I have hopes that one day a trip to “town” (i.e. downtown Nairobi) will one day be quick and simple. So far, that’s never happened. Today is a classic example of the opposite. Well, to be fair, today’s tasks included a visit to the Kenyan Office of Immigration, so that should have been my first clue that it would be a long day. Here’s a rundown of a classic trip to town and the immigration office:
- Walk 10 minutes to the main road.
- Carefully make my way across a highway that would be terribly illegal to cross on foot in the US.
- Board a bus.
- Bus pulls into a gas station 3 minutes later (normal occurrence for re-fueling), but makes all the passengers get off to find another bus.
- Walk a few more minutes.
- Board another bus to town.
- A short ride of 20 minutes to town (this often takes an hour, even though it’s only 5 miles away)
- Walk 10 minutes and find the immigration office.
- Find a hall full of people waiting in various lines.
- Stand in line 15 minutes, make it to the front, only to be told to go up stairs to another office (I needed to see if my student visa was ready, or how to extend my current one).
- Stand around upstairs waiting while staff look for files or assist others.
- 30 minutes later I’m still waiting, but lunchtime comes.
- I leave because I’m told that they won’t return for 1.5 hours, and no work really happens after lunch.
- I manage to discover that the student visa won’t be ready.
- Return to the previous hall full of lines.
- Find the requirements for extending my visa.
- Leave immigration office to get passport photos taken and make copies of documents, etc.
- Turn in my documents at window 6.
- Told to take another form and the appropriate fee to window 4.
- Wait at window 4 for 10 minutes.
- Turn in forms, and told to take receipt to window 2.
- At window 2 the gentleman looks at my receipt, motions to some chairs and says, “Sit.”
- I sit. and sit. And sit. Maybe 20-30 minutes.
- I’m called to a room for fingerprinting.
- Actually, first I stand outside the room waiting for 5 minutes.
- Given a receipt to take to window 6.
- Turn in my receipt, retrieve my passport with a visa extension, and I’m free!!!!
All in all, 3.5 hours at the immigration office was not so bad. Right?
Of course, I still had a couple other errands in town, a ten minute walk to the bus, a 15 minute wait for it to fill, a 45 minute ride out of the city, and a 10 minute walk home. And that’s my day!
Never underestimate the ability of Nairobi traffic to make your life miserable.
Very typical “jam”. The reason it takes an hour to get to town.
(Photo from http://sairobi.blogspot.com/2012/06/nairobi-traffic.html.)