Why do some things always seem so unnecessarily difficult? Among them: group projects, first dates, and acrylic self-portraits. Yet what I shall forever rank as the most obnoxious and emotionally taxing are visa/permit applications.
Julie (Jenn’s replacement TTLF Fellow) and Gargi (a contracted nutritional consultant) arrived in late May, just in time for TTL’s 10-year anniversary celebrations. Lesotho only offers a maximum 30-day visa upon entry, so temporary residence permits are required for these ladies’ extended stays.
Two weeks ago, Julie and I trekked across town to the Immigration office to obtain just such a residence permit, what should have been a straightforward affair. I had all the documents and official letters in order. I had my phone with sufficient airtime. I had contact information for all the head honchos that could instruct the woefully incompetent ntate on how to endorse the permit once in Julie’s passport.
We parlayed with Ntate Immigration for 30 minutes, long enough to be told that yes, everything looks fine. Yes, this type of residence permit is possible. No, this immigration office no longer has the appropriate stamp to give a temporary residence permit. Travel to Butha-Buthe and talk with the Immigration office there. Maybe they could help.
I’m sorry? Fine.
Well the Immigration Office in Butha-Buthe had a different (read: with additions) set of requirements for this residence permit (of course it did). Police-certified copies of their passports and passport-sized photographs were suddenly needed.
Although I got ‘M’e Immigration to waive the photograph, it seems that certified passport copies are more strictly enforced. That only added an hour and a half and 3 additional travel stops in order to procure. Never mind that the police had gone for lunch by the time we made it to their headquarters for certification.
At long last we made it to the taxi rank for the return trip to Mokhotlong, tired and irritated – the weight of accomplishment had not yet sunk in – and hungry. The glorious Basotho steam bread that filled my summer is now hibernating for winter, judging by its scarcity. It took Julie and Gargi a good 20 minutes to find the only loaf remaining among all the taxi rank vendors, delivered by a helpful ntate in the plastic sale basin. It was a pretty bad loaf, too.
The wait time for the taxi to fill was over 2 hours.
The number of passengers, 16.
The amount of luggage (mercifully) filled only 1 seat.
And long after dark, our kind driver delivered us to the front gate of TTL.
All for two little blue stamps.