So - another road trip to Harare, but this time one full of miracles and wonder!
On Wednesday we woke at 04.00am and set off for Harare on two-fold mission. Our plan was very simple:
- Go to the Passport Office and collect Della's Mom's passport
- Return to Marondera in time to attend our daughter Courtney's Teacher Consultation Day at 10.15
This passport saga has been going on for some time, and only a true Zimbabwean could know the dread that the words 'Mukombe Building' generate in the hapless souls who have to attend there for any reason whatsoever. To date the passport thing has gone like this-
a) In October 2012, Onia spent 3 hours dropping off her passport for renewal.
b) In December 2012 she went to collect her new passport only to be told, after an interminable wait, that the photos were 'wrong'. They took her aside, wiped her make-up off, tied her hair back, stuck toilet paper behind her ears to make them stick out, and put a heavy, black Hell's Angels jacket on her, and told her not to smile for the photo. (She wasn't, by that stage, so a waste of an instruction, really).
The resulting mugshot bears no resemblance to her at all, and if she ever tried to get through airport security looking like she does in the photo, she would be pulled aside and scanned in about 7 different ways!
In February, Della and I drove to Harare to collect her passport on her behalf. Della left me there and I waited 3 hours outside 'Window 9' (you have to wait outside various windows to be served - and entering the building is only done at great personal risk, as the milling crowds inside are packed as tightly as humanly possible) only to be told that I could not collect as I was not in possession of her old passport, and it had not expired yet, so they could not issue the new one to me.
So we set off for the Passport Office, with heavy hearts.
The plan was for Della to drop me there, and I would try and obtain the new passport. If time was not on our side, she would return to Marondera to attend the Consultation alone, and I would follow, hitch-hiking my way as best I could. The latter was indeed more our actual plan as opposed to our 'fall-back' plan! Little did we know we were in for a day of miracles.......
Firstly, the roadside for most of the trip was lined with wild pink and white cosmos, which made for a very pleasant 4-hour journey to Harare. Self-sown, these pretty flowers are along the side of the road, and nowhere else. I think the seed gets blown along by the passing cars, but one of nature's little miracles...
Then the journey - the sky was overcast and, unbelievably - and a true miracle in itself, they have re-tarred and re-painted the road for a large part of the way! Wow! No more bumping along and missing the potholes - it was rather dull, in fact. Almost....(dare I say it?) First World travelling!
We reached Mukombe Buildings at 08.30am, and as I got out of the car - I took a very furtive snap of the over 1,000 people thronging the covered area outside the dreaded 'windows'. This was the only pic I took, because getting caught taking photographs of 'sensitive' institutions can land the poor citizen in very hot water in Zimbabwe! It does not do justice to the unhappy throng lolling around, but you get part of the idea! What you can see is the people that didn't fit under the wide roof outside - and they are lining up to get to the various 'windows'.
And this was the multitude I set out to battle through to try and get the precious document! Eish.
Incredibly...........I was in and out of the Passport Office, clutching Onia's new passport, in 20 minutes! And this meant I could make it to marondera for Consultation day! As proof - here I am holding the sacred document in my own Hotel Reception!
Della says that this all proves the power of prayer.
I, though, secretly suspect that the power of a US$100 bill may have contributed somewhat!