Tuesday, October 30, 2012

VISA is a Four Letter Word

Sorry for those of you who read our other blog, as you will know some of this information from it...

We have been waiting on a little thing called a TEP.  It's a little ol' visa my husband needs to work in this country. And as I've probably mentioned before, we've been waiting since April. April.

Things are tense on the subject of visas. We arrived in August on temporary visitor status for 30 days. Our passport stamps expired in September, so up until this weekend we spent almost a month being illegal aliens. We've been without our passports for the last two months as things have been processed; we demanded them back and finally got them a week ago.  It was stressful not having them in hand, because we were not supposed to be here, but couldn't get into another country without our passports.) On Friday, we were "escorted" out of the country by the Department of Immigration (19 of us altogether) in a sudden move out of our control.  The intention was to go to South Africa "on holiday" for two days, after which we could get back into the country with another month-long stamp in our passport. Instead, upon returning last night, we all received a 7 day stamp (except for M., who looked at the agent wrong and only got a spiteful 6 days, and R., who chatted it up with an agent about her upcoming wedding and miraculously got thirty days more.... in other words, pretty arbitrary process!).  We had a lovely weekend in South Africa but as the school paid somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand dollars per family, it is not a sustainable solution for more than another time or two.  Hilarious situation we found ourselves in Sunday night.  (Also, we are still living out of suitcases, our stuff all sitting in a storage warehouse thirty miles from us since the day we arrived because we cannot get our things without our visas.  Love it.  My three year old has outgrown every piece of clothing we brought for him, because they are on our shipment!! If I have to smell his sandals for one more day...)

THEN yesterday husband Kurt spent the morning hiding out in a house behind the school after immigration showed up and he was whisked away while the classroom signs with his name on them were torn down.  Hours later, we now seem to be okay for the week we think, Kurt is not working the rest of the week-locked down at home, and we are on a plane Friday night headed to South Africa "indefinitely."  The school will put us up in a cottage/bungalow they are trying to arrange in Johannesburg, where we will stay with other (also visa-challenged) people from the school while papers are being processed.  There are a number of scenarios to play out after that, all of which seem like a better option than what we are currently living in- which is danger of being arrested and a number of other scenarios that are all uncomfortable.  I don't know if we'll ever come back to this country- possible, depending on what happens with paperwork while we are away.  But they are talking in terms of weeks and months, possible flights back to the US, etc, so we will see. So many possibilities. We are packing everything in case we can never come back.

This is all very confusing for a three year old, let alone ourselves.  He has started asking questions like, "Where is home?" ...which drives a stake through my heart. My biggest sadness is when you ask a kid at the international school where they are from, and they hesitate and stop to think, stammering.  We are trying to keep Jonas from being that kid, but our huge transitions this year (I think I've counted 14 places he's stayed in since June) have been difficult for even us to keep up with!

More international adventures to come! ....