Monday, August 27, 2012

Going Abroad

In the bad old days rich young Poms would Go Abroad to Further Their Education. Or so they said. The cynic in me suggests that the most important motive was to reassure themselves that the Colonials were still backward, and the Natives were still firmly In Their Place. Their imperial superiority reaffirmed, the Poms would return home to their Sceptred Isle full of bullshit about lions, elephants, distant drums, unspeakable customs, diseases and decorative body-mutilation, and how you dared not drink the water.
Nowadays everyone who can afford an air ticket can Go Abroad from anywhere, just so long as your papers are in order. Some years ago Mrs Kaartman and I went abroad and were greeted everywhere without let or hindrance. Our pre-1994 Green Mamba passport had morphed into a dark royal blue stamped in gold-leaf with an image of elephant tusks, rock art and a catchy slogan in /Xam which, like Latin, no one can speak any more. Or pronounce.
Staying Abroad ...
Clockwise from top left:
1. Our friend’s modest little shack
2. Another gloomy pile
3. This one is still inhabited!
4. Morning Tea [elevenses] delivery to the SA Embassy: cadre deployment
Then everything changed. Our post-liberation government, bless their cholesterol-laden, overweight little hearts, decided to allow all sorts of forgers, Nigerians, golfing pals of the chief, Islamic Fundamentalists and Friends of the Mafia to make and distribute South African passports to anyone with a fistful of dollars. Without let or hindrance.
The Great Imperial Power lashed back with a vicious spasm of intense, creative bureaucracy, the kind of pen-pushing crap that once greased the wheels of the Victorian Empire and fooled petty potentates, chieftains and thousand-year-old cultures to sign away their rights and possessions in a welter of thumb-prints, crosses and mislaid birth certificates.
The Land of the Fat King: no visa required
Oh, you can still wait for three hours at the Golela Gate before presenting your dark royal blue book to a man with a broken PC and attitude, and with a flick of a rubber stamp he’ll admit you to the rotten fiefdom of a disgustingly overweight sex-maniac who rules his tiny, candle-lit kingdom by Divine Right, with two pink feathers in his hair raised up in a traditional gesture more usually associated with fingers – but if you want to really Go Abroad, to the failing fleshpots of the Great Imperial Power, nowadays you have to get a visa.
You can go online to fill in your visa application – isn’t that great? – – and after two or three hours of describing everything about yourself, down to the colour of your belly-button lint and which side you fought on in the Anglo-Boer war – you will be asked to pay quite a large amount of cash [they need our rands, after all]. The “fco” in the URL line clearly stands for “f**k colonials”.
But here’s the catch – you have to pay online, immediately, and you have to pay by credit card.
If you keep your money in a box under your bed, you can’t get a visa. If you still pay people with cheques [for the under-thirties: a cheque is a little piece of paper that we used in the old days to pay bills] you can’t get a visa.
And now here’s the next catch. In case you don’t normally buy stuff online you need to know this. Right at the end of your transaction, three hours after you started to fill in your application and you’ve dug your birth certificate, your marriage licence and your Crimean War Medals out of the filing cabinet, your credit card server will ask you to Please Enter Your Secure Code.
When you can’t fill that in because you haven’t got one and nor do you have the faintest idea what it is, try hitting Enter. The entire website, transaction, all those hours of work will disappear in a flash, never to be found again.
But don’t worry, the Poms love animals ...
Clockwise from Top Left:
1. Blue spot: even the pampered sheep have no fleas
2. Pampered UK kitty had tail-graft [but white tails were out of stock]
3. Pampered geese don't have to Keep Off the Grass
4. Pampered Welsh autumn leaves
Before you phone your bank’s helpline [‘please be patient, your call is number 117 in the queue’], read thisthe only way to get a Secure Code is to buy something online. Anything except a visa. Just don’t ask why, because nobody knows, not even the banks. Go buy a cheap R20 mouse from an online computer store. You can always use a spare mouse.
Get over all that, do the form again, pay the fee, print out the appointment details from the website and not from the email [why? Only God and the Queen know], discover that if you live in Upington you’re gonna have to go to Cape Town or Pretoria to complete the application, keep the appointment to find that they don’t even look at all the stuff you sent them, get body-searched and thumb-printed, pay more to have your visa couriered to you [only credit cards accepted, hay] ... and three weeks later they will return your life’s documents and your medals in a plastic bag, with your visa.
We haven’t gone Abroad yet, but we’ll revert with further lurid tales sometime in October ...
– Kaartman, Augustus 2012
Dinky stuff to temp you into making that visa application – dinky streets, dinky church, dinky river, dinky view. Lekker hay?

1 comment:

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