Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Plot Thickens

Two days ago I posted about my initial preparations to visit my husband in the Sudan. As I needed to have my passport renewed, and quickly, I drove to a small town called Bethlehem, which houses the Home Affairs for the Free State Province. The distance between home and this town is only 104 km / 65 miles so I should have been at my destination within an hour. However, the national road is being upgraded so there are two "Stop/Go" detours for which South Africa has become [in]famous in the past decade and a half. You are halted at the beginning of the detour while the oncoming traffic is allowed through. Sometimes, you are on the side that has access first, but on each occassion on this trip, I was in the "halted" group of vehicles. At the first detour (pictured above) we waited for an hour and fifteen minutes. When the vehicles eventually began to appear on the horizon and ultimately pass us, I wondered at the serious expressions on most drivers' faces. Only once I was travelling the 7km/4.3 miles of detour, did I realise how harrowing the trip across this rough road actually was.

No sooner do you emerge from the rough and rutted road onto the tar, than you are halted again. This time our wait was twenty five minutes! *sigh*

Applicants are seated in rows and you move up one seat at a time until as the first person in the front row is called to the counter. I eventually "snaked" my way to the front!

I eventually arrived at the Home Affairs office and signed in at the reception desk. When I stated that I needed to have my passport renewed quickly, a very kind and well-spoken young clerk suggested that as my permanent passport would take a minimum of eight weeks to be renewed, I should apply for a temporary passport as well. If my thumbprints could be verified on the computer, I would receive my temporary passport immediately.

I was shown to a caravan outside and told to have four passport photos taken. Why is it that your passport photo always reminds you of your age? Mmm.

Once inside again, I was shown to my seat and told to wait my turn. As the first person at the end of the front row is called to the counter, the person next to him moves up one seat. All people follow suit. So you snake your way through three rows of seats (8 seats in a row) until you are "number one"

I had brought my knitting with me, so I kept myself occupied which always helps to alleviate the boredom of waiting and the frustration at a system which works at its own pace. I also chatted with the two men seated on either side of me. (I love talking - ha!)I had been seated (moving up one seat at a time, remember) for two hours and ten minutes when eventually I was in the "hot" seat. Not long and I was called to the counter. I hurriedly stuffed my knitting in my handbag , hitched the bag over my shoulder and approached the counter.

When I stated my request, the clerk behind the counter, without a word, pulled a pad toward her and began to copy my name and identity number from my existing passport which I had handed over. (well, she held out her hand and said in a clipped tone: "existing passport!" so I thought I had better comply. LOL!) Soon I was signing the application for my temporary passport and thought: "Wow, I'll have my passport in a minute and be on my way home again." The clerk then pointed to a machine where I could have my thumbprints verified. (A lass of few words, this clerk) I placed my left thumb on the laser screen while the clerk looked at a computer screen on the other side of the counter. She shook her head. No verification (obviously). My heart sank. I placed my right thumb on the screen - still nothing. She beckoned me to a room at the back where she took a new set of thumbprints. She issued me with my receipt and told me phone in eight days to hear if my temporary passport had arrived. (She had spoken thirteen words spoken - wow!) If I wasn't so desperate for my passport, I would have jokingly asked her why she was talking so much!

I really don't relish the idea of another trip past the roadworks so soon again, but there you have it: I'll have to go back and collect my temporary passport when it arrives...

On the trip home, we waited for about 15 minutes at the first detour and only a few minutes at the second.

The detour section on my way back home. It had obviously had a surface thrown as it wasn't have as bad as when I passed through that morning

The upside to this episode was I managed to knit quite a few squares for our expected grandbaby's blanket while waiting at the detours and at Home Affairs!


  1. What an ordeal to renew a passport. My you must be a calm, patient person.

  2. Hi diane, yes, I am blessed with a calm and patient disposition, thanks! I LOVE your new profile pic. Thanks for always visiting my blog. I've experienced a variety of Internet problems and had the IT man on the phone helping me this morning. I trust I can now visit all other blogs including yours. (((Hugs)))

  3. Hahahaha ! thanks to Diane who gave me your link I see that I am not the only one to have miseries with a new passport and we are living miles away from each other !
    Read my story on Writer Cramps, there you will find the German administration in all their splendour !

  4. I do admire you for your patience. I would have been climbing walls in frustration.

  5. Hi Gattina, thanks for popping into my blog. I LOVED your post about trying to renew your passport. I will be visiting you often.

    Thanks Valerie;)

  6. That would have driven me just crazy!

    I love the idea of you calmly knitting though,



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