Tuesday, February 16
Today was a long, good day. We started by going to the mall for breakfast at a place called Doppio Zero. It was a good spot with decent food. The mall (Sandton City) is super nice and offered a lot. We decided to get our groceries at Woolworth’s while we were there. Brian was on a tight schedule and we had to hustle. We found what we needed and headed back to the car. Brian needed cash, so we decided to stop by an ATM. Unfortunately, it ended up being a 15 minute detour. We followed the signs, which took us the long way round. (Of course!)
Back at home, we didn’t have long before we needed to head to the US Embassy. Our appointment for Tisetso’s visa was at 1:00, but we had been advised by Wandisa to arrive by noon and wait in line. We pulled up to the Embassy, but were directed by a guard to park at the mall (Sandton City) across the street and walk.
We pulled out and did a U-turn to get back to the parking garage. In true South African fashion, this was apparently the only place in the country where this was not allowed and, rather inconveniently, there was a police check point right there with cops to witness it. We were pulled over and Brian was instructed to get his paperwork out. I had to grab our international driving permits from my purse, which was inconveniently located in the trunk. Then the cop demanded to see Brian’s passport, which is not legally required to drive. When Brian pointed out that the cop had everything he needed, the cop began getting angry and telling Brian he was "an officer and could ask for anything he wanted" and Brian had to comply because he was a cop. We were all on edge from that point. Brian got his passport out and handed it over to the visibly angry cop. With drivers license, international driving permit, and passport in hand, the cop reviewed it and handed it back to Brian, then just walked away. We sat there for a couple of minutes wondering if that was it. Apparently it was. We quickly pulled away and found a parking spot. While walking to the Embassy, we talked with Tisetso about corrupt cops (“I’m a cop so you had to do what I say!” is a big red flag), which was a fun conversation.
When we arrived to the doors of the Embassy, we were told we were there too early and to leave and come back. I told them we would like to wait and joined the line (only two deep at this point). We were behind two guys. One guy was getting his fiancee visa and was getting married to a woman in Chicago! Small world. We also met another family just behind us in line in which the husband was a pastor and they were interviewing for visas to join her family in California. It was great to talk to them while we waited.
After waiting outside (in the heat), we were told to get in line. We were now first in line as the other two guys had left in frustration (welcome to America!). We were ushered into a room and had to hand over our phones. We didn’t know it, but our phones were supposed to be turned off (there, of course, were no signs or announcements to this effect) and Brian was ushered back outside to turn his phone off. I quickly turned mine off so I wouldn’t have to go back into the heat. With his phone turned off, we handed over everything remotely electronic (including headphones) and walked into the Embassy.
The first portion of our interview was basically handing over paperwork. It was at this point we found out we didn’t have our updated tax information in the dossier paperwork we had been given by Wandisa/Wybrow Oliver. The gal collecting the paperwork seemed skeptical that we didn’t have it and said she would talk to her supervisor, then sent us back to our seats. Brian and I sat in almost complete silence for the next 40 minutes freaking out that we were going to be sent out and would need to get another appointment, re-book our return flight, etc. After waiting for what seemed like forever, we were called up to the window again. This woman interviewing asked a couple of questions, including asking Tisetso what his name was. He answered "Batman." She (thankfully) found that amusing. After finding out our tax forms were not needed (thank you, Jesus), she said we could wait 45 minutes and they would print up the visa right there. We waited and had such a good time waiting. Tisetso opened up and Brian and I were relieved we weren’t being kicked out.
They called our name and we picked up his visa, which ended up being a sticker added to his South African passport. It wasn’t until 30 minutes later, after we had gone back through security, paid for parking and were driving past the embassy, that it hit me! We had his visa! We could legally leave the country with our son! Nothing was holding us back from getting on a plane and leaving and going home. I have to tell you, it was a freeing thought.
With visa in hand, we had to head back to the airport to drop off the manual Honda and get our new car. We, once again, found ourselves in terrible rush hour traffic.
Brian had signed up to get an Audi each time we rented a car. So far, we had ended up with a crappy Mercedes A100 hatchback that was supposed to be "comparable" to an A3, a super nice Lexus (after being given lots of free upgrades from an A4), and the manual Honda. JoBurg, take two, was the fourth time charm. Brian finally got his A4! Along with that, we got a trunk that fit our luggage perfectly. It was quite the success. The only way this car could have been more perfect is if the first gear pickup had been a bit stronger.
I drove us home to give Brian some rest. With the busy day we had had and the lack of time for Brian to work, he was going to be up late. Tisetso wanted to do a pajama party, so when we got home, we changed into our PJs, had supper, and watched Monsters Inc., complete with popcorn. It was a good night. We had a huge weight off our shoulders with visa in hand.