Ministry of Internal Affairs...for the last time!
Trip Start Jul 28, 2009
47Trip End Mar 13, 2010
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Gun and I packed her bags…well, she did while I did something else…and off we went to Kampala to meet the two remaining Adhollas, send off Gun and go to the Immigration. I didn’t even dread it all that much. I mean, I was prepared! Tewali buzibu! When I approached that window I greeted that lady and she actually greeted me back. Not as enthusiastically as I did, but hey….she had just returned from her lunch and maybe she is also tired of matooke every day. I asked for that form to fill, which I got fairly quickly. I filled it in and handed all my papers to that lady. She looked at them, squinting her eyes ever so slightly, and then handed them back to me. Ja, you guessed it, the smile on my face was wiped off at once. Why…why…why…why would she? The reason (are you sitting down?): I was too early! ;-) Ja! Too friggin’ early! What the heck? I went there 11 days before my visa run out. Now, given the fact that they need 7 working days to approve it and there were not only 2 Saturdays and consequently 2 Sundays, but also one public holiday in these11 days, I counted myself to being in fact late, but hey…I am no Math student!
I did manage to convince her to take them and in the unlikely case of the committee approving them before 7 working days…well, fine! I won’t cry if I loose 2 days on the new visa which in fact will be 1.5 months longer than I need, just because they couldn’t get their visas sorted out for the period of time one is in the country! Once they were handed in I was all relieved. We could actually say that I was confident once again. So, Gun, Helene and I went shopping at Garden City. No worries!
Oh dear…I was proven wrong so badly! Never ever (EVER!) be too confident, no matter how careful you did your things! I learnt that now!
So, I got back on the day before my visa run out (I know with the weekends and the holiday it wasn’t actually 7 working days…but I was confident!) and surely enough, it hadn’t been approved yet! So, I went back on my dear Swift bus and took another 3.5 hours on Uganda’s lovely roads to travel back to Lyantonde. Not only was it late already, but the bus broke down. Now, the conductor and the money guy jumped off the bus while the bus was still moving and then some distance later we stopped. We had no clue what was going on and there was no one to ask and we were stuck. We were so close to home, maybe 15 minutes from Lyantonde. Blimey! After waiting for about an hour another Swift bus passed and people jumped on. Now I also tried and people pushed and pulled and poked and then this guy asked me: 'Can you manage to stand?’ Ahem, yes, since I do have two legs I think I might just be able to stand. I got home after having been 15 hours on the road and was all exhausted and so very mad.
The following day, the said holiday, I was spending some time with my dear Kikazi and got mentally ready for another visit to the Immigration. So, Wednesday morning, early I boarded another Swift (I should get reduction soon!) and went to Kampala. Now, this time…oh thank God…my passport was there. But…my visa was not approved. Instead, I was supposed to apply for a work permit. ??? Okay, I am not working anywhere and I am leaving in a month and a half. What would I need a work permit for? And more importantly, how long would that take to get approved? I would most likely be gone by then. Why…why…why do I need a working permit? Now, I asked this woman and all she said is that it is what the committee decided. I asked her that if she doesn’t know any more about this, could she please get me anyone who does. Bad comment! I got the icy shoulder again. (But at least she didn’t shut the window!) So, once again I was left there with nothing to be done. Oh gosh, Helene is right, there is no way one can go the ordinary way through the bureaucracy in this country! And once again, I dialled Marshall’s number!
I think that Marshall hates the moment I show up at the door to his office, but hey…what are friends for? ;-) So, I handed him my passport and was asked to go to lunch and come back afterwards and find the papers ready for payment. (Some of that confidence was restored by this comment…yet, it wasn’t going to last!) After a wonderful sandwich from Quality Cuts I went back to his office only to find him gone. When he finally came he told me to see Chris, because he still has to sign my papers before I can go to the bank. Chris was of course not in his office, so I did spend 3 lovely hours with his secretary Edith, who by the way is interested in people coming to work on her farm for a month or two. So, anyone interested? She will provide food and a place to stay; you gotta work a wee bit and enjoy Uganda! I got her contacts. Anyways, after 3 hours I was finally told to go and search for Chris myself. I did indeed ask them if I could find him anywhere else, if they could ring him, if he actually had been to office today. I was told to be patient, read the paper and wait, coz he will come. ‘Have faith, my dear!’ I had faith and was too confident and got bitten in the ass! After three hours I did find Chris and was told by him that he doesn’t want to help me and I should not have come, but have Marshall handle it. Ja, he actually said that he didn’t want to help me. He said I should go through the normal procedure. My dearest man, I tried. God knows I tried!!! (My faith started to crumble!) So, almost in tears (more out of sadness than anger) I went back to Marshall, he laughed and I was told to be there the next morning at 9am. Well…so I went to see Paul!
9am sharp (Man ist wohl Deutsche!) I was back and of course…my papers were not yet signed. I waited until 11:45 when I was told to go to Chris’ office once again. (Why tell me to be there at 9am???) Chris is a spiteful man. I saw my passport on his desk, so I asked him for it, but he thought it was fun to play around with me. He asked me what organisation I do my fieldwork with. So I told him. He now made me tell him precisely what their work is and come with specific examples and how I would counsel him, because he in fact had also lost a parent and was vulnerable to HIV/ AIDS. I wanted to tell him off, because (a) don’t make fun of the plight of all those people who suffer greatly and (b) do your friggin’ job! But I thought that now, since I am so close to actually getting my visa I shouldn’t spoil it with my pride. And so what, if it makes him feel good to walk over me…every day a good deed, huh! Thus, I started talking about RACOBOA building houses for vulnerable people, counselling them, providing food supplies, etc. He asked me why they did all that work, so I said, because it is the people’s human right to have a dignified life. So, he asked me to tell him all the human rights and I thought; well, let’s have a little fun of my own then! I chose my words carefully and started out by saying that difference shouldn’t translate into discrimination. He agreed! Then, every human right that I mentioned was somehow connected to the current homosexuality debate. It was too funny to see his face when I over and over mentioned that no one should be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation or that people have the right to privacy despite being gay or people have the right to choose their religion even though there are lesbians and…when I mentioned that everybody should be allowed to get married, whether hetero- or homosexual…well, let’s just say I did get my passport and was thus ready to go to the bank! ;-) (Ahh, I am telling you, this felt so very good! It was his game; I just played along to the best of my ability and I am fairly competitive!!)
Anyways, so I run off to the bank, paid and had to wait for my receipt, so I once again went to get lunch at Garden City…yes, you guessed it: a sandwich! (I am turning into Joey!) Then I got my receipt and went back to lovely Marshall who told me to come back at 4.30pm. No no no nooo! Why would it take over 2 hours to scribble 5 lines into my passport? He told me that this was indeed quite fast? Well, can you do it any faster? Everything was signed and paid and done, the person just needs to look at it, make an entry in their big book and write in my passport that I am still allowed to be in the country. How can this possibly take so long? Well, Marshall took me to the office of that guy and told me to talk to him myself, because maybe I could convince him. When we entered the office everybody stared at me. I greeted them all politely. The guy then asked me when I want to board my bus, so I answered: ‘As soon as you are done with the passport!’ In my understanding this means: do it right now, hurry and I am on the way! In his understanding, and I can see his point, it meant something totally different. He told the other people in the office: ‘See, she isn’t even sure when she wants to board the bus, so how should I know?’ Everybody laughed. Okay, this was the last straw for me. Why on earth do these people have to be so unpleasant and demeaning? I then told that guy that I wanted to board the bus this morning at 10am if he can have the passport ready by then. Now the people in the office laughed at him. His smiled vanished and he told me to wait outside. 5 minutes later a girl came with my passport and wished me a safe journey back to Lyantonde. I thanked her and skipped happily while finding myself a boda to go to the taxi park.
This was the last time I had to step foot in this office! I swear, next time I get to Uganda I will get myself a tourist visa for 3 months from the airport and then leave to Kenya or something when the visa runs out and come back for another 3 months on a tourist visa. Something like that. This is way too ridiculous. But as Paul said, these people don’t care, they do get paid whether or not they put the stamp in my passport immediately or first play around with me. In order to make me feel better, Paul told me how he once spent a night at the border to Kenya, because the Ugandan Immigration workers didn’t work and there was no one to call them and the police or military wouldn’t let the bus pass through as they did need their passports stamped first. Ruthie then also told me how she had to bribe people in order for her passport to be worked on. I mean, even though these stories tell me that this isn’t some kind of witch hunt against foreigners, but it didn’t really make me feel any better. It just made me feel bad for them, because while I am free to leave any time, they are stuck with this. But Mary’s story was too cool: So, her boyfriend’s priest is a mzungu and he had to get his visa renewed as well and was, just like me, send from office to office to office only to be told to come back the following day. He played this game for 3 days; poor thing didn’t have Marshall’s number! The fourth day he entered the office and shouted ever so loudly: ‘I want to talk to the person I can bribe to work on my passport!’ Everyone stared at him and he repeated that. So, a woman approached him and told him to be quiet. He then asked her if she was the one he can bribe and she said no…of course, since all the others were looking! He told her that he didn’t want to talk to her then, because he will only talk to the one he can bribe because he needs his visa right now. 10 minutes later he walked out of the office with his visa…and all his money! Gosh, I wish I had that courage.