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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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September 24 - 26. KAMPALA Passing through Kampala this time was purely to take care of logistics. We only had seven days and hoped that the flights to Addis Ababa weren't totally full.  If we couldn't get a flight out within seven days then we had to go back to Kenya and try from there.  Ethiopia's Meskel festival was on the 27th and we hoped to make it in time for that.  We also had to check on the Indian visa and see if we couldn't get that sorted out.  If we couldn't get it from the embassy in Kampala then we'd have to try Dubai or maybe Sri Lanka. 

When we checked with the guy at the Indian consulate there hadn't been any change in our visa status.  He still hadn't heard from San Francisco but reiterated that we could get a single entry visa.  By now it had been well over two weeks so we figured that approval would not be forthcoming at all but we didn't want to accept just a single entry visa.  We were considering visits to Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives via India and just a single entry visa would make that impossible or at least very difficult. It meant we would have to fly around India to reach those places, an expensive option, or pay for two visas, also not a cheap.  Before we acquiesced to the single-entry visa we decided it was worth visiting our own embassy to see what the problem was with our visa approvals.  That turned out to be a misunderstanding on our part and we paid a price for it.  The guy at the Indian embassy had mentioned that because our passports were issued in San Francisco that he needed approval from San Francisco.  From that we understood that he needed some kind of approval from our passport agency in San Francisco, which didn't seem to make sense, but what he meant was that he needed approval from the Indian embassy in San Francisco, which really didn't make any more sense.  Clearly the Indian embassy in San Francisco was just too busy to reply.  In that case, after three days, the local embassy official in Uganda was at liberty to approval our visa based on the information they had available.  The Indian embassy official in Uganda, the boss of the guy we had been dealing with, just didn't want to take responsibility for giving us multi-entry visas.  There was no reason for it other than he didn't want to. 

But, before this was all cleared up we did make a visit to our heavily fortified American embassy in Kampala and talked to a surprisingly helpful man, with an unexpected British accent.  The woman we initially talked to about our problem looked confused and disappeared for a while.  After a few minutes the British sounding fellow came to the window. We explained the problem again and he looked exasperated.  There was no reason that he could think of that we should be denied our dual-entry Indian visa.  The reciprocal agreement between India and the US indicated that anyone who qualified for the visa should be allowed a ten year dual-entry visa for a $100 fee, on either side.  He offered to call the Indian embassy for us so we took him up on it.  It was more support than we had expected.  We could faintly hear him talking on the phone in the back room, polite and diplomatic but also firm in his tone.  He returned shaking his head.  It was no use.  We could get our single entry visa and that was it.  We thanked him for his extra effort and left with a deflated feeling.  All along we had been wondering if our living overseas for several years and the US increase in homeland security might have somehow put us on some sort of questionable list. It sounded farfetched but we could figure out why our visa was being denied.  In the end we decided to just take the single-entry visa so we had the taxi take us back across town to the Indian embassy again. 

When we arrived at the embassy it wasn't very busy but we immediately detected a change in tone from the man at the window.  We didn't know what kind of impact a call from the US embassy would have so we opened the conversation by apologizing for the confusion.  We tried to explain that we thought the approval he was waiting on was from the US authorities and we had become worried about our status.  That didn't seem to help.  The man was visibly tense.  We handed over our passports and indicated that we would just take the single-entry visa.  Then Rob handed over $140 in Ugandan shillings for the fee. The guy counted the money and said we needed the equivalent of $60 more for the visa processing.  That was a deliberate change.  We had already confirmed the fee with him when we were in Kampala before.  Apparently the part about the reciprocal fee between the US and India being $100 hadn't been passed over in his conversation with the US embassy.  He wasn't going to give us the dual-entry visa but he was going to increase the visa fee on us, in blatant contradiction to their posted fees.  When we complained he said it was posted somewhere else. That was really it.  We had just had it with all of inane BS. We were both visibly pissed off and Rob went off on the guy.  We demanded our passports and money back.  When he looked at us and said that we hadn't given him any money I almost jumped through the six inch window to grab him by the throat.  My chin dropped and my eyes popped in total amazement.  Was he really going to steal our money just because his pathetic puny ego had been bruised?  The looks on our faces must have been severe because he paused for a minute and asked us to wait while he went through his list of receipts for the day and added up everything on a calculator.  Finally he apologized and handed over our money.  Perhaps he really did forget that he'd taken our money but part of me will always wonder whether he was trying to cheat us and decided better of it when he realized that we would raise hell for him.  As we left the window a Arab-looking man standing to our right started to laugh deliriously, almost of hideously, at our predicament.  He didn't even know us but for some reason thought it was extremely funny that two Americans were having problems.  His eyes followed us right out the door, laughing the whole time but we were fuming at the Indian embassy too much to care.  The whole experience was dampening our enthusiasm for even visiting India.  From that point on we were prepared to pass over it entirely if we couldn't get a proper visa from another embassy, maybe in Dubai.  

With the visa issue behind us for the time being we began focusing on getting out of Uganda.  We visited the Ethiopian Air office and were lucky to get a helpful person to wait on us.  They had been rather nasty when we visited the office before leaving for Rwanda.  It took some patience to get through some of the same issues that we'd already dealt with before.  Since we were flying directly on to the UAE from Addis they wanted to see our UAE visa.  We didn't have one and were able to get it at the airport in Dubai but they had to do some checking before they were convinced.  We explained that we wanted the specially priced "historical route" tickets around Ethiopia's popular tourist destinations but it took some more checking to confirm that as well.  After working with this one woman we weren't going to let her get away and went ahead and made a reservation.  We wanted to fly out on Sunday morning, if possible but the flights were full.  There were a number of seats to be confirmed so she was sure we'd be able to get on the flight but couldn't issue the tickets until the seats were officially available.  Fortunately they became available by early on Saturday.

The only other thing that really consumed our last days in Kampala was mailing the stuff we'd bought in the DRC and Rwanda.  Again, finding boxes was always the big challenge.  We searched the grocery stories and found a couple of small boxes but it took going through some of the stores in the shopping area before we finally found a box big enough and sturdy enough to fit all of our statues and masks. The shopkeepers were very helpful.  Most of the boxes were too big but one guy let us have one of his best boxes and didn't want anything in return.  With our collection of boxes we returned to the hotel room and spent the afternoon carefully packaging everything.  We wrapped each item individually and then layered them in the large box.  Rob took the two larger boxes we'd collected and cut one to fit inside the other so the box was more sturdy.  We packed the more delicate baskets in a smaller box so they wouldn't get crushed by the statues.  It was hard to find packing materials as well, even used newspapers, so we ended up buying a ream of paper and scrunching the sheets around the inside of the boxes.  The boxes were much too big to carry so we used a cab to get to the post office. We'd spent some time looking into the best mailing options and decided to use EMS.  Nothing we bought was all that expensive but it was all that we bought and it would be unfortunate to get all of the way home and not have something to show for our effort.   DHL and FedEx were really expensive but EMS was a less pricey and still seemed reliable.  We were down to our last shillings so we checked the cost to ship the large box but were surprised when the small box came out to be so much.  The first couple of kilos were really costly.  We made a run to the Barclays Bank for more money but just barely had enough to pay for the postage, have dinner that night and pay for the cab to the airport the following morning.    

In just a matter of two days we had run across Kampala and back more times than we could count; to embassies, ticket offices, courier offices, in search of boxes and packing materials but we pulled it all off and were ready to leave for Addis Ababa on Sunday morning, free of all of our extra shopping bags. 

ZANZIBAR Stone Town July 11 July 12-14 Nungwi July 15-18 Stone Town I: July 19-23 II: July 19-23 Paje July 23-27 Stone Town July 27-Aug 1

TANZANIA Dar Es Salaam Aug 1-3 Moshi I: Aug 3-31 II: Aug 3-31 III: Aug 3-31 Safari Circuit Aug 17 Aug 18 Aug 19 Aug 20 Aug 21 Mt. Kilimanjaro Aug 23 Aug 24 Aug 25 Aug 26 Aug 27 Aug 28

KENYA Nairobi Sept 1 Sept 2 Sept 3 Sept 4-5

UGANDA Kampala Sept 6 Sept 7-16 Kampala Short Stories

RWANDA Kigali Sept 16 Sept 17 Ruhengeri Sept 18 Sept 19 Gisenyi Sept 20 Kigali Sept 21 Sept 22

UGANDA Kampala Sept 23 Sept 24-26