Posted by: fullandbye | January 15, 2009

Bureaucracy day.

On Wednesday I sent my visa application and an application for an Official Government Travel Passport to the PC office. Getting these things in order was quite an ordeal.

With my applications for visa and passport in order, I set out to get passport photos and get my application processed by a passport official. I needed six photos and the idea was to get them at Bartells and then go to the passport office in the federal building and submit the paperwork. Because I am not turning in my existing passport (I intend to travel between now and PC departure) I need to submit paperwork that is signed by a passport official and sealed in envelope with special stamps and have an oath administered etc.

I went into Bartells next to the library. After waiting for 20 minutes, I got my photo taken. When it was developed there were three things wrong with it: it was distorted so my head looked really wide, the picture was way too dark, and even without the distortion, my head was too large for the frame. I was told to wait and assured that they would take new photos in a few minutes. After seeing that another set of photos they took of someone else were similarly unacceptable I made to leave only to have the manager literally block my exit. A brief and heated exchange followed before I physically brushed him aside after refusing to pay for the unacceptable photos.

I went to another Bartells (3rd and Union) and after waiting for 15 minutes was told that their camera was broken. Discouraged, I went to the post office to see if they could take my photo. Imagine my delight when I learned that there was a full service passport office in the post office! What luck! The passport lady was a cheery grandmotherly type and things began to look up. She found out what my plans were and we chatted a bit about S. Africa and how much she likes Port Elizabeth. After taking my photos she looked over the rest of the paperwork and told me that she could not accept my “birth record abstract” and would instead need a paper copy of my birth certificate. For those of you who do not know, a birth record abstract is a credit card sized birth certificate. They are relatively rare, but I have used mine to prove citizenship when filling out W-2s, registering to vote etc. This was the first time it was rejected. The passport lady was very apologetic, but said that when I returned she would have all 6 photos developed and we would breeze through the rest of the paperwork.

I went to the county administration building and after waiting in line for some time I realized that I needed cash or a cheque to pay for the birth certificate. Not having either, I went to the cash machine in the building only to find out it was broken. I returned to my office, picked up a cheque book and returned to the vital statistics office just in time to have the person in front of me (he was picking up a death certificate for his late brother) receive his paperwork and suffer a minor breakdown. After 20 minutes of weepy mumbling, he finally shuffled away from the counter. Five awkward minutes and $20 later I set off towards the post office again to finish what I had started.

At the post office I was second in line, and the guy in front of me took his sweet time asking what every field meant in the passport application and questioning if the barcode in his passport would be used to track his whereabouts. I resisted the urge to explain to him that in a general sense, the purpose of a passport is to keep a record of your whereabouts but I bit my tongue and patiently waited my turn.

At long last, the wonderful passport lady signed what she needed to sign, administered an oath, expedited my application free of charge, wrapped up the application in an envelope with lots of brown tape and about 15 stamps all over the place, and refused to charge me for any of the six passport photos. She then gave me her address at the post office, made me promise to write, told me I would be in her prayers, thanked me for my service to country and humanity, told me she felt as though one of her grandchildren was going, and sent me on my way.

As I left the post office I realized that this whole process had taken about three hours. I also realized that ultimately the experience of interacting with such a kind, generous, and sentimental lady made the otherwise trying experience worth every moment.

In other news. My little brother is home for a few days. I gave Sara a ride to work on Galatea this morning before riding to work with my boss as stoker. The fog is making me really happy. This weekend is shaping up nicely. I had a great conversation with a lady in Trabant this morning about the wonder that is In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I am hopped up on WAY too much caffeine. And Notorious opens this weekend.


  1. aaaaw ❤
    I also really like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
    And I want to see Notorious SO badly. Let’s go!

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