{31/10/2012}   Liking to feel prepared (a bit of a visa rant)

Today is Thursday and I was only yesterday in possession of my passport and visa to fly to Ethiopia on Saturday.  I handed my passport in to work about three weeks ago and was told it would take three days to process.  Yet it only went in at the end of last week.  This is not how I like to roll.  At first I thought I was just too paranoid/anxious/anal, but I think it’s reasonable to be stressed about feeling a bit last minute, particularly when it’s not me that was late handing everything in.

Also, I am going to a country whose entry requirements include that no recording equipment is to be brought into the country without supporting documentation, ie a description of why you need it and what it does.  To do my job properly, I need recording equipment.  Not without huge – extensive and huge – issues, the equipment is being sent separately (though I have reason to believe that hasn’t been sent yet either) but I need backup, for which I have no documentation.  The backup is my own mini microphones and laptop.  Are they going to be confiscated?  It’s tense and I will only not regret accepting these three days of work if my flight leaves and arrives on time (it’s an overnight flight, due in c07:45, so with Sunday at leisure/in a sleep-deprived fug), my friend and I get through customs without visa or luggage issues, the equipment is through customs and in the hotel and the job isn’t sitting silly long hours and isn’t littered with names we have no idea how to spell.  I’m not optimistic, to put it mildly.

As for the job itself, I’ve been asked what it is by a few people. Well, all I know is it’s “something to do with a British construction company”. This is also not how I roll.

I am disorganised in some respects but where travel plans and a few other things are concerned, I am organised and don’t like not feeling prepared, for what I don’t even know.  I do not like feeling this uncertain about something I think could have been made much more straightforward.  I would also like only to have been parted from my passport for the three days necessary, not over two weeks with it sitting in a drawer in an office.

To add to all this, and possibly why I am so twitchy about things, I have twice had immigration “issues”.  I was detained at Denver airport in November last year and made to feel like a criminal (passport taken away and sent to a holding area before being grilled.  By two different officials).  But, worse, a long story, I was held in a small white room with no windows for about three hours after I entered Japan with inadequate paperwork (also a long story, but I hadn’t done anything criminal or illegal).  To make matters worse, I couldn’t speak the right kind of Japanese and no officials could speak English so I was spoken at in frustrated, angry Japanese.  For about two of those hours, while they smoked.  I will not be made to endure anything like that again.  Mind you, awful though my white room experience was, my overriding thoughts were that my luggage would be checked and my stash of cheese would be confiscated!

If all goes horribly wrong, eg no visa or I am deemed to be a prying journalist, and I get deported, at least I will have “interesting” material for a blog post. I have also learned that it is better to do some things yourself and that “exotic” places should be the reserve of holidays not work destinations!


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