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Entries "August 2006":

Friday, 18 August 2006

The Amazing Race

Nobody ever said Rwanda would be an easy place to live. 

Last week I was in a mad dash to get my green card.  You see, I need to renew my visa for my second year and in order to do that I need a green card.  I didn't know that I needed a green card (lack of communication, reorganization of provinces, etc.) but Antonia found this out from the VSO office the other day so we were on a mad dash to get it since you can't get a green card without a valid visa and that runs out on September first. 

I hurried to my district office on Wednesday in Gikongoro with all the documents that I thought I needed.  I was told I would need the green card before getting my police clearance and I had an appointment to do that on Friday.  I arrived in the office and after waiting for a while was admitted to speak with the man who would give me this green card.  I handed over all of the documents which he flipped through in slow motion, seemingly at a loss as to what he should do with them.  He read through my work permit and said "So, you're single."  "Why is that?" (Big smile).  He then flipped through to the copy of my passport... "Canada, now how CAN one get a scholarship to go study in Canada?"  (Big smile)  When he  finished flipping he said "Do you have anything else for me?"  I told him that I was aware that I would need to pay 5000 francs and he replied that I could not pay them here but needed to go to the bank and get a receipt to bring back and that I would also need to write a letter of request.

Fine. He told me to come back next week but I insisted that I could get it done quickly and be back the same day.  (The office was closed on Thursday and Friday)  He told me he planned to be out in the afternoon.  "What if I can get back here before noon?"  ... "Well I guess I can make myself available... I had planned to leave early ... but ... ok".  I rushed out the door and Elson and I hopped on two bicycle taxis and headed to the bank.  I paid my 5000 francs and we headed to a cafe where I could write out the letter, with help from Elson, in very flowery French.  I made it back to the office by ten after eleven but was made to wait while he flirted with some young thing in his office.  At eleven thirty I went into his office and plopped the documents down on his desk.  I was met with "no, no, no, no!"  You need to go to Rwanda Revenue Authority with the receipt from the bank and they will give you another receipt that you give to me.  Despair!  I sighed heavily and reached my arm across his desk in a gesture of frustration.  He said, "you have thirty minutes". 

I walked out of his office.  Elson was waiting for me with a hopeful smile on his face as in "Did you get it?"  I simply said no and tears of frustration welled up in my eyes.  I didn't know where RRA was but Elson did.  So again we hopped on two bicycle taxis and headed into town.  Getting the receipt was easier than I expected and at ten to twelve I was back in the immigration office feeling like I just might make it...  I figured the filling out of forms would be quick (haven't I learned anything?) 

In any case I had him cornered.  I had everything I needed and he was still in the office so he had to do it.  And so began the most frustrating part, watching a man slowly and painfully fill out my form, hesitating on every line, trimming my passport photo sliver by sliver by sliver by sliver, searching for glue, finding it, losing the cap, searching for the cap, finding it, putting it away, needing it again.  He hovered over the document with his stamp making many false starts on his descent to the card.  He pondered over the forms as if he had never seen them before.  (There were however a few more piled up on his desk next to him... maybe he was not the real immigration authority but some guy who had wandered off the street?)  He copied my place of birth letter by letter, referring back to the passport every time.  C.... (looking).... A.... (now where was I?) ... L ... (is that right?) ... G ... (not enough curve on that letter, better do it again).  I pushed the tip of my pen into the palm of my hand to keep from jumping over the desk and wrenching the pen from his hands to do it myself.  I imagined the ulcer slowly burning a hole in my stomach.  I imagined how my quick-moving, efficient and sometimes impatient sister would react in this situation.  I laughed at the thought of this man using a computer.  And finally, 45 minutes later, he handed my green card.  I breathed a sigh of relief but my heart fell when I saw that it expires on August 31st, 2006.  It's not over yet.

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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog
Thursday, 03 August 2006

So, three Jehovah's Witnesses were building a fence

Antonia and I were waiting for a Volcano bus in Butare on Monday morning when a voice from behind (and below) me said "Bonjour!".  I turned around to see three men crouched down on the ground behind a shrub.  "We're building a fence" said one as they all looked up at Antonia and I smiling.  The man on the right said "There was an accident here, a child was taken to the hospital".  I looked and saw that the wooden fence that used to enclose this large yard had been broken, apparently from a car that had driven through.  The men were using machetes to dig into the ground to put in fence posts. 

"That's terrible", I said.

The man in the middle then said, "When will there be no more accidents?"  Confused, I said that there were accidents everywhere in the world and that maybe there would always be accidents ... an inevitable human condition.  The men smiled at this and then as if I had given the right cue in a rehearsed play, the man on the left said "ah, but one day there will be no more accidents".  The man in the middle: "No more human suffering".  The man on the right: "Do you know what day that is?"

Knowing I had started a routine that would inevitably play itself out with or without my imput I simply said "When Jesus comes?"

Man in the middle:Yes,  When the Kingdom of Heaven comes to Earth.

Man on the right: Do you know what the Kingdom of Heaven is?

Me:  Sure! looking around for help

Man in the middle:  What is it?

Me:  I, ah, well, ah.  I guess it's when .... (mutters something incomprehensible involving Jesus, Heaven, Earth)

At this point my mind wandered as the man on the right chattered away, about the day of reckoning, the saved, the glory of it all, incomprehensibly like Charlie Brown's teacher.  I strained my neck looking for the round white top of the Volcano bus.

Then the man in the middle, still digging, leaned forward and looked me smilingly in the face and said "Have you heard of the Jehovah's Witnesses?"

Me:  Yes indeedy! Still looking around for help... Antonia listening but trying to stay out of the conversation.

Meanwhie Man on the left creeps away into the house

Man on the right and Man in the middle alternatingly:  We are Jehovah's Witnesses (look of surprise registers on my face) and we live here in this house.  We are spreading the word of God.

Man on the left reappears

Man on left:  I have something for you to read!  Hands over copies of WAtchtower to the two women as they strain their necks looking for the bus.  I wonder if I could ask you for a contribution.

The scene ends with Cathie muttering some incomprehensible excuse and the Volcano bus finally pulling up.  Antonia and Cathie board the bus. 

Antonia:  They were like characters from a Shakespearian play!

I was reminded more of the crows on the wire in Disney's Dumbo.... but yeah, Shakespeare works too.


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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog

Modified on August 3, 2006 at 4:47 PM