Three and a half weeks after applying for a one-month visa at the Bureau de l’Immigration here in Bujumbura, my application has finally been processed by the relevant stooges. This means that less than a week after getting my January visa approved, I’ll be going back again to get an extension for February. Not exactly surprising, given the state of the immigration office.
By my reckoning I’ve made seven trips to le bureau this month, only to be turned back, brushed aside, pitied, blatantly laughed at, and denied. The paperwork wasn’t ready. The paperwork was lost. The paperwork was something-in-French-I-couldn’t-understand. And me, flustered, irate, trying to explain in my marginal français: “J’ai venu sept fois ce mois, monsieur! Quelle est la problème? Je ne peux pas revenir chaque jour! Je suis…[flustered hand movement] busy.”
Still, me and the head stooge seemed to build up a sort of rapport, if by “rapport” I mean “mutual loathing.” The man was stern, fierce, unmovable. In a country that’s only just emerged from 13 or 15 or 16 years of civil war (depending on who’s counting), I suppose you can expect sympathy for the white guy to be in short supply. So instead I just grumbled and sighed and fought my way through queues which usually looked something like this:
Still, I succeeded in getting my visa de sejour and in not swallowing my own face in a fit of self-consuming rage. Given the circumstances, it was a good day.