Sunday, September 26, 2010

Update on the Visa Saga: Part 3 (4?)

With my letter from Dartmouth stating a translation of my diploma in hand, I pulled my number tab and waited my turn at the Rwandan Immigration Office…much like people have to wait turns at meat counters at busy places that are not the Hanover Coop.

Then, figuring, I’d beat the system, I decided to pay my fine while waiting for my number to be called. The accountant is maybe the only office at the Immigration building that moves quickly. I was in and out of there so quickly…showing them the text I got that said I had to pay a fine and then writing my name down on literally a scrap of paper for them because I didn’t have ID. (They asked for my passport, I laughed, they were only half serious.)

Back up to the Immigration office. Number called. I pull out my letter and cell phone and show the text and the letter to the man behind the counter.

“Ah you see you have to pay a fine” he informs me.

I knew I would beat the system. I show him that I’ve already paid it, expecting that this is all that he’s actually interested in. Oh no, turns out the letter did not look professional enough. (Curse that US Embassy man who did not quite tell me how important a $50 “this is a copy of an illegitimate document” stamp would be.) Immigration man explains to me that Rwanda is a very official and international country. It will accept all forms in English and in French. Not even in Kinyrwanda. What kind of country would they be if they accepted diplomas in Latin? They’d be a laughingstock!

No – you’d be a country that accepts students from the best colleges in the world.

I ask what he suggests I do, if he won’t accept a letter from my college that translates the diploma that it wrote. And then I slyly put the receipt from the fine on top of the papers, again expecting that this is what he’s most interested in.

“Go to the Italian Embassy.”

“I’m sorry…why?”

“Because they speak Latin in Italy, so they will be able to translate it at the Italian Embassy.”

“Umm…Latin is not spoken in Italy…or anywhere actually.”

“Well then go to the US Embassy.”

“I just came from there and they told me they can’t help me.”

“Well then go to the Vatican Embassy.”

“The Vati –“ –I cut myself off, of course the Vatican has an embassy. Its embassies are probably larger than the Vatican itself.

I stare at the man who I KNOW has accepted Latin diplomas before and quickly consider my options. I have nothing to threaten him with. If I don’t get a Work Visa, it’s not really at a loss to him or Rwanda. I’d like to think that in my year here I will develop some revolutionary filing system that will significantly improve health care and reporting in the country…but…let’s be serious…even if that was realistic, man behind the counter at the Immigration office wouldn’t know/appreciate/believe that. I cannot bribe him, because such an attempt would surely get me imprisoned or exiled. And I cannot flirt because English is his third/fourth/fifth language. He obviously holds the upper hand in this discussion.

Gritting my teeth, I ask for directions to the Vatican embassy. “Right next to the USAID building,” I’m told. Irony.

When I get up to walk away, I am immediately surrounded by three other people who are about to file for their work visas and are now worried because their diplomas are in Latin as well. I can offer no consolation except that, conveniently, the founder of my organization lives in the same town as my college…so he’ll be able to figure it out and get something professional to me.

Instead of the Vatican Embassy we go to a hotel and watch a tennis tournament for a few hours. I might still not be legal in this country, but I think it was a good choice.

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