Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stoep Talk: The quest for a passport

Have passport – will travel. Easier said than done, when you live in a rural town and your passport has expired. The good news is that a Home Affairs mobile office comes here once a month. The catch is, you have to find someone who knows when it is arriving and where it will be.

Having found out the date and place the Home Affairs team was expected, I went there only to be told that the mobile office was last seen at the Bejaardesorg Sentrum. Eventually I found the van in the middle of a soccer field, locked up with no-one in sight. Seeing my perplexed face, an onlooker said the team was at a meeting in the hall alongside.

Sensing my frustration, one of the officials let me know that they would assist me as soon as the meeting was over. For the next 45 minutes I listened with one ear to a lecture on the negative aspects of teenage pregnancies while I mulled over a plan to get to the front of the queue when the meeting eventually ended. What queue? We moved en masse to stand before two tables placed in front of the empty mobile office.

The comedy then started. As the Home Affairs officials placed their papers on the tables, these flew off in different directions, with officials in hot pursuit. Meanwhile the mobile van purred up and down the field for 20 minutes, trying to find an electronic signal necessary to set up the computers. At last the officials gave up and used their cellphones instead.

Just before proceedings began, they announced that we would have to have the precise amount of money as they had no change. Frantic negotiations began in the queue. I decided to sponsor a few people to make up the difference. When I finally handed in my form – just as they were closing up shop - I was told that I would be notified when my passport was ready. I do hope so!

At the same time, I am very aware that if I had had to renew my passport in Johannesburg, I would have spent hours in traffic and queuing in unpleasant surrounds. The hour and a half of my time here was so much gentler … and more entertaining.

Queen Vic

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