The Trial of Getting a Visa

Pete puts it nicely – It’s not difficult to live in Kenya, it’s just complicated.

With 5 days out before we started out 52 journey home I remembered I didn’t have a visa for our 15 hour stay in Mumbai, India. Great for someone who has put together a 7 week itinerary through a few countries, schools, churches, clubs and business meetings – I totally forgot  about this.

No worries, after a couple of phone calls and checking out the website which stated that a transit visa could be done in one day and only $27 each. It’s kind of weird, India just announced that you can finally get a visa at the airport, just not a transit one. Liz has travelled through Mumbai airport a few times, me I haven’t been there for over 20 years. Most people say to stay clear of this airport but we had no choice. BeyondWater generously paid for my ticket but Liz was a different story. She has to be back in Aussie anyway as part of her pension agreement and she had no spare money.

So the trip has ended up Nairobi to Dubai, to Mumbai, to Singapore to Sydney. Sure it is painfully long but cut the price down by $1,000, so it will be worth it.

I convinced Joy, one of my co-workers to take Liz and I into town on a matatu as he was taking the car out to the farm. His motorbike won’t be ready for a few more days. Joy says she will be at our place the next morning at 6.30am, as she says, it’s better to be there early than to wait forever, and you never know what the traffic will be like.

First though we had to get new passport photos as the India visa requires a different size. Pete’s out late working so we walk up to the mall (only 15 minutes) and get our new photos at a price of $10. They look good, but we also had some normal size ones sitting in our draw at home.

Joy arrives on time as promised. She had to convince her parents that she wasn’t chucking a sickie from work and walks a distance to our apartment. Pete drops us off at Lavington, a 10 minute drive away and we manage to get straight into a matatu, which is rare. It’s normal practise to wait until the matatu fills up before it leaves and we filled the last seats.

Image

This is what a matatu may look like.

 

Now this is not a nice flash new 10 seater van. This is a beatup looking thing with Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie blaring out over the speakers. The great thing about catching a matatu is that they go where no one else dares and at a speed that is crazy for around here. If I were to drive not only would the parking be a nightmare, it would take 2 hours in the morning. We were moving along nicely until all of a sudden the traffic came to a standstill. This didn’t deter our thrifty driver, he swerved to the right and headed on the wrong side of the road, side swiping a cyclist with a passenger (they were fine) and he headed to the front of the line. While there is an insane driver there is also the conductor who collects the money (50 cents for a one way ride). He may or may not have a seat and when someone wants to get off he whacks the side of the van to tell the driver to pull over. He is also happy to yell out the one window that work ‘’Town, town’ in case someone needs a lift.

All is well until we near the CBD where we don’t move for 20 minutes. We decide to walk, a much better option. As soon as we get out a drunk elderly man walks past Liz and says ‘Nice hat’ – she wasn’t wearing one.

Right on 8.30 we get to a building that a security officer says is the high commission office. No signs, just another guard who tells us to leave our bag at the entrance. As in every other public place the security wand is waved over us. We proceed to a room that looks like an ancient library. Still no signs, no staff, just a couple of people who tell us that the line is the seating. So we sit for an hour. Slowly the crowd builds up, but no staff.

Image

A view of the Nairobi CBD

 

Dead on 9.30am a man walks in with his stamp, get’s it on the correct date and yells ‘next’. That my friend is but step one in the process. This nice gentleman says to go to the opposite room (no signs yet) where we take a seat. Our number (3) is called. The lady goes through the stamped papers and tells us we need to see her manager – the man seated next to her. We return to our seats to see the manager telling a woman that he ‘won’t process her visa and why did she leave it till now to get it’. No worries I thought, we’ve called, checked out the website. Liz and I approach the desk. He asks if these are the tickets (they say they are), we give all the forms. He knows what date we fly out, he knows we need a transit visa. He brings out another form which we duly fill in. He gets out his receipt book and starts with adding about another $15 to the fee.

At this point, I ask again for the umpteenth time ‘So, we will get a visa by the time we fly out on Friday’. He stops, puts his pen down and asks what time our flight is. His simple answer is ‘No, it won’t happen’. No, you can pay more and get it done faster, no reason why, just that he won’t do it. He’s the manager and it was his choice.

Stuff it I think to myself. How many times do you have to ask about time frames, will something get done, is it possible? I’m not asking to be in the country forever, just 15 hours.

‘I will have to withdraw my application’ I say. No reaction from him except ‘That’s your choice’.

What a dude.

So after a drink we catch an even more dodgy matatu back to work. Liz, she loses her phone.

No visa = changing tickets to be in India for only 6 hours + $100USD. I think it was worth it.

Today at 11.35pm we head for home.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s