Sold

I don’t have a passport. There’s certain things in life, which after a while, you stop explaining. This is one of them for me. I will get one when I get one, end of story.

When I endured the hassle that was involved in getting my National ID, I didn’t know its value then. I am simply an organized individual that follows instructions given by the state. As luck would have it, it is considered as an official document within the region so I do not need to worry about the passport situation right now.

The only thing that traveling by bus has going for it is the bus fare. However it is only when you travel by bus that the fare makes so much sense. The off-the-grid pick up location, the bumpy journey, the discomfort that is the chairs and the long hours on the road – you can’t miss the AHA! moment.

Because life is a tumultuous affair – no sooner do you get into a comfortable position amidst the discomfort, which allows you to sleep, than you arrive at the border so you have to wake up and clear in order to cross the border. There’s really no winning.

Border immigration offices, if you can call them that, remind me of markets.

On one end there are the money selling guys who are always holding so much money. Their job is to sell to you the currency of the country you are going to, as though anyone travels to a country without its currency. I am curious about these men (I have never seen women selling money at the border). What makes a man holding so much money stay up throughout the night to sell it? Has anyone ever thought about robbing the money selling guys at the border? It wouldn’t easy but there’s assured money just waiting to be taken. Such a certainty would be worth the risk.

There is the form guy, who gives out the form that you fill in for the immigration records or something like that. He only has one job, and that is to give out one form. You can’t get for a friend or get another should you make a mistake. He simply advises you to cross out neatly and write the correct info below, above, somewhere around. He probably knows the forms are used for rolex and bunyobya so it doesn’t really matter.

Then you have the express passport photo guys. They are not as many as the money selling guys. I had a conversation with one of them.

“Lakini thingy nani gundi”

“Hello, English please”

“Passport or National ID?”

“National ID”

“The travel slips for National IDs are finished. You need to take passport photos for the temporary travel document.”

“Huh?”

“If you don’t believe me, you can go inside but they are going to ask you for passport photos.”

As I pondered on what I should do, the passport express guy turned to his colleague. They mentioned in passing about people who had been left by a bus yet that could have been avoided. The icing on the cake was that lady, old enough to be their mother, who sat on the ground and began weeping because she didn’t have any money or anyone to call.

I must say that marketing and sales agencies should consider hiring people like that guy. Forget the CVs and fancy course names, this guy was really good (and he probably has the ridiculous years of experience that companies love so much). I don’t think that he’d fail to sell something if he set his mind to it. And that was probably one of his bad days.

Ten thousand Uganda shillings later, I had four passport photos in hand. Proceeding to the till in a determined stride, I joined the line. I wasn’t planning on being left at the border after all.

The clearing process was smooth. I had my passport photos in the back pocket of my jeans – the clearing guy would be in for a surprise if he thought that he would send me back for them. It’s a good thing I didn’t hold my breath waiting for him to ask for the photos.

That was such a smooth con. I bet the express passport photo guy watches/watched “White Collar” – Neal Caffery is such an inspiration.

I’ll add them to my collection of passport photos that I didn’t get to use.

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