So today was American Visa day. I am just a nana when it comes to official stuff like this. I immediately start wondering if I am the kind of person they do not want in their country. You should see me at customs after a flight – I look like every silly girl smuggling drugs into Thailand we see on those late night ‘Banged up Abroad’ programs. Sweating, looking dodgy, shaking and swallowing so often they can see the condom of drugs I have imagined down my throat and into my stomach.

(An aside – do you think they use flavoured condoms to make the swallowing less revolting?)

Anyway, so I am nervous as hell for this bloody process and I know it is for no good reason. But my sweat glands and latent Pakinson’s seems not to know this and I have been a damp quivering mess since last night. Especially as last night I realised I didn’t have photos. Enter the bf on his shiny horse – he actually found old passport photos of mine in a drawer under some leaky batteries and a set of keys no one recognises. That they were the wrong size does not diminish from his Galahad act.

With my google map and big girl pants on I went into deepest darkest Durban this morning, armed with a pile of papers which prove I am a responsible citizen who will come back to Africa after tasting the land of milk and honey and MacDonalds and Wendies and Starbucks and….

(An aside – I didn’t know I had so much proof that I am a grown up. I fear it may mean I actually am.)

In the queue at 8:10 for an 8:30 appointment I discussed photos with a man in front of me and he sent me across a zebra crossing, down a smelly alley, past a hairdresser in a stairwell to a Kodak shop on a corner. The yellow of the Kodak sign shone like a beacon, a light if you will, a message from the gods of photography that here, nestled between the smelly take away and a pawn shop, was the holy grail of American Visas – the weirdest sized photos in the world! No one else needs 5 x 5 photos so you have to have a special camera to take it with. I guess Kodak is American.

Armed with my rather unflattering photos (an aside – if I really look like that they are never going to let me sit up with the humans on the flight) I dashed back down the smelly alley and up to the 31st floor of the Old Mutual Building.

And waited.

And waited

And then I shuffled forward and waited some more

Finally I got to the gatekeeper and she smiled and let me through the doors into the actual American space in Durban. Whooohoooo – I felt so cosmopolitan.

Then I waited and just felt ordinary.

Finally I got to the man who checks your papers properly. And I passed with a bit of help from him to prove I had paid for the appointment you can’t get before paying for it.

Then I got to the interview man. By now I was practically a puddle leaking all over their nice American floor and I was sure he would immediately think I was some dodgy character and I was never going to be able to prove I wasn’t. I could see the money I had spent on flights and accommodation float gently out of his window, down the amazing view (an aside – the Old Mutual Building has the most incredible views). The man behind the bullet proof glass interrupted my tearful farewell to my money by starting this conversation with me:

 

Him: So, where are you going?

Me: A wedding in Pennsylvania and then New York for New Year’s. Bucket list you know.

Him: Aaaah New York. My favourite city in the whole country. You will have such an amazing time, New Year’s Eve – it’s incredible…… up town… down town… staying in Chelsea…..good choice……tall buildings….really cold…..bit of advice……thermal underwear……a bit jealous….enjoy………you will have a wonderful time.

I blinked at him like some dumb cartoon character.

Him: Track the progress of your visa on DHL and have a really good time.

 

And that was that. 3 minutes. No cavity search. No laxatives and controlled toilet visits. Just a friendly chat and advice to cover my bum with warm clothing.

I am going to America!

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