Sunday, March 25, 2012

back to RSA and immigration, part I

Jasmir and I flew to South Africa a few weeks ago and planned to stay for a week to meet Daddy, and be there so when he went through the immigration process, we could help.  According to him, our presence would be "big proof" if he encountered any problems.  Although I was positively anticipating this trip for over a year, the nearer it drew the more nervous I became.  Since Jasmir was born, I've been a single parent.  For six months, every decision was mine.  Every smile was mine.  Every poopy diaper was mine.  You get the idea.   Even though I had to do all the work, I got all the rewards.  I didn't have to explain or justify my decisions to anyone, or share the burdens of raising a child.  Traveling to RSA to meet Jackei meant that would all change.

Meeting his father for the first time and reuniting with my fiancee after almost one year of being apart was certainly exciting and positive.  I was nervous and shy about it, though, and am still adjusting.  To begin with, Jackei was late to meet us at the airport, and I started to freak out because I didn't have a phone or any rands. Then, I thought I left my wallet on the plane. In no time, though, we did all manage to meet up, get to our backpackers and eat before we tried to sleep to began our first day together as a family.

Each day, Jackei traveled to the Home Affairs office, which is the South African equivalent of our Homeland Security or USCIS.  The task he was supposed to accomplish would take an officer five minutes to complete, and send him on his way.  Each and every person wants to receive a "little extra" (meaning a bribe) and even though he has paid and did pay again this time, they still did not help him.  They said they were too busy helping new immigrants or what-what.  A friend of his said that he didn't need to worry about this document, as it was not necessary, but I heard otherwise.  Many things in other countries do not work according to strict adherence to rules, but rather to the whims of whomever is executing the duty.  There was nothing else we could do regarding this step of the process, so we gathered up our last minute items, said our goodbyes and headed for the airport.

During the time while Jackei was busy with government affairs, Jasmir and I were just cruising Pretoria and meeting up with old friends.  I was really happy to take him to South Africa because it is really an exciting place.  There is so much diversity in such a small place.  Walking down the street, you will hear at least 4-5 different languages, see people of several races, from lots of styles and classes. The place we stay is relatively safe, and as I anticipated, we had a grand time.  He enjoyed marketing, sightseeing, the zoo, my friend Dr. Jaco, and all the people at our guesthouse.  He got to see inside a Chinese kitchen, ride on a public taxi, play with schoolchildren, learn some Afrikaans and Tswana, try ice cream and guava, and meet his uncle Sohid.  I found that traveling in Pretoria with an infant was actually much easier than traveling as a single lady.  People were much kinder to me, instead of looking at me as if I had horns growing out of my head or yelling at me for not speaking enough Setswana.

Last time, I came with a general idea to learn, to see, to develop compassion and do some work.  This time, I came with a specific purpose; to fetch a member of my family. I was a bit nervous about our experience with the immigration officers, both in RSA and the USA, but Jackei was really really nervous.  His family in Bangladesh gathered around 500 people for a "pray party" to petition God for our safe and successful travels.  He had everything to lose, so it stands to reason he would be sweating bullets.  As far as we understood the processes, his paperwork was all in order.  We checked and double checked, with the help of some awesome friends and my fastidious fact-checking, and piled out of our taxi at OR Tambo to immigrate.

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