Friday, 16 December 2011

14th December 2011

It’s a shame that we haven’t managed to enjoy our few days in Nairobi as the weather was lovely, the hotel was really comfortable and the food was excellent – lots of fresh fruit, a complete breakfast buffet with freshly cooked eggs, and a buffet supper of many different kinds of meat and fish. Oh and a wide range of vino to wash it all down.  However, we have recovered from the ordeals of the previous days and are ready to head back to Gimbie to continue with our work. Before doing this we had to get an emergency passport, which is a relatively painless task once you know the system. And this is the point; why would you know the system? It’s not something that happens everyday – thankfully. We had to apply for the emergency passport by submitting an application form, passport photos (thank goodness that Jeremy brought a printer with him and Sue could locate our passport photos on the computer at home), a copy of the police report detailing the theft, a copy of the air tickets to the onward journey and £95.00 (each).  This is when we found ourselves in the first catch 22 situation; we couldn’t book our airline tickets until we knew how long it would take to get the emergency passport. However, they could not be sure how long it would take but thought it should be possible within 24 hours. So then we went to the Ethiopian airlines office to buy the tickets but there you meet the next catch 22 scenario; they need you to have a passport in order to book the tickets. Actually, they were satisfied with a photocopy of the passports and thankfully, we have many of these. You have to state where you are going to and the passport will only take you to this destination. So we would have to get a further emergency passport when we got to Addis in order to return back to the UK. Worryingly, you are only allowed 2 emergency passports a year – not that I am planning to be robbed again, but you never know.
When we arrived at the British High Commission the following day (today) to pick up the passports, we thankfully bumped into an incredibly helpful commissioner, William Robinson, who advised us that we should state the UK as our final destination and not Ethiopia and this would save us having to apply for a second emergency passport in Ethiopia. This was music to my ears as I was dreading trying to get a positive response form the British embassy in Addis and they had previously been very unhelpful when we needed help with the car. We have also found that they rarely answer their phones (even the emergency phone) and when they do, they always tell us that everyone is on a training day or worse still, week. So our application had to be changed to accommodate us going to the UK via a stop in Ethiopia. This also saves us a further £95.00 x 2. The only problem we had was that we didn’t have a copy of our airline tickets to the UK, but thankfully, I had them on my email system and the lovely William Robinson allowed us into his office to access my email and print them off. This kind of helpfulness is something we have not experienced at all in any official office in Ethiopia and I was so surprised that I couldn’t stop thanking him for his kindness – he probably thought I was a total nutcase. But he has saved us endless hours of waiting in the British Embassy – if they are open from now until January – and much emotional stress. So thank you William.

However, with all the changes going on, time was marching on and we needed to be at the airport by 4.30pm to catch the plane at 6.30. We left the High Commission with a further instruction to go to the immigration office about 10 minutes drive away as we had to get a visa stamped into the passport, otherwise they would not let us out of Kenya. So another immigration office, with much the same sullen looking faces and incredibly unhelpful people as found in Addis. The real blow came when we were told that we had to pay $50 each for the new visa. Being now convinced that everyone is going to rob us, we carry very little money around, not least of all, our rather needed dollars. So we now had to make the 30 minute plus journey back to the hotel to get the dollars for the visa. Stress levels increased again as it was now 1.30 and we still hadn’t checked out of the hotel or sorted out the car (our friend had only just returned form Lusaka the previous night).

When we returned to the immigration office to get the visa stamp, we were told to fill in a form each and were then directed to another woman for the stamp. Thankfully, people in the queue to see her were understanding of our need to get to the airport and so let us go to the front of the queue. We eventually entered the room of the immigration officer, where she slowly glanced up from reading her newspaper and nodded for us to sit down. She continued to read the newspaper whilst listening to my tale of stolen passports, need for visa and urgent need to catch a plane in 2 hours time. Thankfully, she seemed to accept what I had said and stamped and signed our passports without uttering a single word to us. I thanked her and we slipped out of the room before she could change her mind. No request for $50 was ever made.

At Nairobi airport, we got through immigration without a problem and had a pleasant flight to Addis. Although we were rather worried about being let into Ethiopia, this was actually pretty much hassle free. Firstly, thankfully, we had a photocopy of our yellow fever vaccination certificates (didn’t realise that we needed this but the certificates had been stolen), then we produced a photocopy of Jeremy’s residency permit, which along with his emergency passport and once they had looked him up on the computer system, they were happy to let him in. I had my residency permit and emergency passport and this was absolutely fine.

So after a night in Addis, we journeyed on the 10-hour dusty, bumpy road to Gimbie. We are now ‘home’ and feeling rather relieved to be here. Awaiting at home were some freshly baked cinnamon rolls (baked by Makabe) and two parcels form the UK, which amongst other things contained a Christmas pudding and two chocolate advent calendars. So excited to be able to have some festive goodies. Last night we sat at ‘Green Bar B’ last night eating pizza and planning a Christmas feast with Clara, who is the only expat left here.

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