10 June 2009

Visas part 2 - aka The Housekeeper Edition

Everyone tells us that Ethiopia is like no place else: The only African country never to have been a colony, with an ancient language sporting a unique script, food that is surpassing strange to the foreigner, and still in the year 2001 due to the fact that they stuck with the Julian calendar when most of the rest of the World went with the Gregorian one. So trying for a visa for our visit in October was pretty daunting.

I had prepared well after my return trip to the Tunisian embassy, where they had required an itinerary, ferry bookings to ensure we would leave the country again, bank statements and car registration papers. We had all those, plus separate bank statements for Merryl to show that she has independent means and a cover letter to explain that she is employed by us as a house keeper (well, it is almost true, even though I listed my own occupation as 'house wife', which just shows how much I am willing to compromise my principles for the sake of an adventure).

The visa counter at the Ethiopian Embassy in Pretoria

Unfortunately once we actually stood at the counter in the courtyard of the embassy and handed over our paperwork it was a whole other story. Maybe it was the idea that we were driving ourselves, that we were going to be camping, that we were leaving here in June, but would not pass through Ethiopia until October, but for some reason the embassy officer was very suspicious of us. What exactly he thought we would be doing in his country other than visit some old churches and hike in a few national parks I am not sure. Did we look like arms dealers trying to connect with our sources in Yemen across the water? Did he think we wanted to immigrate? Did we seem the types to foment revolt?

Regardless, the man was adamant to know everything about us. He thought of all sorts of other information we should supply him with, from our marriage certificate to an itinerary of our complete trip rather than just the bit through Ethiopia, more bank statements (and not 'manufactured ones, as he pointed out helpfully) and a letter stating the names of the passengers in the car, all car details (again, despite us supplying the registration and the carnet), and a letter from the bank stating that indeed we were the owners of the bank account whose bank statements we had handed over. Apparently having your name at the top of a statement is not enough, but an editable, unsigned Word document sent by email from the bank is irrefutable proof.

Oh, and my personal favourite comment from the man with all the power came when we showed him Merryl's employment letter. He took one peek at her with her cool Kiwi haircut and surf chick clothes and told me: "She doesn't look like a house keeper to me."

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