Thursday, June 27, 2013

Embassies and the Urge to Pee



You have this wanting-to-pee feeling when you go to embassies. It is still a hypothesis, because you have only been to three embassies. You say three in your mind because the Ugandan Embassy felt like an NGO office, or one of those ministry headquarters that you imagine not many people go to, like the Ministry of Water Resources, not an embassy.

You wonder if it is the air conditioners. The first time you entered the Austrian Embassy the thought crossed your mind, as goose pimples popped up all over your arms, that perhaps the cold waiting room was to remind people that ‘our country is cold, do you really need to go?’ You entertained the crazy thought long enough to make you scan the ceiling for cameras that were watching people who shivered too much or complained about it being too cold so as to deny them visas. You stopped yourself, felt ashamed and looked around to make sure no one was watching you looking round the room.

The fact that there are no restrooms out in the waiting areas makes it even worse. The South African embassy reminds you of apartheid. Saying this out loud might be politically incorrect, so you don’t tell anyone. The fact that the people are unfriendly makes you remember the prisons in the South African apartheid struggle movie, Sarafina. It reminds you of the interrogation rooms where they tortured young students. This was the first embassy you ever went to. That day you felt so cold, you put your hands between your thighs and grit your teeth. You have never admitted it, but the fact that you didn’t even get the visa further taints that experience and all you can think of when someone mentions South Africa, is goose pimples, wanting to pee, and apartheid.

From what you hear, people in embassies and visa sections all over the world are not nice people. You wonder if they do a meanness test before they allow people work in visa sections.

You find it fascinating watching people at embassies. The measured, grateful smiles, the silence, the exaggerated, faux politeness, the anticipation, the gasps when someone collects his passport, people’s eyes trying to bore through to see if the person leaving got a visa or not. You do not like the microphones they use at the Austrian Embassy and how you need to shout out your business for everyone to hear. Or how the slim, bespectacled, stern guy with one bad finger changes quickly from being brusque to smiling a smile that you could have sworn was not possible for that stern face. The last time you went, a tall man you guessed was from the East from his accent tried to argue with the stern visa officer about a document that was fake.

“You are very lucky,” the visa officer said, “the Consul was in a good mood. Normally we would have denied your visa because of this fake document.”

The man tried to explain why he had fake insurance papers. And all the while people sighed and shook their heads. You put your head down—you couldn’t bear the sight of this man, who looked and sounded more and more like a criminal the more he explained. In the end he received his passport.

“Three months?” he complained.

“Whatever! You should be lucky. Very lucky. We could have denied your visa.”

You looked away again. You counted the number of people until your turn and wondered if you could hold the pee until that time.

You are not sure if it was the urge to pee, but you felt like pulling the walls down, rummaging through the documents on the other side, snatching your passport and finding some corner in the room to pee. You felt like screaming, “fuck borders!” You hated the guy with the fake documents, people like him make it harder and harder to trust Nigerians. Then you calmed down, realizing that the more upset you got, the greater you felt the urge to pee.

In your room, you look at the three visas in your passport. And all you can think of is: wanting to pee.

5 comments:

  1. Another brilliant piece and yes you are spot on as you usually are.

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    Replies
    1. I am going over the comments I have missed. I am sorry for this belated reply. Thanks for visiting my blog and for commenting. Much love.

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  2. ha ha ha. As a Ugandan I should be mad at how you described our embassy. But I would be lying. I once went to what should be the Ugandan Embassy in Nairobi and it looked like those window-less stationery shops where people go to photocopy and print their documents. It was depressing!
    -Nyana

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  3. What about, "i vant a wisa!!" Sometimes maybe it is you're a white person and realising that you are benefiting from the apartheid system. This makes you feel guilty (and also have to pee) and there is no solidarity in being elite minority, only smug isolation. Fuck borders. Alua continua!

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You fit vex, bet abeg no curse me. You hear?