This is Africa
Over the next month my blog posts will be focused on Africa as we take to the road, Monday, for our first ever jaunt to the big latitudes of the dark continent. We have many things to learn and therefore many things to share along the way. Some of the firsts we are excited to experience include:
First trip to the roof of Africa (Kilimanjaro)
First dives in the Indian Ocean
First time driving in Africa!
First safari where we are hoping to see a good percentage of the 147 mammals in Kruger National Park
First time on a 17 hour flight! (Johannesburg to Atlanta)
However, as we pack and prepare to even leave the country, we’ve already experienced our first African first!
My friend from Mozambique taught me the three most important words for traveling in Africa. “This is Africa, TIA”. That is a short way to say that it’s not going to work out how you want, it’s going to be frustrating and you just have to roll with it, shrug your shoulders and sigh….This is Africa.
I Decided to be Proactive!
So I thought I would be proactive in dealing with the bureaucracy of the country of Tanzania by purchasing my Visa in advance. Simple. Mail your passport to the Embassy in Washington, five day turn around and passport back in hand.
Well, TIA in America! I nervously mailed our passports off (I NEVER want to be without my passport for even a day!) after calling and confirming the five day turn around. A week later I get a message that they don’t accept American Express. Ok, so far we’ve surpassed the five day mark. When you phone the Embassy no one ever answers and trust me, no one calls you back. However, I learned to continuously dial “0” and eventually the receptionist will pick up the phone, sometimes after 17 tries.
So I finally reach Mariam who takes down my Mastercard number and we are in business. Now, I simply wait for the passports to arrive in my mailbox. And wait.. and wait.. and wait…
Now it’s Thursday, nine days after my conversation with Mariam and 15 days after they received the passports, and we leave Monday. My little local post office has confirmed no passports arrived today. I call the Embassy and 17 tries later, I get my favorite receptionist. “Oh”, she said, “I don’t think they’ve gone out but they probably will in a day or so”. My heart stopped dead! “I think you’d better get Mariam on the line”. “Hold on, hold on hold on” she says. Is this Africa? Both ladies love to repeat words over and over (they really are very cute!).
Mariam begins the search asking six times for my name, searching desperately for the passports. Meanwhile, I am calculating the minute, slim percentage chance of getting a new passport in only four days over the weekend when I am sure she is going to tell me me she’s lost them!
Then the line goes dead. Oh no! She hung up on me. Back to 17 tries for the receptionist. When I get Mariam back on the line, she says, “oh, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry” What’s with the repetition of words? Then she asks for my name…again. And she says, “Were we supposed to mail them back to you?” And I’m wondering what the other option was… drive over to Washington DC and pick them up?
Eventually Mariam finds that they have in fact been mailed out two days ago back to me in Montana. I give my racing heart a few minutes to calm down and decide that now, today, at this moment is the time to begin to blog on my trip to Africa, for obviously the fun has already begun. TIA
(note: In the middle of writing this post, I received a phone call from my little town’s post office. It seems that the package had arrived this morning after all. I had them open the letter to verify and yes! the passports have arrived! All systems go!)
To Your Adventures..and mine