Tag Archives: visa

To Cape Town I Go!

IMG_0625At long last, the Visa Saga is complete!

Following my Swazi border-jump, I re-entered the Republic of South Africa with a week to kill before my London flight. Naturally, an opportunistic trip to Cape Town was in order.

And just as I feared, I fell in love with the city. Hard.

In four and a half days I saw a major slice of Western Cape highlights, but left so much of Cape Town itself grievously unexplored. Can I persuade anyone to accompany me on a future South African jaunt?


Part 5: A Second Border-Jump


It means ‘to restart the economy’ in siSwati, the national language of Swaziland, and near the little town of Ngonini, that is precisely what comes of the trainings run by a local organisation of that name.

Nearly twenty years ago, eighteen chiefdoms (sigodzi) in northern Swaziland allied in support of a little project intending to run community support programs that would enhance the lives of local Swazis and allow them to build toward a brighter tomorrow. Sound like NGO-speak? It is. It’s also true.

IMG_2754Kathy Gau is the Peace Corps Volunteer who never left. After extending her volunteer term an additional year and then holding a few odd jobs in northern Swazi, she laid the foundations for Vusumnotfo, where she has worked ever since.

Kathy, her daughter Alison, and their friend Walker came to visit Jenn and me in December last year. Unable to repay the visit in April, I took advantage of my time-sensitive visa situation to make the trip in August.

For a full week I camped out in a Wendy house (after learning what is a Wendy house), hiked, ran, talked work, and talked life. I got to see the organisation in full workshop operation and spent some time learning about Swazi history and culture as I chatted with the Vusumnotfo staff between sessions.

Definitely glad I got the touristy stuff out of the way a few months ago to really enjoy this slice of Swaziland.

The Visa Saga (in many parts)

Who knew going to get my Master’s at a London university immediately after living and working in southern Africa would be so horrendously difficult?

Stay tuned as I recount my (ongoing) fun adventures while subjecting my passport to a rigorous month of border crossings.

At least I’m having fun, right?

Part 1: Leaving Lesotho
Part 2: Border-Jumping to Bechuanaland
Part 3: Finding a Plan en Route
Part 4: The Application
Part 5: A Second Border-Jump

All for two little blue stamps.

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.

7th the first

Now is not the time to detail my profound love for the number 7 or describe the source of my appreciation for all its mystical power. Predictably and graciously each month, however, the 7th rolls around like clockwork, for indeed it is. Understanding this to be the first 7th of the new year, it deserves some recognition and added celebration.

I have been resident in Lesotho and working with TTL for exactly one month. Today I received my Lesotho residence permit. Like most visa scenarios, this was a time-consuming affair – though not as cumbersome as my Ghana visa extensions… Today I celebrate residency!

One year ago I arrived in Equatorial Guinea from Germany to begin as a research assistant for the annual January Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program (BBPP) expedition. I met some great people, and today I celebrate the anniversary of our time together.

Perhaps it is cliché to be grateful for the chance at a new beginning and a year ahead with blank pages aplenty. Fortunately this year has so much potential to be phenomenal, thereby overriding any categorization as ‘cliché.’ Today I celebrate plans fulfilled, opportunities knocking, and dreams to be realized.