by Xana Nyilenda
For a while I had been out of reach from the world and friends.
I decided to have nothing to do with technology, parties and alcohol, a monstrous beast that had consumed my entire life.
I ran away, from thoughts, feelings, and lost all logic and reason. I was living in my own world, one where my only worry was if Daniel Nyathi would die in a cage without anyone ever noticing he went missing (that’s a reference to the television soapy “Scandal” for those who don’t know).
I had gone AWOL, too busy feeling sorry for myself to even care if anyone would notice. I created my own world, a place where I had fooled myself into thinking I had regained control of my life. However mundane and monotonous it had become, I didn’t care, it was mine and I owned it.
What pleased me was that I was beginning to find myself again, having come to terms with the reality that is the bi*@t* some of us call life.
I eventually found the “Me” I had lost so long ago.
About a month ago, after a fierce episode of “Survivor” reality show (that’s how exciting my life had become). I was about to lay my head to rest when…
A call came in, It was a private number; anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t answer those. Especially after hours because of the upsetting period when I received calls from an unknown enthusiastic breather earlier this year. This one I answered though.
Why? I asked myself that too.
After hesitantly pressing that green button I heard a voice,
Caller: It’s Zanele Muholi… You wanna go to LA with me
(Confused as hell)
ZANELE: Los Angeles, California ndoda(man)!
Do you wanna go?
ME: Yeah! When?
ZANELE: I’m in Paris right now I’ll text you then email the details.
For now send me a copy of your passport.
ME: Sure ngizokusendela manje (I will send it now).
This will be your freedom.
That was the end of that call and the beginning of a new thing in my life.
“Freedom” that word stuck with me echoing in my mind, God knows I needed to be free again.
After having imprisoned myself in my mind and within the confines of four walls that housed my bed where I had found my solace.
Freedom I thought. Igama enganikwa umzali kodwa ngingalazi ukuthi liqonde ukuthini.
This was my chance, my time. After endless nights of meditating, soul searching and praying for a sign, hoping for change big or small, I had been answered.
Inkululeko … thoughts of how life had been until that very moment when I decided to answer that call rushed over me.
Suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of fear and excitement, anxiety and panic but change and freedom were beckoning and I wasn’t going to ignore them. I said a silent prayer of thanks and for the first time in 9 months I fell asleep soundly.
First thought I had waking up was that my mother; who had been my pillar of strength in my darkest moment would be the first person I’d tell- it would surely bring a smile to her face again.
I went back home, after being away and alone for so long. I witnessed her kneeling every morning and evening praying for salvation never for her but for me. Her daughter who had become the empty vessel she could barely recognize anymore.
I was right she did smile, pausing to say, “Usameleni?
Hamba uyogeza khona uzolungisa izinto zakho. Ngizokwenzela ukudla.
“What are you waiting for?
Go bath so you can prepare your stuff, I’ll make food for you.
She was happy for me I could tell even though she tried to contain it. It showed, I saw my mother a strong woman shed a tear of relief. She gave me her approval and I set out to get everything in order to acquire my visa.
I was going to the birthplace of one of the biggest film making industries in the world, Hollywood. Being a filmmaker myself, this was huge – if that wasn’t a big sign from the universe to me, don’t know what is. This was a dream coming into fruition one that I had forgotten in the insanity of pleasing others.
My non-immigrant US visa application required me to fill in an online form called a DS-160, which can be found on http://www.usvisa-southarica.com. While doing this I realized that nothing is private except only your thoughts and intentions. Answering questions such as a where you live, where you work and how much you earn. To questions such as what your father’s name is where he was born etc. This made me wonder why they would care when you don’t- (different story for another time). I successfully submitted my online visa application, which was the easy part
I had book an appointment for a mandatory interview that every applicant trying to get into America has to do. How?
I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out, even after days on end spent doing research on the matter.
Being a first time applicant and having to do this by myself was so frustrating and intimidating.
I honestly wanted to give up and revert back to the little bubble I had created to protect myself but
I didn’t want to turn down this opportunity. I didn’t want to let down a friend and organizers of the symposium so I pushed hard, anxiety and all.
I decided to go the Durban consulate of America myself to clarify everything. I was lucky enough to be let in the consulate without an appointment to get the information I needed which I’m told hardly ever happens. This in turn led to me getting my interview booked five days before intended day of departure- cutting it close I know – but I can confidently say I did it all by myself.
Anyone interested on how to apply http://www.sa.visa-info.comis a perfect place to get step-by-step procedures. Word of advice though for those interested in visiting other countries to be prepared for long hours on the Internet, frustrating phone calls. Call centers where you are put through to operators with accents that are impossible to understand much like how they won’t understand you.
Which makes one wonder why they have them in the first, because they are about as useless as wearing heels at the beach. Be prepared to stand in long lines at the bank and police stations.
Make sure all your documents are in order to determine your entry into that country. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to know the address of where you will stay and contact details of your host, otherwise you’ll get a big fat NO.
Meaning all the money spent for the procedure goes down the drain. I didn’t encounter many problems with the acquisition of my US visa as it was approved after answering only one question. I considered myself to be lucky, don’t make the mistake of not studying your documents and doing all your research with regards to your trip.
I received my visa a day before travel, I packed and said my goodbyes and set off on a bus trip to Johannesburg (Jozi) where I would meet up with Muholi before heading to OR. Tambo Airport. On the way to Johannesburg, It seemed my luck had taken a turn for the worst when we encountered a serious accident.
This caused a three-hour road closure and for me to be stuck in a static vehicle with strangers and no room to move or even breathe.
I honestly didn’t think I’d make it on time for the flight but by the grace of some powerful forces I arrived in Jozi safe and sound.
Nine hours on a bus from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg, anticipating the longest flight I’m yet to experience. They say your whole life changes in an instant, in my case, mine literally changed at the click of a camera button.
To be continued…
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