Taken straight out of my journal notes. Disclaimer for poor grammar,etc
It’s moving day again today. Somehow another three mosquitos managed to get into my mosquito net and haunt my dreams. I wonder sometimes if it’s not called a mosquito net because it attracts them. I’m not feeling entirely well this morning – almost fluey. Putting it down to the effects of extended travel, I make a note to find some vitamins somewhere this morning. I’m al;so quite thirsty, and realise that i’ve not actually drunk anything since around lunchtime yesterday. I’ve not seen much bottled water on sale here (as compared to, say, Tanzania) and a quick check in the guidebook is silent on the issue of water drinkability. So I chance it and drink from the tap in my room. I’ll know in time if that was a silly idea or not.
Then it’s off into Nairobi for some shopping in a mall-type thing I had discovered during getting lost yesterday. It’s not raining this morning, and the sun shining through the cloud in places improves my mood immeasurably as I skip down the pavement.
“The South African?”, she says, “There is a problem with your visa. They want to talk to you”
Having bought supplies of water, vitamins, drinking yoghurt and more cashews, it’s time to return to the Sudanese embassy – praying that i’ll be lucky enough to get the last visa I need to complete this journey.
Clutching my green passport receipt, I arrive early and have to wait outside briefly while lunch hour is concluded. Then back into the aenemic yellow applications room, where I hand in my slip to the bored lady behind the dirty glass window. I give her my sweetest, most cooperative smile. She smiless back briefly, then looks at my slip and gets a pained expression. “The South African?”, she says, “There is a problem with your visa. They want to talk to you”. She beckons me to sit and, crushed, I find the nearest plastic waiting chair and wait – trying to work out what I could possibly need to be talked to about. Perhaps it is to do with my previous visa application in South Africa, which I had for all intents and purposes abandoned when it came time to leave on this trip? Or the fact that I keep a blog on which I had berated their tardiness in processing my last application? Does any consular service really check backgrounds to that level? I doubt it, but I have no idea.
The lady behind the dirty glass appears to have done absolutely nothing to notify anyone that I am here, and after after telling a band of newly-arrived Sudanese students studying in Kenya to also please wait for indeterminate reasons, I approach the counter again. “They need to speak to you. But not immediately.”, she explains cryptically, “You won’t be likely to get your visa today, and may need to come back on Monday”.At which point I launch into a longwinded and pleading explanation of my trials with their embassy in Pretoria already. With extra-large bambi eyes. I am sent ambivalently back to my plastic chair.
About an hour goes by and I get talking with the waiting Sudanese students, Geoff and Jacob. They come from Southern Sudan, are studying in Nairobi (Jacob in healthcare management, Geoff in some sort of finance degree).They need to get certificates of some sort from the embassy before they can write their exams next week. Jacob’s relaxed approach to dealing with being made to wait in the plastic chair is to periodically get up and walk authoritatively through a door marked “Embassy Staff Only”. It never takes longer than five minutes for him to be scooted back out and returned to his plastic waiting seat. Though his strategy seems to bear fruit after a half dozen repetitions, as the lady behind the dirty glass begins to prepare what Jacob believes may be his papers. I just sit politely, throwing pleading glances at the lady as often as possible.
Jacob’s relaxed approach to dealing with being made to wait in the plastic chair is to periodically get up and walk authoritatively through a door marked “Embassy Staff Only”
After another half hour of me waiting and Jacob continuing to provoke the door people when it becomes clear that the lady behind the dirty glass was in fact just stapling and shuffling assorted forms, I am called to the dirty glass again. The lady tells me that there is an issue because I have not specified the address in Khartoum that I will be staying at on my visa application. I wonder why she did not tell me this initially, as she has done little except staple and move paper since she first told me that there was an unspecified problem. She suggests, when I ask, that I say I will stay at the Sailing Club, popular with overlanders. I agree. Possibly too enthusiastically.
Then more waiting. More of Jacob’s provocation of whoever lives behind the door, some discussions about the upcoming 2010 world cup in South Africa next year and the chances of our national team. Nil, reckons Geoff, as we have apparently been drawn in a pool with Brazil. He wants to know why FIFA has no African referees. I’m at a loss for an answer. Dirty Glass Lady, having left briefly, returns and calls me to the counter where she is sticking a shiny new Sudanese visa into one of the few remaining pages of my passport. I try not to flinch as I see her Tippex out something on the visa, then reconsider, and scratch it off again. Then do precisely the same on the bottom of the visa. Then stamp it. Then affix a holographic sticker. Then write out a receipt.
“You are lucky”, she says as she passes the missing link in my journey back into my eager paws. I don’t ask why. Or why I didn’t need to be spoken to. Or any of a thousand questions relating to bureaucratic process that are running through my head. Instead I say a polite, yet enthusiastic thanks and beat a hasty retreat to my waiting taxi, to make a late run to the matatu (minibus taxi) rank in time to make a connection to Isiolo.