Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Immigration Round II

Friday June 4, 2010

You know it’s bad when you begin making friend at the office of immigration. My passport have as well, because it is a having a full weekend sleepover.

I returned today at 1:40pm (20 minute early- can you tell I am a little anxious?) to pick up my passport and subsequent visa. As the pile of US passports began diminishing before me I began to get more and more nervous. “Great,” I’m thinking, “now that you LOST my passport I am going to have to rescind my statement about this being a relatively painless process.” Sure enough it wasn’t actually lost, just put in the “problem” pile. Apparently three days past expired incurs a $20 dollar fine, in addition to a $20 dollar renewal fee. So can’t I just go to the billing room and pay more money. Of course not, that would be logical. Instead, it’s back through the whole process: one form, six rooms, $20 more dollars, and a newly formed friendship with my interrogator and I should have a visa by Monday afternoon. I am still going to have to revoke yesterday’s statement! Especially since the computer system was down for the first hour I was there. I suppose I should be thankful that there is a computer system to begin with…

And so the saga continues. Hopefully, these entries don’t exceed a trilogy.

In other news, the Kechene women and I are starting another project on Tuesday. They will be braiding/knitting/weaving bracelets based on their specialty, with the sting I bought at Merkato. The clasp for the bracelets is a button, that I am pretty pround of purchasing, because I endured and negotiated Merkato solo. I would rather spend another day at immigration before navigating Merkato alone again. And considering that I typically love those types of places, that is saying a lot.
Merkato is just one of the most nonsensical situations I have ever been it. Finding the button guy was fairly easy, I made sure I had buttons on my shirt that day so I could communicate what I wanted to find and a backpack salesman actually gave me really great directions. But the button guy, who had millions of buttons in about 50 shoe boxes tried to convince me that each button was worth a birr. That would be about 7 cents a button, which seems a little ridiculous and would require counting out the big handfuls I wanted to buy. I asked him if he could charge me by the kilo rather than the piece, but no these buttons are “very precious.” Then I decided to just negotiate for a whole shoe box, even though it would be way more than I needed. One shoe box, containing thousands was starting price of 600 birr, so they’re not worth 1 birr a piece then. Every time I tried to bring the price down he kept saying, “We make good relationship for next time.” Yeah, okay. After a long convoluted negotiation, we settled on 200 birr for half a box. But the thing that I can’t understand and this happens repeatedly here, so I’m beginning to think it’s kind of an Ethiopian mentality, is why would someone rather have thousand of buttons that would take centuries to sell off, than a hundred birr today? This really not about the buttons specifically, but it’s an overarching concept here that I can’t seem to understand. Help!

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