All I need is my passport and my toothbrush

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I am a fucking idiot. Odds on, so are you, but here’s my story.

I live in little Senegal. Little Senegal is a small republic with a mostly nomadic population of between 5-10 people. The predominant language is Wolof, second is now English (the French guy moved out, that’s how I got this room) and French is used to glue together conversations with well meaning white people and Dakar City types. My French is appalling, unless you compare it to my Wolof, nope, still bad. I’ve lived here for over a year now, so I should have picked up more than “hello, see you later, thank you, I’m tired, let’s eat!” Though actually, I can get through a whole day, with just this and not a word of English. Why haven’t I picked up more than this? Europeans (mainlanders, the real ones with the good food and proper racism) would say it’s because we English are lazy, because everyone else speaks English. This is, true. I would also like to ascribe the following excuses, everyone wants to practice their English with me, Wolof has basically no Germanic or Latin routes (the bits that do are basically a French argot) making it difficult to find any reference points and…and… yeah, lazy. So, I’ve decided to have some lessons, in a total submersion environment, by many different teachers, I’m going to Senegal… hopefully.

Before I booked my tickets, I phoned the embassy to get some specifics about the application process. My God! Whilst on the one hand, it is an embassy, the official representation of Senegalese sovereignty and power, it is also run by the Senegalese, I should have known what to expect.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is that the Senegalese embassy?”

“Yes”

“Can I speak to someone about a visa application”

“I am afraid there is no one else here”

“At all?” – it’s 14:45 on a Wednesday

“Sorry, no. Perhaps I can help?”

“Err, yeah, OK. I’m looking at applying online, I was just wondering about the hotel reservation section. I’m not staying in a hotel, I’m staying with friends, how do I send that information with my application? Do I just type it and put it in a PDF or do I need something more?”

“When are you going?”

“January” – At this point, that was the plan, things change

“Before the fourth of April?”

“Yes” – ?!?!?!

“And you are a UK Citizen”

“Then you do not need a visa, the air carrier and travel agent will sort that out, you just need to sign some papers when you land”

“Really?” – The level of incredulity was high, and as it turned out, should have stayed there

“Yes, they are changing the rules in April, but until then, you will be fine”

“OK, well, that’s brilliant, thank you”

“No problem Sir”

What a fucking idiot. He already told me he doesn’t work in the visa department (there actually isn’t a visa department, it’s all done on line and processed back in Dakar, apparently very efficiently, I’ll let you know when I’ve actually got round to doing it) why did I believe him? Because he gave me permission to do nothing. Generally men don’t need permission to do nothing, but when we do get it, then we can fail to build empires (it’s alright, the French colonised Senegal, I can say what I like as long as I don’t go near Gambia)

So, It’s Friday the thirteenth, today I’ve to booked my ticket, booked my yellow fever vaccination and tried four times to apply for my visa with the website crashing or timing out, I might even drink a Dr Pepper.

Now it’s long past the end of the working week both here and in Senegal so I’m fucking it off and going to see a friend about a party. TAXI !!

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