As August 2015 drew near, it was time to book my flight to Juba and also to get my entry visa. Kevin and I both requested the necessary letter from our organization in South Sudan. Along with it came a page of instructions.
After obtaining the required letter, I had to obtain the visa application form. I went to the South Sudan embassy website for Nairobi and found the download for visa application. It was one page long, and I printed it out. However, when I began to complete it, I discovered it was a visa application to enter Kenya, not South Sudan. Hmmm. I hunted on the web again and found another application – four pages long. It asked the name of the person sponsoring me in South Sudan AND when his birthday is. I had no idea. I spent some time completing all the information that I reasonably could.
I also had to have my passport and health card, particularly for the yellow fever injection. (Mine is good until 2020). They also wanted a copy of both of these documents. I had the copy of my passport, but unfortunately, forgot to get a copy of the yellow fever page.
Next, I had to go to Kenya Commercial Bank and pay $100 into the Government of South Sudan’s account. The bank would then give me the receipt, and I was to take that to the embassy with my application.
All of the documents needed to be submitted on Monday morning between 8:30 and 10:30 am. (That is not a good time to try to get around in Nairobi, but you do what you have to do.) In that way, I would be able to collect the passport and visa on Thursday afternoon, in time to travel to Juba on Monday morning.
As I was not in town during the week until the week I needed to submit my application, I had hoped to get to the bank on the weekend. However, that was the weekend when President Obama visited Kenya, and traveling anywhere in the city became a nightmare. By the time I got into Nairobi, the banks had closed, so there was no way to take care of the transfer of funds until early Monday morning.
Bright and early Monday morning, I left the house by 7:30 am in hopes of being at the bank when the doors opened. Traffic was light in the direction I was traveling, and so I arrived about 7:50. The bank doesn’t open until 8:30, so I decided to find some coffee and food. The shop I chose didn’t have any decaffeinated coffee, and I’m not used to that strong stuff anymore. However, I decided to risk it and got a coffee and a muffin. By the time the bank opened, I was very jittery and pretty high on caffeine. I was indeed the first customer in the queue, so got the transfer done fairly quickly.
Having finally made my escape from the bank, I headed to the South Sudan embassy. By the time I arrived, there were no parking spaces available, but the guard, having determined I would be there for only a short time, allowed me to park behind several other cars. I left him some money to pay for my parking and also my phone number in case someone wanted to move. There was another expatriate their, who turned out to be John. He was also applying for a visa, so we went into the nice new building together and up to the sixth floor on an elevator/lift that was in good working order.
As we stepped off the elevator, two men were seated at a desk. I explained that I wanted to apply for a visa. One said, “Have you paid?”
“Yes,” I replied. Then he said, “Have you filled out an application?”
“Yes,” I replied, but he gave me a new one anyway. It was only one page, so I took it. Then he said, “You can come back at 10:00.”
“10:00???” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “Applications can be left from 10:00 – 11:00.” It was 9:15. What do you do for 45 minutes? I couldn’t stay parked where I was. There wasn’t really another place to go easily. I started toward home, but decided that the Catholic church was closer. I have gone there for my retreat days in the past, and so I knew they also had a restroom near the chapel. I drove to the church parking, got out and walked through the gate to the church, telling the guard I wanted to use the chapel. That was fine, so I managed to be relieved in several ways – still rather jittery from my morning coffee.
At 10:30, I was back at the embassy. This time I actually had a parking place. Again, I left the guard the money for parking and headed up to the sixth floor with John, who had also returned. We were told to go in, and found our way to the place where you put in your applications. Unfortunately, that is the point at which I remembered I had not photocopied my health card. After some negotiations, they let me copy it there, and I was able to give them my papers. WHEW!
They said I could collect the passport on Wednesday between 2:00 and 3:00. That was all very well, but I was supposed to be on a Skype call at that time. However, one of my colleagues was able to collect it for me. Finally, by Wednesday 5:00 I had passport in hand, ticket in hand and was nearly packed to go on Monday.