didn't see even a security guard for the first two hours! Super creepy!)
- I saved a bunch of time and money set aside for public transportation because of several people (both old friends and those met that day!) who were kind enough to offer me rides. I originally estimated that 8-9 hours of my 21 hour trip would be spent on city buses!
- Staying in the airport saved me $75 in hotel and shuttle costs. However, it cost me a small part of my sanity. (I had several generous offers to sleep on couches, but a shuttle would still have to pick me up at 3:30am and cost another $45.) I'm a very adventurous traveler who has slept in airports several times before, yet I don't think I'd recommend this for anyone after a beit din. It's way too much sleep-deprived time to overanalyze everything that just happened.
TOTAL: $413 plus a significant loss of sanity, sleep, and school time. All money that was set aside to help me to move to that new community, sigh. Remember that with application fees and other things, my first meeting cost me approximately $1,000, plus a couple hundred more on books. Since that time, I've spend another couple hundred on non-conversion-related Jewish books because I ran into some great sales on book sets.
And what was the result? 20 minutes with three rabbis and being told to call back to set up another meeting once I actually move to the new community (aka fulfill the Acceptable Community Requirement). From my perspective, it was effectively a repeat of my initial interview, though I'm sure they had other goals in that meeting. Being uber-rational, I'd be much more content to wait if I knew the reasons instead of being left to my own speculation. (I was later advised to be more assertive and ask about the things I'd like to know. Ironically, it's what I tell my customers at work every single day: "It never hurts to ask. The worst the judge can say is no." I was terrified that any question like that would open up another "discouragement" opportunity, and I was pretty tired of attempted discouragement at that point.)
Because of high demand for this beit din's appointments, that means no meeting until at least a month, maybe two, after I call to request an appointment. So...June or July. To quote someone familiar with my beit din, I'm in the "pre-limbo limbo." In other words, I haven't even started my conversion process. Le sigh. Back to the books and self-teaching. I'm pretty sick of books, ya know? After seven years with books and the internet as my primary teacher, I'm ready to deal with a real person! ("Real" teachers and rabbis are generally hesitant about teaching a conversion candidate until given permission by the beit din working with the candidate.) Unfortunately, I'm told it'll be 6-9 months before I'm assigned a tutor. The explanations of the process in documents and in person left out all the parts of the process between the initial interview and getting a tutor, and that has made a frustrated Kochava! Those left out parts add up to a year or more of converting that I hadn't even considered. I had resigned myself to a certain process, and now I've discovered it's almost twice as long as I had originally prepared myself for.
My advice to you? Start working with a beit din as soon as you are even entertaining the thought of an orthodox conversion. Being already frum is going to give me no time advantage in the conversion process. I'm still looking at 2.5-3 years of conversion despite having almost a year of orthodox living behind me. And if they ask you to wait in a "holding pattern," don't do it! It's equivalent to the beit din putting you in the archives. Be assertive and ask to continue meeting, even if it means multiple flights to them. I'm angry at myself for not being more assertive last fall. It just seemed so reasonable at the time! And this is coming from a person who has been called "overly assertive" in normal life! Though not to "normal lawyer" standards :)
As an interesting side note, today (7 Adar) is the anniversary of Conversion 1.0. At the time, it seemed like a very auspicious day for a conversion!