Tag Archive: travel

American visa

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!

A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance

by Rohinton Mistry

Without a doubt up there in my best books ever!
I very seldom reread books but this book I shall keep just to reread in a few years. and again a few years after that.

The story of the book tells of the lives of four main characters (and many other important ones) who, through a variety of circumstances and occurrences, land up sharing a flat in an unnamed city in India in the 70s. I want to resist the clichés of describing lives and stories as a rich tapestry; of the smells and sounds of India emerging from the page; of the hardships of lives described making me review my relatively luxurious life, but I actually cannot. This book really does do all of those things. Like the quilt Dina makes with the left over pieces of fabric used to make dresses for the rich, so the lives of the characters are an intricate combination of textures, colours and experiences. and always, these characters are the left over people, the abused by rich society, the discarded.

Mistry pulled me into the lives of the various characters in this book from the very start. I cared about them, got angry with them, cheered them on and wanted to avert my face when pain and suffering befell them. They live on in my thoughts as though real people I spent time with and now miss.

Mistry also pulled me into India in the 70s. I know very little of the history on India, but after reading this book am going to go and find more out. I am fascinated by the time of the setting of this book – how accurate is Mistry? I fear completely. But I want to know.

a most moving book which never wallows in misery.

I really want to know what won the Booker the year this book was short listed – I cannot imagine what was that much better than A Fine Balance


i have a number of friends with whom i often have completely random conversations

this was one my friend Simon remembered us having online. i stole it from his blog


My boyfriend is from the USA, and I take every opportunity to teach him and his kinfolk about South Africa, leaving verbose comments beneath is status. I had an ally teacher today in Kimstories, and this is how the conversation went.

 BF’s status was:

Don’t know why people were scared to come to Johannesburg for the World Cup #wc2010. Wal Mart is SO much scarier!!!!

And so the comments beneath, for the benefit of globalisation and learning were as follows:

Simon: There’s no elephants in the USA – how can it be scary? There are loads in Jozi. That’s why I use Fourways Mall. You can park your elephant for free for 2 hours.

Kimstories: only if it has a dual saddle Simon

Simon: Hahahaha Kim are you joking? Who the hell still uses a single saddle? Durban’s not THAT far behind Joburg, surely? By the way I owe you a mail. The post wagon is leaving on Saturday. It should be in Durban by Tuesday.

Kimstories: In Durban our elephants are smaller so we do the single saddle thing. I know – its so embaressing! I iwll look out for the post wagon – i think it will be behind the milk delivery cows

Simon: I tried sending a letter with the milk delivery last week but they get a bit gumpy (it’s not really their responsibility, I suppose) so I went with the July post wagon. I am so excited. You know that big-ass building in Joburg where them silver things come out the sky to? They carry post too, but it’s expensive.

Kimstories: the milk delivery doesn’t come from jhb to durban – they tried that once and now the zuzlus think maas is on purpose

Simon: The post wagon was delayed last month because the zebra that pulls it got sick. It was so hectic. We couldn’t send out our financial papyrus. The Durban hunter-gatherers owe us three fish and two cows in interest.

Kimstories: you guys charge some scary interest rates. i have been asked to negotiate a sugar cane settlement (and thats not a place people live)

Simon: Last time we went down to the sugar cane fields the elephants wouldn’t go into it because of the cane rats. Why do we use animals who are scared of rodents as transport?

Kimstories: don’t blame the rats for the elephant neuroses
the elephants are such girls


And this is why the Yanks think we have ellies running down the streets of Joburg. Don’t be surprised when the next tourist asks you where the parking lot for them is.