by Charmain Carrol
I am back from Europe and am reflecting on all the things I did, people I met, and what a wonderful and productive time I had. But I cannot stop thinking about how this trip almost never was. I nearly gave up on the trip because the visa application was a nightmare. I did not anticipate the problems I encountered when I initiated the application process. After all, I had observed some of my friends process their applications in Pretoria. It always seemed quick and easy.
Well my journey was not quite as cut and dry. Here goes…
I gathered all supporting documents needed to apply for my visa to Barcelona, Spain.
I was granted an appointment on Monday, July 1st. In my head, I thought that was ample time to apply for a visa to travel on the 10th of the same month.
Nqobile and I travelled to Pretoria and we were quite eager and excited for our appointment. We arrived early with our pictures on hand. We went on to meet with a consultant, who went through the supporting documents that we had brought and set them against his checklist. When he was done he advised us that we had missing documents that needed to reach him no later than Wednesday if we planned to leave on the 10th, as a visa took 5 days to process.
The outstanding documents were a letter of invitation from the person who would be hosting us in Spain and France, along with their passport copy and a copy of an electricity bill. We had to show that we had means to travel from Spain to France by showing proof of train tickets from Spain to France.
We each had to have R7000 in each of our accounts, even if we were unemployed.
Reality set in fast and our hearts sank. We were fazed but not out. We contacted the organization that had extended the invitation to us and relayed the feedback from the visa office. They promised to email the required information by midday. In our stance to be proactive, we arose early to catch taxis to Pretoria, as we live two hours away. We waited for the emails to arrive so that the application process could begin but nothing came through. The embassy closed at 2.30 and we had no choice but to turn back.
When we got back home, our hosts had emailed copies of their passports and electricity bills.
This was our last day to hand in all outstanding documents but we simply did not have them all. We travelled to meet with the consultant again and explained the status of our document gathering process. We also explained that we would be travelling to France by private transport; therefore there was no train ticket to present. He said that it would be his supervisor’s call but he will forward it. He also advised us to get the required money, print bank statements and come back and see him the next day.
We felt dejected because we had no clue where we would get R14 000- from since both of us were volunteering for Inkanyiso with no salaries. Let alone to state the collective we volunteer for does not get any funding from any LGBTI funding donors.
Nqobile and I went our separate ways and went home where everyone was discussing the senseless and gruesome murder of Duduzile Zozo.
Later I went to bed.
In the morning I was running some type of fever and I could not even get up from my mattress.
I was cold and yet my body was so hot. I had a meeting to go to but I could not make it. I instead had the meeting at home, dosing in and out of slumber. I had taken some cold medicine and it might have continued to my being woozy. My flat mates were getting ready to attend Duduzile Zozo’s night vigil. Try as I might, I just could not get my body to cooperate, so I had to stay behind. I slept and after I woke up, I checked my email and the invitation letter that we had been waiting on arrived and it said all the right things, and more!!!
They stated that they had sent us the required money and that we should go back to the visa office again.
As sick as I was, we journeyed back to Pretoria. We met with the consultant who gathered our documents and passed us on to another consultant for processing. She went on to inform us that since our documents were all in Spanish, we would have to get our documents translated as well as apply for a French visa because we would be spending more days in France than in Spain.
At this point I was beyond all manner of being restrained and I announced to the lady that I would not be leaving the embassy without the visa, since I had been coming to the same place at the beginning of the week. She made us wait for the consultant who initially helped us. Towards 3:00pm he came through and took all our documents again and said we should wait while he pleaded our case with his counterparts.
At 3.45 he came back with a sliver of hope and told us to pray that everything worked out. In the interim, he advised us to pay our processing fees. We were advised that we would know the verdict by July 9. Sometime in between, I received a call from a Jacqueline from the embassy asking me to send her a letter from Inkanyiso stating that the organization had appointed us as representatives to go to Spain. As the stars would have it, Zanele Muholi arrived on that same day and she wrote and emailed the letters. We did not hear anything on the 9th July. Maybe it was not meant to be!
I was on my way home to Heidelberg when I got a call to come and collect the visas before 2:00pm!
That was 10:00am. I rushed home, packed for the trip, called Nqobile to meet me at the Embassy and then rushed to the visa office to pick up our visas.
I really thought we were not going to leave that day but we did. We passed through the flat but there was no one at home. We wanted to say goodbye – for now – to our friends.
We left for Spain…
To be continued…
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