There is nothing quite so romantic as spending an anniversary in an overcrowded consulate filled with fasting Afghans and irritated journalist, right?
Last Thursday we found out that we had to leave the country to renew our visas. Visas and the developing world are an extremely frustrating combination. In December, we got six month multiple entry visas in about 15 minutes at the Dubai consulate. In July, we got one month single entry visit visas with the explanation that these were the only visas being issued now. We were also assured that we would be able to renew these visas once we arrived in Kabul. Fast forward three weeks and we're on our way back to Dubai. Visit visas cannot be renewed in country.
Our plan was to get there on Friday, renew our visas Saturday, hop on a plane back to Kabul on Sunday. Of course, the consulate in Dubai has no website, an outdated phone number, and a PO box address listed in the phone book. Therefore, we had no way of knowing that although they used to be closed on Thursday-Friday, they are now closed on Friday-Saturday.
I have to admit that I wasn't severely disappointed when we had to extend our trip by one more day. Sunday August 30th was our 6th wedding anniversary. In our six blissful years of marriage, we've celebrated anniversaries on the first day of school, during a move to El Paso, on lockdown in Kabul. I was excited to actually be someplace to celebrate, even if it was unplanned. We just had to quickly get those pesky little visas out of the way and then spend the rest of the day being in love. It would be easy. Run by the consulate, pay to get a number, wait for the number to be called, turn in our applications, pay for our visas, go find a lunch place open during Ramadan, run back to pick up our visas. . . so easy.
So we headed to the consulate, got in the extremely long line to get our number, went into the waiting room, had to sit separately, waited for our number to be called, waiting for ANY number to be called, watched Afghans yell at the man behind the window, watched expats yell at the man behind the window, talked to the marketing guy for the cell phone company we use (he asked if we had any complaints, we told him we get too many marketing text messages), talked to a Fox News guy, talked to an LA Times reporter, shared stories of places we've been and visa offices we've frequented, finally got called up to the window, were told the visa laws had changed again, pleaded for a little grace, were told to pick up our visas in an hour, waited three hours, walked out with 3 month visit visas. All told, we were there for 7 hours. Not exactly how I had envisioned celebrating our 6 years of marriage.
When relating this story to my boss, he commented, "Nothing's as easy as it is, and everything takes longer than it does." That could very well be my new "living in the developing world" motto. I'm not claiming that the western way of doing things is right, I'm simply stating it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 7 hours to get a visa. It's better to be geared up for 7 hours and pleasantly surprised on those times it takes 15 minutes.
The day wasn't a complete bust. Joey finished Kitchen Confidential, I have a new appreciation for the DMV and it's orderly ways, we involuntarily practiced the Ramadan fast, and I found out that I don't want to be a full time journalist (although I do love writing).
The day was salvaged with coffee at Cafe Nero, fabulous French cuisine, a great bottle of wine, and lots of moments that reminded me how glad I am that I'm married to my best friend.