And? Okay. Here’s what happened. Arrived at the Sudanese Embassy at 10.30am, a little early, but I figured it could do no harm. Was told to sit. So I sat. And waited. By 12.30pm they wanted to close for lunch. Told me to come back at 2.30pm. I met Tadesse’s mate Tsegaye for lunch and we returned to the embassy at 2.30 sharp to sit and wait. Tsegaye left after the first half an hour. I didn’t blame him. I remained, sitting and waiting.
As the minutes ebbed away, so did my belief that I would make it home for Christmas
Then, at 5pm, the embassy closed for the weekend. There was a commotion behind the desk. I was called up and handed a new application form. The lady sitting at the desk in the waiting room filled it out for me. Religion? ‘Christian’ I lied, no time for theological discussions here, I just need that damn visa. I hand it in, with my photos, passport and $100 bill.
‘I will now start the visa process. Maybe we can get it finished today.’
It was now 5.22pm. They wanted to lock up the waiting area and so I was shepherded through to the office side and told to sit. It was an experience not unlike waiting outside the headmaster’s office. I sat, trying to look relaxed, but my insides were twisting. Come on, come on, come on…
The guy comes over to me.
‘You have been to Sudan before?’
It was all I could do not to roll my eyes. I had told him this the day before and shown him my old visa. I showed him again, smiled politely and sat back down. He went back to his desk and continued shuffling paper. Come on, come on, come on…
At 5.42pm he came back over to me, holding my passport open on page 16.
‘Here… your visa for Sudan.’
I have never had to stifle the urge punch the air and scream F— YEAH! so much in my life.
I thanked the guy profusely and ran out of the embassy (via the back door – the front door was closed and locked). Between me, my mum, Midhat and some canny planning, I had snatched the last tricky visa of The Odyssey Expedition from the jaws of defeat. I called Tsegaye and arranged to meet him over at the Piazza area of town – where I could get purchase the bus ticket for tomorrow morning’s bus up to Gonder near the Sudanese border. We met at Tomoca and walked around to the ticket office, arriving at 6.31pm. The cleaning lady was mopping the floor. We tip-toed over the moistened tiles to the ticket lady who was just packing up for the night. The office closes at 6.30pm. Again, I had inadvertently made it by the skin of my teeth. After one speedy financial transaction, Tsegaye and I were down the road enjoying a (rather quite delicious) pizza of VICTORY!
Later, Tsegaye and I shared a beer or two whilst watching some traditional Ethiopian dancing at the Yod Abyssinia restaurant. I got an early(ish) night: I had to be up for 4am, I had a bus to catch and a promise to keep.
It was over. I won.
I *will* be back for Christmas.
2.45pm on Saturday 22 December 2012 @ The Pier Head, Liverpool. Be there.