Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Driving down a river | Almost deported and/or sent to court

Seriously. All in one day. Here's what happened.

As for the driving down a river comment, it's not like I've taken to extreme off-road driving as a hobby. I was simply dropping someone off, and that particular road was totally flooded. Yes, like in driving with water higher than my car's big tires for a good kilometer or so... It really does feel like you're driving down a river! And that with a passenger whom at times I thought might have a baby any moment...

I was actually getting ready to head to town to have my Kenya visa renewed when someone came running saying there's a visitor who is pregnant and she's in pain, can I take her to town? Off course I would! But when I got to where she was, the young girl insisted not to go to town, but wanted me to take her to her home instead.

What would you do? You know your visa's expired and you're in the country illegally. It's critical to get to the office to find out what you need to do. You also know that you're away with work for the next 2 days and there's no way you can just ignore the fact that you're an illegal alien... So I offered to take her part of the way and she could take public transport (which there's plenty of!) the rest of the way. One of the staff explained that actually, it's just 4 or 7 km down the road, so if I can take her all the way to a signpost where she'll leave and walk the gravel road for the remaining part, that'll be great. I did a quick time calculation and offered to take her to the sign post. Hakuna shida! (No problem!)

Once we started driving, this girl was smiling all the way. I was slightly confused. When I was called to help, they made it sound like her water had broken! Later someone explained that the girl--an older sister to one of our orphans--was screaming in pain when she was visiting.

ANYWAY! So I gave the gleeful pregnant teenager a ride. Twenty kilometers further, she pointed out the signpost. I stopped and, figuring she's been looking perfectly fine, told her, "OK, good-bye. God bless you." Suddenly, she was in pain again...! She held her stomach, saying, "Hapana! Hapana!" (No! No!) There was no way I could start driving to wherever she might lead and still make it back on time before the Immigration office closes... But there's also no way I would tell her to just go... So as I started driving down the gravel road, I prayed that God would take care of the details.

We had had torrential rain just minutes before, and the road on which she subsequently had me, truly was like a river. I kept thinking, "God! I have never driven this road. I have no idea where the potholes are, or where the rocks are. I cannot see the soil. I'm simply following the flow of the water. Please keep us safe!"

Another 10 km later (with a once-again smiling passenger) she told me it's fine. She'll now walk...

It had been a winding road with many forks in the road, but I was able to retrace my way thanks to the tracks in the mud. My car was clearly the only vehicle that had come that way in a while.

By the time I got to the Immigration office, it was about 30 minutes to closing time. I stated my case to the officer, "My work permit application is in the process. I was told it would take maybe 3 months. I have still not received it, and realized today that my visa had expired 2 days ago... I am sorry for the oversight. Is it possible to get an extension?" (Note: I've never overstayed a visa in any country. It's not a good thing to do! I never will again, either!)

Problem: I'm supposed to be able to prove that my application is in the process, but I don't have the paperwork. It's with a Kenyan co-worker (Julius) who's helping with the details of processing the application. I called him right away and found out he's heading for the shuttle to leave for Nairobi. Since he was going to follow up on my work permit, it meant that he had all the paperwork with him! So, 10 minutes before closing time, Julius walks into the office and I think, "Wonderful! Everything's going to be fine."

But it wasn't. The officer started threatening us, saying we can go and state my case in court and that the type of visa I have cannot be renewed... He then switched to Kiswahili and Julius just remained polite. The officer finally gave me a 2-week extension. As I'm writing this, Julius is on his way to Nairobi to see if he can get my permit issued tomorrow. From what I understand, it's already been approved. It's just a matter of getting the paperwork issued!

As we left, Julius explained that the officer was simply trying to get us to bribe him. When he was speaking in Kiswahili, the officer was basically telling Julius he should've come alone to get the matter settled...

Not good. I know.

But that's not even the end of my story.

Before heading home, I quickly stopped to buy some groceries and got an extra loaf of bread for the street boys who usually come to my car to beg for money. (I never give them money due to the fact that they walk around with their bottles of glue which they sniff... Money would only support that habit!) The boys weren't in their usual spot, so I started driving home, only to notice them further up the street. When I called one of them over, they all came, pushing and shoving one another, some even trying to get into the passenger side to grab the loaf on the seat... I asked the boys to share, which they of course said they would, but the moment I handed the bread over, there was a brawl, right there, in the middle of the busy road. They had ripped the entire loaf--still in its bag--into pieces within no more than 3 seconds! I made a mental note to only give food to them when they're in pairs or alone...

It was really a crazy afternoon. But in the end, the girl didn't have her baby in my car, I was able to help her, whether or not she was faking her pain, I didn't get deported, and I didn't end up in court, either. And the street boys? Some of them at least got one good chunk of bread for the day.

1 comment:

  1. wow... this is wild!!! i guess that's what things are like in africa... i had no idea what had happened when i was talking with you online earlier. our light and momentary troubles are nothing compared to yours...