Thursday, September 5, 2013

Comedy of Errors

Macdonald's French fries taste like cardboard when they are cold.  This was my great discovery yesterday after I spent too long trying to find my way back to my hotel with my food supplies for the day.  GPS on your phone is an amazing invention.  However, you need a navigator to operate it for you as the other drivers do not appreciate you trying to slide the screen open and check the directions while driving.  It is extremely difficult to keep your eyes on the road, be aware of cars tailgating you, as you try to read the directions on your phone before the screen goes black.  And then when you get a chance to sneak a look again, you find that you have just driven past the turn-off.  Someone told me that Pretoria is the best city in South Africa as the way the roads are set up and designed you can never get lost.  However, you can ride in circles a lot of the time, seeing the place where you want to be but the one way road you are on does not take you there.  I hate orderly one way roads.  Give me a mish-mash of chaotic roads any day.  At least they take you where you want to go.  And of course all the streets that have changed names don't help either.  Google maps hasn't caught up with all the name changes.  Some parts of the street still have its old name and yet other sections of the same street have been renamed.  And then some streets haven't got any name while they make up their minds what to call it.  Pretoria has to be my least favourite place.
It is a very pretty city I am sure when the trees are in full bloom.  Unfortunately this time of year you only drive down avenues of brown trees, no pretty purples and mauves to brighten your day.
And my day needs brightening.
I have been struggling to get my Ukraine visa.  The problem is that I was married and now I'm not.  My teaching degree is in my married name and after my divorce I reverted back to my maiden name.  This has never proved to be a problem in the past.  Now it is a nightmare, and shifty agents who I had to employ to get documents for me when I was still in Tanzania have not helped.  They take your money and do not deliver what you paid for.  I should have know when they arranged to meet me at a Macdonald's car park to give me the documents that they were not to be trusted, but when you are desperate you do not always act rationally.
Long story short, I went to the High Court in Cape Town myself, and in 20 minutes I had my divorce papers, officially stamped and with an apostille, all for free.  No charge.  The agents charged thousands.  Bastards.
So why I am in Pretoria, you might ask?  I had to get an official document from the Ukraine government inviting me to come for a business visit.  This was sent to me urgent priority mail through UPS.  It arrived 1.30pm in Cape Town.  They only processed it at 4.30pm and decided it was too close to the close of business to deliver, even though it said extremely urgent.  I find it strange that an international courier agency closes for the weekend, but UPS does no deliveries over the weekend, no matter how urgent they are.  I booked my flight to Johannesburg for Monday night and booked a hire car, praying hard that I'll get these documents from the Ukraine before I left.  Thank goodness I set my alarm so I could phone UPS Monday morning at 8am the moment they manned their phone lines.  My documents were already with a driver and would only be delivered late afternoon.  Not good enough.  That was when I had to be at the airport.  I persuaded them to remove the documents from the driver's car and hold onto them for me to collect myself.  A huge relief when I had those documents in my hand.  Stage one done.
I arrived in Johannesburg at 9pm and collected my hire car.  Very impressive, brand new car with only 3km on the clock.  Of course I hadn't booked a hotel.  I thought I was driving in the direction of the one we always stay in when we have to transit in Johannesburg, but as I can never know where west and east is and north and south (I failed that badge in Girl Guides), I found myself on the road to Pretoria.  As I had to be there to hand in my visa application the next morning, that was probably not a bad thing.  However, my knowledge of Pretoria and where to stay is negligible.
I had thought Pretoria was 30km from Johannesburg.  I was wrong.  It's 60km.
So I headed into the night not too sure where I would be laying my weary head.  I decided to take the second turn into Pretoria and soon spotted a Stayeasy Hotel.  Great choice, breakfast included, it's like a Novotel and at a good price as well.
The next morning I was up bright and early to head to the Ukraine Embassy.  I was pleased to discover it wasn't too far away from where I was staying.  Thing were looking up, right?  Not.
When getting my paperwork together I noticed the photos I had taken the day before were missing.  A mad dash into town, driving in circles to find a photo place.  Then I realised I didn't have a pen.  I tried to buy a used one from the cashier at the photo shop but she said they only sell photos not pens.  Seriously, she had three, she could have parted with one.
I studied the GPS and memorised the road names and made my way to the Ukraine Embassy only to discover the consulate section was closed and was only open between 3 and 4 on a Tuesday, closed all day Wednesday, open 3-4 on a Thursday.
Back to the hotel, read some, and at 2 headed back to the Embassy and waited outside for it to open.  There were a group of us waiting and they only let people in one at a time through the gate.  I hate waiting.
They took my papers, gave more than half of them back saying they didn't need it even though their website had said they did, and told me to come back Thursday between 3 and 4.
And here I sit.  Typing this blog, trying to keep my mind off the visa.  Will I get it at 3?  My nerves are shot, the tension is causing pains in my back.  My flight to the Ukraine is tomorrow night.  Please God let me be on it.

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