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In keeping with my plan for staying busy, I had scheduled today for renewing my passport which has seven months to go still. But I read somewhere that visas won’t be issued if there are less than six months’ validity before the expiration of a passport. Well, not that I have made up my mind to travel, but still, it is good to know you have a valid passport.
Having asked a number of my friends if I need to take personal photos with me, or if they will take one of me there, I was given many conflicting answers, but chose to believe that they will take one of me there. As I am in deep mourning and really look a fright, I thought it best to try to wear as much makeup as is reasonable and take with me a multicolored scarf to put around my neck to hide the black.
Early this morning I got up and hurriedly prepared to go on my adventure, not knowing how long it would take me to get done. I was in such a hurry and so worried I would forget my passport, I kept reminding myself of it till I found myself in my car and on my way. Relaxing on the drive there, I started to think if there was anything else I would like to do as long as I was out, when suddenly I realized that I forgot to take my mobiles with me. For a few seconds I panicked, then thought how silly that was. It hasn’t been that long that we have had mobiles, all my previous life I had gone without, can’t I survive one morning without my mobiles? I think I can, it is a luxury I can survive without for one morning. Panic assuaged I continued on my way.
I know vaguely where I should go, it is next to where I had renewed my car license, so I found as near a parking space as I could, which turned out to be behind one of those huge monstrosities, painted yellow and looks like it is a car transporter. Anyway I parked my car and started out on my adventure. I had to ask twice before I was pointed in the right direction for the right office that I needed. On the way there I was twice offered a ride in a Tok-Tok, which reminded me of the day I had gone to vote for the constitution. I declined regretfully, and continued on my way, up one flight of stairs and into a rather large room full of people.
A man sitting at a small table right at the door asked me what I needed to do and I told him I wanted to renew my passport, he asked for it and my ID card, then told me I needed photocopies of pages three to nine of the passport and a copy of my ID card, as well as three personal photos. I was surprised and asked, don’t you take a photo of me here? And he looked pityingly at me and said, do you want it to look like this? And showed me my ID photo which looks like one of those “Wanted” posters. Then he gave me a form, to fill just the first page. I smiled weakly and said I didn’t have photos with me, so a man standing next to me volunteered the information that the small kiosk at the foot of the stairs would do my photocopies for me and they have a digital camera and could take my picture. I thanked him and down I went again to that very enterprising Kiosk. Two young men were running a thriving business. By the time I told them what I needed, half the photocopying was done, and the second young man told me to stand up with my back to a white board outside the kiosk, he got his camera and told me to look into it.
At that moment three things hit me at once : 1) I had forgotten to bring with me the multicolored scarf, 2) I was standing in the street with my hair blowing in the wind and 3) Any minute now some pedestrian would step between me and the camera. Then the young man told me to just relax and look at the camera and he will take care of the rest! What else could I do? I tried. He clicked his camera several times then asked me to wait. I found a chair nearby and took the opportunity to fill in the first page of the form while he got my picture ready. Just as I was done, so was he. He handed me the pictures as I handed him the money, then I headed back to the same office to continue with the procedures. I sneaked a look at my picture, and it was exactly as I had feared. I looked like a distracted crow. Ah well, cannot be helped. This is what will face all my future travels for the next seven years. I got back to the man at the door who pointed me to the head of the section where I had to be assigned to a window to finish the procedures. The man looked at my ID, my passport, cringed at my photos, then asked his assistant to cancel the passport. This was done very imaginatively by punching a couple of holes in it with a puncher. I was then assigned to window 4, which was, miraculously empty. I handed in my papers, the lady finished what she needed to do, gave them back to me and told me to go to window 7 to pay the fees. The fees were written above the window, I was third in line. In another couple of minutes I had paid, was given the stamped receipt and told to come back to collect my new passport in three days. Miracle, in and out in under half an hour. I could not believe it.
So I still had a whole morning to get through, so I thought I should try to get some black blouses or shirts as now I have just two and that would not be enough in summer. So I walked back to my car, looking for the large yellow monstrosity behind which I had parked, it wasn’t there! Huh? Ok, it left, now let me look for my car. I walked till the end of the pavement and it wasn’t there. I continued onto the next pavement, till there were no more cars. Where is my car? Deep shock! Has it been stolen? Why today when I don’t even have my mobiles with me? What am I going to do? Do I need to call the police? How? I found myself turning around myself on the pavement and muttering, “Oh God! What am I to do?” An elderly man came up to me and asked what’s wrong and I told him I cannot find my car, it was parked here, and now I cannot find it. He started ranting about those infidels who would do something like that. This wasn’t very helpful. But I started walking back from where I had come, and a few steps later saw my car sitting there at the curb. I cried there it is! The man then turned to me reproachfully and said : why did you give me such a fright Lady, you should have looked more carefully! I surprised myself, and totally shocked the man by bursting into tears right there and then. He took a step back, nearly bumping into a couple of women who turned on him, and I vaguely heard them aggressively ask him what he had done to me to make me cry! The poor man was starting to explain when I got into the car and continued my crying jag for another few minutes. By the time I had finished, all the people who were involved in my tragic comedy were gone and I collected myself enough to drive away.
To reward myself I went shopping, bought a few black blouses, then finally drove back home. At least I remembered where THAT was.
27 March 2014

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