#15-2013 Further Trials
Before Fr. Kiriti and I took Maya to Nairobi to fly home, we agreed we would do the online application for his visa. We did it 2 years ago and it was an ordeal, but this time it was even worse. The US State Dept website is the worst, the clunkiest the most user-unfriendly site I’ve ever visited. ARGH! In addition, the Safaricom connection kept going off line at the worst times. During the busy time of the day, it bumps users off after 10-15 minutes, requiring reconnecting. The site has maybe 15 pages, some with the most inane questions – are you a terrorist? Are you planning to overthrow the US gov’t? Who would say yes to those, even if they were? We laughed filling them in, between the #$%%%$# when something went wrong. Each page must be saved individually, but the hard part is if you answer yes to some question like “do you have education above secondary level?”, it wants to know the details, but those boxes are very slow to come up, so you save and then red text admonishes you for not filling in those details, after which you have to save again. Instead of simply going on to the next page it takes you back to the previous page. ARGH! May the guy who designed it spend eternity filling in those pages.
After that ordeal, we needed a picture. The one he has used in the past looks like a mug shot and I had deleted it, so get out the camera, “big smile”. Had to take many shots to get one with the head in the right position, no back shadows, good lighting etc. Then the picture must be uploaded, must be exactly the right size, head exactly to fit the given template. What a bother.
Finally 4 ½ hours later the application was accepted! Whew! And off we were to Nairobi. While we were busily filling in, Maya was busily making chapatis with the children and eating far too many. By the time we left she had a major tummy ache. It was 3:30, so by the time we got to central Nairobi it was 5. I am not exaggerating when I say we sat in traffic for 3 hours to go maybe 5 miles, in the company of the usual smoke belchers. As you might imagine this exacerbated Maya’s discomfort. She could barely walk by the time we arrived.
The policy in the Nairobi airport is that only ticketed passengers can enter the departure terminal. However, I sweet-talked my way in so I could be sure she got checked in. I requested “unaccompanied minor” status for her, but they didn’t seem to think a 16 year old needed that. When I mentioned she was feeling nauseous they said, “If she looks sick at the gate they won’t let her fly” OOPS! One bag was a bit overweight, but the other was quite light, so they let it pass. We sat in the lobby while trying to figure out what to do. She thought maybe some food would help, but there is no place to buy it until after security and I was pretty sure I couldn’t talk my way through that. I went outside to a little bistro and got fruit salad and some water. She perked up a bit at that, but when I realized how late it was and knew I had to leave her it was very hard. Such a look of abandonment on her face. Had she felt OK I’m sure she would have been fine with it, but she needed a mommy or a granny. My only words were, “This is your big-girl moment.” She smiled wanly, we hugged and I left, wondering whether I was the worst granny in the world.
The problem is that Fr. Kiriti had to leave the next day for Kositei. Driving in Nairobi late at night is fraught with danger. Even by the time we left it was dark and both of us were pretty tense until we cleared the town. It was after 10 when I got home and then he had to drive another 20 minutes to his home in Mai Mahu, another scary trip.
The good news is that everyone got to his or her destination intact. Maya was happy to be home with Mom, Dad, Ben and Gypsy (dog). I fell into my bed immediately after having a snack. Neither of us had had much lunch and no dinner.
Next day Fr. Kiriti brought me the car, I took him to the matatu station and he was off to Nakuru and then to Marigat where he had left his truck. I was left to finish the visa process which meant printing the confirmation form, then take it to the Post Bank to pay the non-transferable, non-refundable fee of $160. Yes, if they refuse to issue a visa they keep the $160! Just another embarrassment by our gov’t. Now I encountered another problem. I had to use someone’s printer, but to do that I had to download the printer driver, which requires being online. However, the modem which is my road to the web is like a fat flash drive. The ports on a Mac are too close together so I can’t have the modem and another plug at the same time ARGH! RATS! ##%%#$$%#&@$^&^% Why does this have to be so hard? When I tried to email the form to the computer already hooked up to the printer it didn’t include the required barcode nor his picture. Finally someone told me where I could get a splitter, something I should have bought at home ages ago. So I finally was able to print the confirmation form and went with Ben to the Post Bank to pay the fee. “This isn’t the right form. You have to have the one that tells what you have to pay.” “The fee is $160, can’t we just pay it?” “You have to have the right form.” Back to my house, search the website for what I think might be the right form, back to Post Bank. “This isn’t the right form.” %$#^%^**#^ “Would you please show me what it looks like?” She did. Had never seen it before. Finally she told me about a cyber nearby that does this and knows exactly what is needed. A very nice young man did know exactly what was needed but he concurred that the US Embassy site is a disaster, so it took more than an hour to print this one-page doc. I asked whether he knew of anyone who does the whole process for would-be visitors to the US (though why anyone wants to come when we are so unwelcoming, I’m not sure). “Yes, I do it.” “How much do you charge?” “Ksh 1000.” That’s about $12.50 and a true bargain! Next time this man gets the job!
Back to the post bank, pay the $160, get the required receipt. Last step is to get an appointment for the interview at the embassy. But it takes 3-4 hours for the system to know the payment has been made (so much for the instant age!), by which time it would be too late to call for the appt. ARGH!!! Only later did I realize I could have done it online after the payment was registered. Finally this morning I was able to book the appt, for the day after I leave so Fr. Kiriti can stay over and go the next morning, avoiding yet another trip to Nairobi.
Anyone still wondering whether I have a brown hair left in my head???
I am now happily back at SFG and will go now to try to teach some elementary calculus to the form 4’s. Fortunately it’s pretty easy stuff. Good night!