Friday, September 6, 2013

Six hours and four fingerprints: My trip to Immigration

In the 7th grade I had the best History teacher ever.  I still consider her the best teacher I had throughout my entire education up until I reached graduate school.  Aside from the content which she taught she was also great at telling stories.  She was very funny.  I remember her telling the class once, “The first thing I do in the morning is go out to my front porch, pick up the newspaper and turn to the obituaries section.  I look for my name and if it’s not there it means I’m not dead, so in that case I have to get dressed and go to work.”  Another time she told our class when some of the boys were acting out of sorts, “You know, when God was handing out patience I thought he was referring to being sick and in the hospital, so I told him I didn’t want any at all.  So, I have NO patience for this kind of foolishness.” Given her self-proclaimed lack of patience, Ms. Brooks would not fare well here in Botswana.

I was reminded of Ms. Brooks and her missing patience yesterday as I was sitting in the Immigration Office.  American citizens are welcome to visit Botswana and can even enter the country visa-free.  However, you can’t be here more than 90 days within a calendar year.  As such I must become a Botswana resident.  In order to do so I had to have a medical exam, provide university transcripts, complete a residence permit application and pay the 1500 pula fee (about $200).  Once those requirements are fulfilled you are taken to the Immigration Office.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I arrived at the Immigration Office, but I came prepared… with a book.  I’ve learned to never leave home without a book to read.  I actually have a list of things I never leave home without, but perhaps I will share those details another day.  But the book is an absolute necessity because you never have any idea how long you will be stuck somewhere.  And stuck I was.

I expected the trip to Immigration might include an interview, or additional paperwork.  I wore my sneakers in case I was expected to complete an obstacle course, or maybe start a fire with twigs and elephant dung (By the way, I’m not making this up, they do that here. See the latest season of the Amazing Race, Leg 7 where teams visit Maun, Botswana and had to fulfill that challenge to progress.)
In the end the only thing they wanted was fingerprints.  And apparently they didn’t want all of my fingerprints.  I kept trying to give them more prints but they were only concerned with my thumbs and pointer fingers.  I will have to remember that in case I decide to commit a crime. “Well, we took fingerprints, but it appears the thief only used her pinkie fingers, so I guess we will never find the criminal.”

Wait a second; you know what those four fingerprints remind me of?  That’s right!  Guns Up Red Raider Fans! Since I can’t be at any Texas Tech football games this season I will be there in spirit:
In the end I was at Immigration for six hours.  I don’t know why it took that long, but I honestly couldn’t figure out the system they were using for seeing customers.  I do know that there were a lot of people who were there when I arrived and still waiting when I left, so it’s not likely anyone line jumped me.

Now I just have to sit back and wait for my residence permit to be processed.  Fortunately I become a more patient person every day.  Since my entry stamp expires on October 23rd I assume I will receive a phone call informing me the residence permit is ready at about 4pm on October 22nd.


  1. As a teacher one wonders what her students will remember and take with them from what you have taught. It is nice to know that none of the content stuck but the life lessons did. Know that I still check the paper each morning with fear as I am closer to the finish line then the starting line. And with each new class I am learning patience. One of the hardest and challenging thing presented to me thus far. But I am getting better. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of you. Of all I present to students the most important is to go make a difference in the world. Thanks for listening to me. Your presence to others is a wonderful and priceless gift.

  2. How sweet! Miss Brooks not only reads your blog but responded as well! *Warm fuzzes* Well Miss Brooks although we have never met, I am a former student of Dr. Phelan, and she was my favorite teacher in college, you have started a legacy of great teachers!