Defying Murphy’s Law
Everything that is meant to go wrong, will go wrong. Ever heard of that maxim coined by one of those ancient physicists? I got a taste of that yesterday, and a very bitter taste for that matter.
Right after my run on Saturday morning, I pass by the office at around 10.00am to put together my travel documents only to realise that I have misplaced my yellow fever certificate. Let’s address that for a second. Does any of you know why South Africa insists on us getting this jab before visiting their precious country? Why do they imagine that it’s the worst thing that can be passed on to them by foreigners from 13 Central & South American countries and 29 African countries? Which btw excludes Tanzania, yet here I thought our climates, much like our overall economies, are quite similar? (yes, I did my research ). Why don’t the like of the USA and Europe have that stupid requirement? There might be some level of ignorance exposed here but please don’t stone me, just edify me.
Anyway, so I pull out all my office drawers with the frustration of a woman looking for her car keys in a travel bag size purse. I empty the contents in search of that small yellow booklet that almost resembles a child’s vaccination card. Well, it is a vaccination card anyway, and it is nowhere in sight. My desk is now in a sorry state, with notebooks and white A4 size papers scattered all over. My frustration turns to rage, and I pop a vein. I can even feel my face breaking out.
“This must be the doing of that meanie at the Visa application centre (VFS).” I whisper to myself through gritted teeth.
Allow me to narrate my ordeal at the VFS centre at Parkfield Place, Muthangari Drive exactly two weeks ago on an otherwise cheerful Wednesday morning. While at my desk, it hits me that I have less than 12 days to travel and I haven’t started the Visa application process. I am not entirely to blame as it was sort of last-minute decision. But luck seems to be on my side when I discover that the SA Visa takes only 5 working days to process. If my memory serves me right, the last time I applied for one the processing took 10 working days. Since I don’t want to push my luck, I put together all the required documents in a record one hour, including going to the bank and having statements certified.
As I drive to Parkfield Place, the remix to Davido’s IF feat R-Kelly is softly streaming from the car stereo. This is the first time I am hearing it and it is a piece of work! I know, as a woman and worse still a mother, I should not be enjoying let alone speaking of or promoting anything to do with R. Kelly. But guys, we can separate the art from the artist, right?
I get to Parkfield Place and the parking is parked (too many parks there hehe). The watchman however approaches me and offers to give me a reserved slot. My morning can’t get any better. I register at the desk downstairs and proceed to 5th floor, go past the search point and I am given a coupon. Number 119, it reads. VFS handles Visas for a number of countries. I turn right to the SA side and the waiting area is almost filled to the brim. This should annoy me given my impatient nature but it doesn’t because it is a beautiful morning and this is just one small set back. Plus lately, I take advantage of any waiting periods to write.
As I take my seat near the back, I notice these beautiful murals on the wall. My coupon number is called before I can even seat down and I approach the first counter.
“Good morning?” I cheerfully address the lady behind the desk.
“Can I have your documents please?” She snaps back, completely disregarding my greetings.
Perhaps they are banned from being overly friendly with applicants, but surely, it is not like I asked her to fast track my Visa or anything.
“In what order would you like them, ma’am?” I inquire in the softest of tones, deciding to be the bigger person here.
“Just give them to me I’ll arrange them.” Her tone is so cold, I am tempted to walk to JAVA 200m away and buy her a mug of cappuccino.
I complete the scrutiny process, pay the VFS fee and I am instructed to sit and wait for the call to submit my documents.
As soon as I settle down, I whip out my phone and start taking selfies, mostly aiming at the spectacular wall behind me. Ten selfies later (I know), this asian lady in her twenties perched on the seat next to mine taps me and points at a clerk straight ahead who is motioning me to stop with the vanity as photos are not allowed. I mouth the words “Sorry, I didn’t know” while shaking my head in disbelief and I get on with writing, on my phone.
One and a half hours later, I look up and the waiting room is empty, save for me and one more guy who is seated three rows ahead of me. It is 4.00pm which is exactly the time the VFS centre closes. The clerk who warned me against indulging in my hobby, is staring at me. I walk over to him and inquire why I haven’t been called.
“Your coupon must have been called while you were busy taking selfies!” He snorts, with a sneer on his face. Unbelievable!
“Ever heard of the term multitasking?” I ask him, fighting the urge to call him names. “Much as I was on my phone half the time, I was also looking out for my coupon. I bet you I wasn’t called.”
He goes ahead to open this log on his comp that highlights “missing coupons” which is how coupons that get no response are recorded. 119 is not among them, so clearly it was an error on their part! I step back, cross my hands on my chest and arch my left eyebrow as I wait for an apology which he is not about to hand me.
“Whether your coupon was missed or not, that’s besides the point. Had you not been so busy on your phone you would have come to complain earlier.” He snaps, as he points at the last desk on his right. “Hand over your documents over there before my colleague closes shop”.
I felt reduced to a thigiriri- those harmless tiny little ants. It was like having an altercation with an unreasonable watchman who was not willing to cave in. I thought of telling him off but I thought against it, because this was a person capable of sabotaging my application. His cruelty must have been born out of three things. Either he was hurt as a child, or some girl laughed at his wiwi in lower primary or he just does not appreciate women who can hold their own. Much as I knew he would not have any say in the decision once the application was submitted to the high commission, I promised myself to fight the urge to blog about it until I knew my fate. I got my Visa alright, but I am convinced that cold hearted dark-skinned average height clerk at VHS placed a curse on me that I will not make it to the land of mouth-watering steak and wine and grandiose landscapes.
So back to Saturday morning. I give up trying to find the yellow fever cert and head to Getrudes Othaya Road for a replacement (that’s where I got the initial one from). I throw it my handbag, head over to the salon. Nothing beats the pain experienced when braiding short hair, not even waxing. VFS guy is still at work, me thinks. Anyway, it is nothing that two glasses of wine at the salon wont handle. In the evening, my family and I head over to Diamond Plaza. I want to buy a phone, and its been a while since we ate at that food court. Xena tries to convince me to pick the silver phone as it is her fav colour, and I tell her gold is the ultimate standard. She’s so convinced, as she’s now telling me that I should buy her gold headphones and a gold magic wand when I travel.
“Card transaction will cost you 3% more,” says the shop attendant, which I work out to be 2,500. That’s fuel for almost two weeks! I decide to pay via Mpesa through the bank to Mpesa platform. But guess what, VFS guy is still not asleep. I send the money to a wrong number! The transaction is from bank to Mpesa so Safaricom can not reverse it, and neither will my bank. Luckily, the lucky person is someone I know and she graciously sends back the money to me and I complete the transaction. I join my family at the food court and my younger daughter is throwing an award-winning tantrum, the first one in her 22 months. It’s 9.00pm and the VFS guy is yet to retire, clearly. The kids have chicken mushikaki with fries, the mister and I pousin chicken and bhajias.
We get home and as I park my travel bag, I start with getting all my docs together. The passport is missing! Surely, Mr. VFS, don’t you ever give up???? I turn my bedroom upside down and 20 minutes later, I find it safely tucked in my MacBook case. Phewww.
“ That has to be the last stroke of bad luck.” I think to myself.
My alarm is set for 5.00am. I get into bed at 11.00pm but I find myself waking up with a start at 1.00am, imagining that my alarm went off and I have missed my flight! Mr VFS is still haunting me from wherever it is he lived. I manage to get back to sleep and at 4.00am I wake up with the worst bout of diarrhoea. I find myself on the toilet bowl for a full hour cringing, writhing in pain, and cursing. The mister is sound asleep but at some point he is woken up by my painful growls.
“Did you have any salad at DP?” He inquires and I snap back “Surely, didn’t we eat from the same plate? Was there any salad?”
“I hope it’s not cholera.” He says. “Make sure you carry your medical card.”
“At this rate, I doubt I am going anywhere.”
Anyway, I am willing to show Mr VFS who is the boss, so I drag myself to the shower and dress up. Thank God I did my parking the previous night. It’s 5.45am and I need to be at the airport by 6.30am. I call an Uber.
Somewhere along the way, my bowels start to rumble again. We stop at the Total in Hurlingham but the chemist is closed. We are running out of time, so I brave the pain and soon enough I am passing through the Terminal 1 security check after which is a mob of guys. The place is overflowing with travellers, like wildebeests forcefully crossing the Serengeti. I struggle to make out where the queue ends. It is 6.43am and baggage drop off for my flight closes at 6.45am. There’s no way ill make it, so I play my “sickness” card to my advantage and I am ushered by a lovey gentleman all the way to the front. As I move past the snaking queue, I overhear two ladies grumbling about how they had queued for 1.5 hours, and their plane was taking off in half an hours time. My stomach has also settled. I thank my lucky stars for finally putting Mr VFS to a sound sleep!
So here I am now in Sandton, SA. My hotel is next to Nelson Mandela square. I stopped to take a photo for this feature at the fountain right outside the square, now that the Nelson Mandela statue is overrated. After taking 1 million selfies, a gentleman who seemed like a porter at the hotel walked over to me and asked to take my photo. How kind! I then checked in to my hotel and after analysing the view from my 9th floor room which is not too shabby, came downstairs to the restaurant to feed my starving self. I have just had the most succulent lamb chops topped with cheddar and papadum sauce, and washed it down with a classic collection of cabernet sauvignon, 2016, as I bang this copy. Smooth jazz, including familiar tunes from Hugh Masekela floats from the invincible speakers. I don’t care if my stomach acts up after this because this gastronomic experience is worth all the wincing and cringing and growling.
I won, Mr. VFS.
You know where else I emerged victorious? The CFA level II exam. That month of whining and consuming almost all my leave days and abandoning my friends and family was totally worth it!!
Also, I am loving my new phone! The camera is dope, right?