Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Terminal 2: Coming Soon

In 2004 Tom Hanks starred in the movie, The Terminal.  Tom Hanks’ character, Viktor Navorski, arrives in New York’s JFK Airport only to be denied admission to the U.S. because during his flight his fictional home country of Krakozhia broke into a civil war, making his passport invalid.  He is not permitted to enter the U.S., but he can’t return home either because he doesn’t have a legal passport which prohibits him from boarding a plane. The movie details Viktor’s nine month stay in the JFK airport.  The movie is loosely based on a similar predicament of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport for 17 years.  (Yes, 17 years, that is not a typo).  I mention this because there is a possibility I may become Viktor Navorski very soon.

Back in October I wrote a blog post rejoicing about the fact I had finally obtained my Botswana Residence Permit, thus avoiding deportation for the time being.  Well, deportation is looking more and more likely every day now.

My residence permit expires one week from today, May 31st.  I am currently out of the country with a plane ticket to reenter Botswana on May 31st.  Even though I have 30 days left on my tourist visa I am told I cannot reenter Botswana as a tourist because my status has changed to a resident.  (Apparently once you become a resident you can’t become a tourist again.) However, in order to remain a legal resident I must get a permit extension.  I have been working for weeks now to get all the appropriate paperwork for the extension and still don’t have it.  And if you have been following my blog for any amount of time, you are aware that expediency is an unknown concept here, so reiterating the fact that I need something done now now doesn’t really help.  The challenge is that I don’t have the paperwork I need and even once I get the paperwork it still must be taken to the Immigration Office, which will likely take their time processing and approving it.  Queue a miracle here please!

Last night I was explaining my predicament to a friend back in the U.S. and as I was detailing my situation I realized how ridiculous this whole scenario truly is.  I have all my paperwork in order with the exception of a letter from UB stating that they support the extension of my residence permit.  Here’s a very abridged version showcasing the unwillingness of anyone to take responsibility and make a decision:
  • Over a month ago I spoke to Person Number 1 at UB and told him I needed a letter. No1 agreed to write the letter. (I should have known immediately that something would go terribly wrong as nothing ever happens here that easily).
  • After weeks of contacting No1 asking about the status of my letter I finally get an email from No1 telling me he is on vacation and forgot to write the letter.  No1 tells me to contact No2.
  • I email No2 explaining my predicament, tell No2 than No1 agreed to write the letter but forgot, so now No2 is supposed to write the letter.
  • After several days of not hearing from No2 I get CC’ed on an email from No2 to No3.
  • No3 says he doesn’t know anything and refuses to write the letter.  No3 recommends No2 talks to No4.
  • I get CC’ed on an email from No2 to No4.
  • No4 emails me asking about the letter.
  • I respond to No4 telling her No1 was supposed to write the letter but forgot and now No2 is supposed to write the letter.  I give No4 the information No2 is supposed to put in the letter.
  • No4 emails No2 (and CC’s me) to say she (No4) refuses to write the letter because No1 already agreed to do it.
  • No2 emails me back to state she (No2) cannot write the letter and I should speak directly to No4 and ask her to write the letter. (Please refer back to the previous point in which No4 emails No2 and refuses to write the letter).
Here’s the part that kills me: UB wants me to stay for an additional year to provide FREE LABOR as a Fulbright Scholar!!!  I can’t stay (for another week, far less a whole extra year) if you won’t give me a letter in order to remain in the country legally!

A month or so back I wrote about the arrogance of UB and how they are their own worst enemy.  I think this little letter fiasco is just another example of how if Africa wants to progress it needs to learn how to be proactive and take some amount of responsibility in formulating its own success.

In the meantime the jury is still out regarding my fate.  My dad is scheduled to arrive in a few weeks.  I know he can enter Botswana as a tourist visa.  Unfortunately he may also be vacationing alone and packing up my house in Gabs if I am living in limbo at the airport customs office like Viktor Navorski.  I’ll keep you posted.


  1. Do you think you should write the president of the university or the American Embassy to get you back in??

  2. The embassy is aware of the situation but there is nothing they can do. If I don't get back in I can call them but I don't know what they can do for me. I can't find an email address for the president or chancellor of the university- which is pretty typical.