Monday, April 18, 2005

Getting Out

I feel horribly pompous cross referring to my earlier blogs (all two dozen of them) but I did once write that Pakistan was a difficult country to leave. Today proved it. I applied for a Schengen visa on the fifth of this Month. Thirteen days later (today) I was given an appointment. I got there at 9 am and was told to take the bus which “officially” brings visa applicants to the Embassy. But why should I drive around the block when I can just walk in? The policeman smiled and let me through. Hey, this could be my lucky day. An hour later a person bearing an alarming resemblance to my “fruit wala” (not just en visage- clothes, demeanour, everything) arrived with a list. I discovered I was number 43 and my turn arrived at 11.30. Shit. I drove home had some freshly brewed coffee, lit up a numero duo and went through the papers.

On returning, there were even more people there. The bulk of them were either hapless Afghan refugees or students looking for a way out. The numbers had moved into the twentysomethings. Not fast enough. The office closed at noon. Affirmative action was called for. I marched through the gate (security guard chasing me) and held up the official list. “This says 11.30. It is my turn NOW.” The Pakistanis on display behind the gate were prime specimens of our carefully cultivated underclass. Shabby, rude and inefficient. Eventually, after shuffling through several metal detectors I was allowed into the Holiest of the Holies.

In true Gallic manner, this was a small Genet-esque cell, with three chairs, some form of air conditioning and black one way glass. A tiny aperture opened to reveal an attractive but disembodied male Gallic face swimming in a sea of ether. “Bonjour/Good Afternoon” I chirped in my best “bi” accent to the displaced visage. “Bonjour” replied the glassed in features. I could see eyes, a nose but no hair or ears. This was beginning to seem like one of those funfairs at which freaks are trapped in glass cages. “Listen, Monsieur,” I continued, I need my passport back soon as I am in Dubai for a day tomorrow.” “No problem. We will give IT to you today.” That’s where the English language showed up its deficiency. I thought the “it” referred to my passport avec visa. He meant it sans visa. He also decided that he need photocopies of my passport. “It doesn’t say so on your website.” “Well, we still need them.” “Is there a photocopier here ?” “Yes, but you can’t use it.” “Can I pay for it?” “Non.”

I returned to the Embassy for the third time that day. This time I brought oranges for the cops. One good turn deserves another. Another trip and we'd have been on first names, if not closer. On getting in, past the smelly outer periphery, I was back in the middle circle of Inferno. Worse. There was a Pakistani sitting there. For those of you who haven’t discovered this already, nothing is worse than a local working for a foreign mission. These are people who believe they are not just on their way to acquiring nationalities but also white skins, yellow hair and blue eyes. “You had a Schengen visa in 1996, why didn’t you go ?” “Err I changed my mind.” Disbelief. I had allowed a visa to lapse. A bit like pissing on the Mona Lisa or farting through Mahler’s Fifth. It was then I was informed that I would get my visa but no earlier than when I had planned to return. I will get it just to spite them.


Blogger Sin said...

Jesus. They really are bastards, aren't they? I wonder why all the drama?

I realise this may arrive too late, as advice, but you could probably get a Schengen visa through the Italian embassy with less fuss (so my travel agent told me, when I expressed a desire to visit Paris).

6:33 pm  
Blogger livinghigh said...

.. when u say "a nose but no hair or ears", do u mean no eyebrows, no eye lashes, no nose hair, too?

ewwww... gross.

7:06 pm  
Blogger s said...

happy birthday!!!

or did i miss it?

getting a visa is such a bitch - although i'm dying to see all of europe, i'v been putting it off just because i don't want to go through that process.

anyway, hope you have a fantastic day! and if you're going to be in dubai and have the time, take my number from sin, call me and i'll take you out!

6:45 pm  

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