Saturday, May 10, 2008

Breakdown of a Bureaucratic System

April 15, 2008:
* Complete Tanzanian visa paperwork and purchase a $120 money order from Western Union.
* Refuse an offer from various Frat boys at HT to attend their booze fests if I pay for their kegs.
* Lovingly mail off my passport, visa paperwork, and money order. Believe I will have my passport and a fresh-off-the-presses visa in my hands in a few days.

April 16-29, 2008:
* Endlessly check the mailbox in search of my passport and visa.
* Receive packages from Aveda, Moosejaw, Mom, and Amazon.
* Curse the mail woman (we're not on the best of terms).

April 30, 2008:
* Call the Tanzanian Embassy in D.C.
* Attempt to leave a message but the only mailbox available is full.
* Call back multiple times and continue to run into the full-mailbox wall.

May 1, 2008:
* Call the Tananian Embassy in D.C.
* Speak with a male representative who speaks English with a heavy accent.
* Run into my first language barrier, which ran both ways.
* Am told my visa paperwork has not been processed yet and that I should wait a few more days for information.
* Grumble.

May 2, 2008:
* Receive voicemail from Rachel* mentioning casually that the Tanzanian Embassy doesn't accept money orders from Western Union.
* Am informed that I must obtain a new money order and send it immediately to the Embassy, attn: Rachel.
* Visit the post office and begrudgingly purchase another $120 money order.
* Mail off the money order, sprinkle it with good vibes.

May 3-5, 2008:
* Wait patiently for my visa and passport to arrive.
* Begin blaming the Embassy and not the mail woman for the lack of passport/visa in my mailbox.
* Tension headache sets in.

May 6, 2008:
* Call Tanzanian Embassy incessantly until I speak with a live representative.
* Inquire about my visa status. Spell Tschannen 5 times. T-S-C-H-A-N-N-E-N. Yes, 2 N's.
* Am told by Rachel that she cannot locate my passport and visa and that I should call back later.
* Panic sets in.

May 7, 2008:
* Call Tanzanian Embassy and immediately press 0... OPERATOR!
* Rachel picks up the phone.
* Give Rachel my name, spell Tschannen twice, and inform Rachel that we spoke yesterday.
* Am told, "I do not know you. Who is this?"
* Politely remind Rachel of our conversation about my missing passport and visa. Ask her if she found them.
* Am told she has not found them, but that she will look again and call me back later.
* Hang up and proceed to freak out.

May 8-9, 2008:
* Pray to the universe that Rachel calls me with good news.
* Hear nothing from Rachel.
* Pickup junk mail and bills out of the mailbox.

May 10, 2008:
* Call Tanzanian Embassy.
* Immediately press 0, the line to my dear friend Rachel.
* Spell Tschannen 4 times. Become less patient with each spelling.
* Am informed that my passport and visa have been located, but they haven't been processed. Am told Rachel will call me back soon.
* On the verge of tears, I tell Rachel that "I'm leaving in less than 3 weeks! I need this to be expedited!!"
* 4 hours later, receive a voicemail from Rachel stating that: "We have processed your passport and visa, Ms. T-s-ch-nana (rhymes with banana.... not at all how you say TSCHANNEN). We have not mailed your passport back to you yet as you have not informed us when you will be leaving on your trip. Please call us back and let us know when you will be leaving so we can send you your passport and visa in a timely manner. Thank you!"
* Loose my calm. Attempt to call the Embassy, but realize it's now closed.
* Call Megan to vent. "How come you got your passport and visa within a week and I didn't? We have the exact same information on our paperwork?"

May 11, 2008:
* Attempt to call the Embassy to inform them when I will be leaving (information found directly on the visa paperwork I completed), but hit the full voicemail box wall.
* Cry.

I'm not sure where everything went wrong, but I'm now waiting in anxiety to call the Embassy on Monday morning to inform them when I'll be leaving for Tanzania. I'm frustrated for multiple reasons.
1. I lost my original $120 money order as it was NOT posted anywhere on the Tazanian Embassy's website that they didn't accept Western Union money orders.
2. Customer service wasn't all the impressive.
3. Why should I have to inform you when I am leaving for my trip in order for you to send me back my passport and visa? I gave you a self-addressed, stamped envelope as well as paying you the extra $20 so you could expedite the process.

Sigh, I might be making a trip to D.C. next week. Anyone want to meet for a meal?

*Name changed.

UPDATE: After speaking with Rachel twice this week, she's confirmed that passport and visa were sent out yesterday. Time will tell...