Monday, November 24, 2014

More like Slow-Zam-Bique

We'll, I'm in Africa.

All summer I've been semi-thinking-about going to Medellin, Colombia (at the low low price of only $396 for a roundtrip ticket!), but then my mom got breast cancer and I couldn't quite commit until I was for sure on the date of her surgery. With that squared away I went online, but as most of my goings-onlines go, I hit Facebook first. There I read that my old fun roommate Sarah (who is now a flight attendant for Emirates and flies all over the world all the time) would be in the Seychelles for the same dates as my loose-plan and so naturally I totally changed course and invited myself along on her trip.

It was a complicated ticket, with several stops and layovers and connections and somewhere at the end of it all I will have taken off and landed 24 times. Anyway, after an hour on the phone with and paying about 7 times more than the Medellin ticket, I had a nice little trip with a departure date only three weeks away:

  • Minneapolis to Seychelles via London and Dubai where I will meet up with Sarah and her friend Lydia for 4 days
  • Seychelles to Mozambique via Nairobi
  • Mozambique to Cape Town via Johannesburg where I will meet up with my buddy Beata for 6 days
  • Cape Town to Minneapolis via Amsterdam


Except I forgot I better look up Visa requirements for all of these places to make sure I could get them all on arrival. Nope. Mozambique requires in-person application or Fed-Ex delivery to their Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles embassy locations. 10- business day turn time. No rushes. No paying for a rush. Don't ask for a rush. Don't call and ask about Visas until it's between the hours of 3 and 5pm, EST. I decided to ignore that and call them. "Call back at 3", they said. I called back at 3. "Can I pay for a rush?" I asked. "No", they said.

WELL. I had fifteen business days between the day I purchased my ticket and my departure date with two of those days taken up in transit. Also the Embassy is closed on Fridays. Easy!

I sent my passport and all the required info (flight itinerary, two 2x2 photos, hotel reservation - which I didn't have but fast-tracked) on Monday November 3rd and thus began a daily phone call to the Mozambique embassy to speak with one of two ladies who I renamed the Mozam-you-know-whats because they never told me anything but "call back at 3" or "call back tomorrow" no matter how much I explained my situation and no matter how sweet I tried to be. The first time I called it was because I accidentally threw away the Fedex tracking number (idiot) and simply wanted to verify that they received my application. "If you sent it we received it," they said and then hung up the phone.

Once I hit 11 business days I started to be a little more assertive. That day my mom was having her lumpectomy and from the waiting room I called and said "ok now we need to get serious, because I am flying out on Friday and I really need my passport back, even if you can't give me a Mozambique visa." "Spell your name," they said, and I did. "What's your phone number?" they asked and I gave it to them. "We will call you back before end of business today." And of course they didn't. That was Tuesday.

On Wednesday I called from my desk at work and when she asked me to spell my name, I said, "we already did all of this yesterday! I'm not hanging up to wait for you to call me back because you're not going to call me back." "You and I have never spoken," she said. "If we had spoken your passport would already be on its way to you. Call back tomorrow at 10:30, here is my extension." she said. I freaked out. "I can't call you back tomorrow because you need to put my passport in the Fedex TODAY. Do you get it? I'm flying out Friday. I need my passport on Thursday." And that's when she told me the man who does them had gone home for the day and his office was locked and that's when I started crying. Like a little child. With my whole office listening. "Do you know there are snowstorms interrupting flights on the east coast right now?!?!??? I have no room for any Fedex error if you send it tomorrow." I started hyperventilating to her on the phone. Finally the Mozam-you-know-what softened and said, "ma'am I swear to God I will put your passport in the Fedex tomorrow. You will have it on Friday."

All day Thursday I refreshed and refreshed the tracking screen on my package. Nothing. The nice lady (I no longer thought of her in that other way) called me at 9am to tell me my Visa was processed and that I could have Fedex come and pick it up. I called them. They charged me $4 extra and promised it would be picked up at 12:38 EST. That came and went. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

You can bet I didn't get any work done on Thursday, refreshing my tracking page one million times. I called the nice lady again. "Have they picked it up?" "No," she said "but don't worry! Our regular Fedex pick up is at 4pm, I will give it to him." (Remind me to call Fedex to get my FOUR DOLLARS BACK.)

It was hard trying not to worry, but true to her word at 3:53 my package was scanned and in transit and escaped the snowstorm and was delivered to my office on Friday morning at 9:45am. And then I got on the plane and flew away.


The End.




Laura said...

Nothing like a little side of stress with your relaxing vacation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me of the unglamorous aspects of traveling. It helps me know that just staying home ain't half bad. Until I see the pictures of Seychelles, and then I am green with envy...

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