Passport woes 2

I’d been sharpening my sword (aka my tongue and its proxy  my fingers) for several days ready for a blast on the Prime Minster of Britain for the dilemma I am in. I can enumerate the reasons I can’t stand him but the main reason is,  given his life of privilege, I doubt he can imagine what it is like for the ordinary person – what is referred to as the ‘other half’. But in reality it’s more like the ‘other 99 per cent’.

So many in his government have similar backgrounds , which is not surprising, as lots of research show that we tend to recruit people like us.  Therefore, picture some bright young spark,  (the PM’s 21 year old doppelganger) graduate of the Russell Group universities,  on the Civil Service Fast Stream,  wanting to make his mark. He (and it is a he – few women would be so hubristic or heuristic with other people’s lives) suggests saving money by closing all the passport offices and centralizing it to one office.

Having never lived abroad (spending summers in St Barts does not count), he has no insight to the fraughtness of living in places where you might want to escape at any moment or the law mandates you carry your ID at all times.   Also, he seems unaware that when places like Qatar do public holidays; they don’t just give a ‘Bank Holiday Monday’.  Starting yesterday, all government offices are closed until Tuesday 5 August.  This means that even if our passports were to arrive today, I’ll still be grounded as I can’t renew my Resident’s Permit nor apply for the baby’s.

Everyone compliments him on his capital idea.  And instead of checking it out with the people who work on the front line and taking a phased approach, plans are rushed to put it into place. This predicament irks not just on a personal but on a professional level, as I am a project manager.

My job involves taking the ‘blue sky’ thinking of the great and good and putting it into a list of actions, with realistic resources of people, time and finances; and dependencies; considering the issues and risks and mitigating for them. Overwhelmingly, my colleagues and I would propose a phased approach. This is not unique to us but standard operating practice for Project Managers everywhere.

This was just the warm up for the slow roasting  I had planned… then a few things happened:

I was feeling so low about not going to the UK, that I dug out my ‘inspirational pile’ – a notebook where I’ve written statements from gurus and saints, and print outs of meditations and reflections from  UCB word for today and Proverbs 31 ministries among others.

This helped to remind me that God’s ways are not my ways.

As the World Cup finished, I tuned back into the real world and recoiled in horror at: the downing of Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine, the bombardment of Gaza and the typhoons threatening the Philippines yet again.

This helped to remind me that my problems are small.

I had messages from my parents. Daddy called and in the midst of telling me of his watching the world cup in five countries, he reminded me that all disappointments are opportunities in disguise. Mummy sent me an email with Philippians 2:13 and a short reflection that encourages that we remember God’s plans are bigger than our plans even in the midst of our disappointment and discouragement.

This helped to remind me that I am blessed to have parents who continue to guide, comfort and encourage.

When your plans don’t go to… plan, what are you reminded of?



Passport woes 1

It seems like we’re stuck in Qatar for Eid. This is very difficult to bear as so many people go away at this time and we want to introduce Raffie to family in UK. At one time we even had had thoughts of going to Trini as well – the best laid plans and all that…

I’d like to have a good old rant at the British Home Office but to be honest I have to shoulder some of the responsibility.

I did not do my due diligence, when I decided to have ‘the baby’ in Qatar, I did not look into what the passport requirements were before he was born. Burdened by lack of sleep and no decision on his Ghanaian name, it took ages for us to register his birth and then for me to do the online research.  A lack of a printer at home and Border Agency instructions that seemed to be translated from Latin did not help either.

Eventually, I found out that we needed to submit our naturalisation certificates  as well as passports to support the application for Raffie’s passport. We looked and looked through all the paper work we brought from the UK, asked Kofi’s brother and my mother to look through the stuff we have left at theirs -to no avail.

So we applied for replacement certificates to the same department that was already feeling the strain of the increased load of passport applications. This was now mid March and it would take 6 weeks.  After 5 weeks and an email to chase which was replied to by an email that said that the ‘Naturalisation Certificate’ department aims to respond to emails within 20 working days.  In mid-May, I receive a text from my mother saying that they had arrived.

Discussing with a colleague, I decided to send the application to mummy’s with DHL(small consolation, HMC employees get a massive discount) so she just had to slip in the naturalization certificate and post to the Passport Office which at that time was saying it would take 6 weeks to process.  So I started a ‘Novena to Infant Jesus of Prague’ praying that it Raffie’s passport and mine (sent in support of the application) would arrive in time  for me to process his Resident’s permit.

If Kofi, as the father, was to request Raffie’s resident permit, it would be done in a day or three but as a woman and the Mother you are at the mercy of the culture who might refuse you and thus delay things  (see how things played out when I tried to do Kwame’s 4 years ago … sankofa-1-visa-runs-and-sponsorship-woes

Additionally, as it is Ramadan, many government offices have reduced working times.  If the passports were to come during Eid all government offices have 10 days of public holiday., although that does include weekends.

It is essential that I sponsor Raffie as one of my benefits is an anuual flight home for myself and those I sponsor. We miss out on Kofi’s ticket as I was unable to sponsor him (not as much as a financial burden now that he is employed) but thankfully we’d get Kwame’s and mine. Therefore we would like the same for Raffie.  Additionally the long view includes payment of school fees as well, once Raffie turns 5.

To add to the mix, my Resident Permit also expired and I can’t renew that if I don’t have my passport. Although, mercifully, I’ve been advised that I have a 3 month grace period as I was beginning to contemplate hefty fines and my own personal account of ‘Locked  Up Abroad’.  Meanwhile, I have been further scaring myself by looking at news reports and online discussions on this where many people have stated that it has taken longer than the 6 weeks mentioned on the official websites.  Also, the supporting documents may arrive several weeks after the baby’s passport.

I cannot account for the amount of time in which I have had panic attacks, crying spells,  self recrimination moments and endless rounds of ‘if only’s’.

I have tried reframing and saying ‘next time’,  looking for the lesson and counting my blessings but I just want to shout out ‘It’s not fair !’ (I am acutely aware that I am constantly telling Kwame that life’s not fair when he tries this stunt) and say some choice words to Teresa May and David Cameron.

When was the last time you wanted to shout to the universe ‘it’s not fair!’

Deutschland vor!

Who would have thought this Caribbean gal would have been cheering for Germany in the World Cup final?

Having done a sweepstake at work, at great risk, as games of chance are haram in Islam, I pulled Germany. My only concern at that time was that Ghana was in the same group and my loyalties would be a bit pulled in opposite directions. After all no European team had ever won in the Americas.

Well Germany has made me 350 riyals richer – which of course I’m going to follow the guidance I gave Kwame for his birthday money – Donate, Save, Spend … hmmm… easier to say than do…

Germany also taught me a few lessons:

Football is a team game – though most of us had heard of Balotelli (Italy), Ronaldo (Portugal), Messi (Argentina) and Neymar (Brazil), many of us would have been hard pressed to name a German team player.

Planning is almost everything – there are no overnight successes. When Germany  were knocked out in the group stages of the Euros in 2000, they did a root and branch review and put in place an extensive talent development program. Some of the guys who won last night were between the ages of seven and eleven  in 2000.  Gives you shivers, doesn’t it?

Humble celebrating – it is possible to celebrate your win without rubbing it in the face of your opponents and hosts. So witness their restrained celebrations after thrashing Brazil.

We’re all God’s favourites  –so I was convinced that Brazil or Argentina would win thinking that there would be lots of masses and novenas said and candles lit in those very Catholic of countries.  After all Western European countries are largely Postmodern read Post or even Anti Christian in their outlook. However, when Gotze scored, he looked heavenwards.

So maybe it’s time we all channel our inner German!

Fasting and feasting

I’m doing a pilgrimage through Italy. At my desk.

The week before Ramadan,  I tried something recommended in O magazine, saying yes – no hesitation, no deviation –  to every opportunity for a defined period of time.  Consequently, I was out almost every night that week – quite trying and tiring for an introvert.

One such night found me at the Kempinski Hotel, getting my mojo with some mojitos and retelling my passport fiasco woes ad infinitum, in response to the question ‘When are you leaving?’ ( in Doha, it is a truism universally assumed that if one is an expat of certain means, one will make haste to  remove oneself from the unrelenting torridity and cloying humectation of the Al Khaleej (the Gulf) summer).

Having bored myself and possibly several others, I decided to engage in dialogue with a couple of people, I had not met before.  One of these ladies was looking for beta readers for her manuscript. Probably not the summit of ambitions but I have always wanted to read a book and offer suggestions to /help the writer before publication.

I volunteered before she could explain what her memoir is about.  To paraphrase the author it is like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ but it all happens in Italy and the love is more of the self variety.

When the privations of this season become too heavy, my famished spirit feasts on  the writer’s tale of  the simple joy of food during an arduous physical and spiritual journey.

Did something wonderfully unexpected happen, the last time you said yes unhesitatingly?