Getting Started and YIKES!
23 May 2017
|So, they tell me not to worry. "We're going to send someone to Interpol to work out whatever the problem is and get your passport." Hm. OK.
I walk into class the first day. Everyone stands up and claps for me. Ha! They must have mistaken me for Chris Hemsworth. I always thought we had a similar look. But, seriously, how can I get the Gateway students to do that. OK, guys, I learned this in Africa. Every time I walk into class, you stop whatever you are doing, stand and applaud. I think they would go for it.
I liked the class. I often wish I was smarter, or at least a better teacher, but at least I had fun with the class. I spent more time talking than I usually do in my classes, but everything has to be said twice: once in English, once in French. I usually just say the English part.
We have a nice break after lunch. I decided to take a nap. I mean, I did just travel from California to Africa. Not by horse and wagon, but it still made me tired. My nap was interrupted by one of the pastors. He told me we were starting at 2:00 instead of 3:00. I didn't understand why, but I got up, composed myself, and got to class. It was actually more like a 2:30 start than a 2:00 start, and I kept asking why the time changed. No one seemed to know.
After class, they told me. Interpol wasn't having me sending a proxy to their office. They wanted to see my face. (I was hoping that wasn't code for, they wanted to throw my butt in jail.) I had an appointment at 10 a.m. the next morning. So, I would miss at least part of the morning class.
I was pretty tired and went to bed soon after dinner.
This morning, I got up for breakfast. I went to class long enough to give the students the daily quiz. Then, I apologized and left for Interpol with one of the pastors and a driver. Driving here is a sport all its own. I think the object is to get as close to other drivers, buildings, pedestrians as you can without actually hitting them. We were winning.
We went into the Interpol office. Now, if you are thinking of something like the Counter Terrorism Offices of Jack Bower, think more like those offices after they blew up in season 2. Ok, actually more like Barnaby Jones...only smaller. Oh, sorry, you weren't born yet.
The agent I needed to see wasn't there when we arrived, so they sent us over to this little cafe to wait for her. We waited. After a little bit, the pastor's phone rang and we walked back over to meet her. I was a bit confused and wasn't exactly sure what she was doing when she stuck out her hand. She looked at me with a mild rebuke: "You're not going to shake my hand." This is not going well. Of course, I want to shake your hand. She asked a few questions, mostly about who my parents are. I guess she thought if I was a terrorist, she could call my Mommy on me. Hm. Probably would work. She typed in the information, printed a form, and told me, "I need to go talk to my boss." And we waited.
When she came back she showed me this email from Interpol in Washington saying that my passport was reported lost or stolen and anyone using the passport should be turned over to the American consulate at once. "Are you willing to go to the consulate she asked?" Um, do I really have a choice? Sure, I'll go to the consulate. "I'll call them and see if we can go over there." A brief conversation in French and she said, "They will call me back." I was loving that she could speak English; not thinking she was speaking enough English. What?!? So, we waited.
I was really impressed with the Interpol lady. She seemed to genuinely like me and was sympathetic about the situation. I did wonder if that was an African good cop/bad cop routine. When she left to go see her boss a second time, I started wondering if he was the bad cop about to come into the room and interrogate me like Inspector Clouseau. Peter Sellers? The Pink Panther? Nothing? Seriously, how old are you?
In any case, when she came back into the room she announced we were all going to the American Consulate. I was gratified that "all of us" did not include her bad-cop boss. The drive was another adventure. Our driver was done with lanes and took up driving right up the middle of the street. Head on traffic ever so slightly to the left. Slower traffic going our way ever so slightly to the right. You think I'm kidding, but...not so much.
Ok, you are doing to think I'm crazy, but as soon as we made it into the Embassy, it was like I was the expert on everything. Bizarre. The Interpol agent told me she only knew how to open the doors because she watched me do it. We told a guy at the counter...well, a counter made of solid steel with bullet proof glass...who we were and why we were there. He told us to sit and wait. I'm getting good at waiting.
Eventually, the...well, I don't really know who he was. The consulate. The ambassador. The Ambassador's aid. Some guy in a suit. He told us to meet him in the little conference room. I'm thinking we are going to be sitting around a table. No, we are now in a little room staring at him behind a steel counter with bullet-proof glass. It was really funny. He knew exactly what had happened and explained it to me. Some lady was in Peru. He didn't tell me her name, but he said, "We know who she is." She lost her passport...or had it stolen. She went to the consulate there to report it. He typed in her name and passport number as stolen. Only, he made one teeny, tiny error. He typed an 8 instead of a 6, which made it MY PASSPORT number and NOT hers. The government looked up the number, canceled my passport, and sent a message to Interpol and God only knows who else to detain anyone trying to use that passport.
"There is nothing wrong with your passport, sir," he explained, "except that you cannot travel with it."
I see. Um...what else do you use a passport for?
"We're going to get this cleared up. When are you traveling again?" He seemed relieved that I am here until next week.
So, here's the plan. I go back to the Embassy on Friday morning to collect my passport and find out if they have cleared the whole thing up, because it would be ever so helpful if I am not detained in Senegal when I leave here. He said in passing, "If we can't get it cleared up, we will have to look at some other options." I didn't even ask.
As we were leaving, the Interpol agent asked, "I guess you're just wondering, why did this happen to me?" Funny, that wasn't what I was thinking at all. I was thinking, Yikes, anyone else I know would have been freaking out. Why am I not freaking out? Hm. Maybe that's why God let this happen to me instead of...well, anyone else. I think there may be something wrong with me, that I find sort of a perverse pleasure in getting drug to the Interpol office in Africa and then to the American consulate to find out my passport is fine, except not for traveling.
My African students laughed pretty hard when I started telling them the story.