Border Patrol and Me!
Updated: Jun 14
It was crazy to think my time here had really come to an end.
Of course, it had come to an end a few times before… but I always managed to find my way back. This time was permanent… for this portion of my journey, anyway.
I was set to take the 8am shuttle bus into Nairobi again. Of course, I had done this treacherous trip once before, so it was second nature by now. Everyone kept asking me why I went to Nairobi so much, but honestly, it was only for transportational purposes. I can't really ever say I got to know the city at all.
I was fully prepared for my departure from Sawa Sawa. I woke up quite early, collected all my belongings that I’d diligently packed up the night prior… and off I went, down the dusty dirt road for my last time. My intention was to catch a tuk tuk or a taxi into town and be on my way. A few of the girls got up to say goodbye, which was a lovely send off.
I’d managed to spend almost all of my Tanzanian shilling, leaving me with a mere 50,500 in my pocket. Definitely not enough to get me far, but just enough to get me to the bus station. It took a bit of negotiation, but that’s all I had on me and all I was capable of giving… and no room for barter. The buses were all there when I arrived and I was one of the first passengers to board, so I had my pick of seats. It’s always a crap shoot trying to prepare yourself for a somewhat pleasant journey on these shuttles. So many variables come into play as you bound along.
Stinky people. Broken windows. Piles of luggage blocking the aisle. Crying children. The list goes on and on...
Leg room, personal space and comfortability can be compromised at any moment.
I was forced to let go of my baggage, something I’m not necessarily ever ok with. The man refused to let me board the bus with it, which was slightly bothersome, but understandable, considering the size and weight of it. I had purchased it with the full intention of it being ‘carry on,’ for every mode of transport, but since then, it had grown to gigantic proportions and was now heavy enough to be categorized as a burden.
On the final volunteer’s social night, Hope had gone around the room, asking everyone what their greatest fear was. It was a group ice-breaker, meant to allow us all to get to know each other a bit more.
I said sharks, which was the first thing to come to my mind. I've always had a fear of sharks.
Now, thinking more about it, I think my greatest fear is losing my luggage. It is.
I hate it.
I had set out on this trip with the intention of never losing sight of it.
No transport transfers, no disappearing down the convey0r belt into the airport abyss… and definitely no being hitched to the top of a dirty bus as it headed across Eastern Africa.
So… I let it go.
I had to.
They pretty much ripped it from my Kung Fu grip and threw it up on top of the shuttle with all the other luggage and boxes and bags… and strapped it down for safety.
Due to the copious amounts of wine from the social night mixed with bumpy roads and cramped conditions, I wasn’t at my very best on the shuttle. For the majority of the trip, I felt appallingly ill and there was more than one occasion, the panic of having to make a blind run off the bus was all I could concentrate on. I slept a lot, but it was always intermittent. There were many disturbances along the road to Kenya...
About one kilometre before the border, I was jerked awake as the shuttle approached a mandatory check stop. As per the norm, a Tanzanian immigration officer boarded the shuttle, requesting to see everyone’s passport.
I opened my purse, pulled out my passport and handed it to him.
Nothing was wrong.
Today was my final day permitted in Tanzania.
I messed up.
I mess up BIG.
Today wasn’t my final day permitted in Tanzania.
I have absolutely NO idea how I messed that up.
NO. NO. NO. IDEA.
And believe me... I looked at it on more than one occasion.
The only thing I can really pinpoint... and ultimately determine for the cause of my folly was... instead of looking at 02/03/2023 and intelligently thinking "March 2nd, 2023"… I only managed to concentrate on the 03.. ignoring the initial 02.
My mind was focused on Month / Date / Year… instead of Date / Month / Year.
I blame the copious amounts of 2’s and 3’s…
There were just way too many to have organized themselves properly in my head.
Well… my game of scamming days in East African countries was up. I had finally been caught.
The immigration officer immediately confiscated my passport and disappeared off the bus, returning soon afterwards to take me with him. Together, we disembarked to face the problematic dilemma together.
I was horrified at my irresponsibility.
Horrified at my stupid, stupid mistake. Ludicrous.
Actually… is horrified the right word?
What an idiot... WHO does this?
Thinking about it… it’s a simple, senseless mistake to make, but gargantuan as I'm attempting to exit East Africa on my way to catch a flight.
Will I ever learn?
Well, I got lucky.
This officer was top notch. He was kind. He was understanding.
I could not have asked for better.
Of course, kind and understanding wasn’t going to be enough to get me off the hook… I still had a mammoth issue to figure out. We had to retrieve my pack from the top of the bus... and then I was escorted to the border and directly into the office of the main head honcho immigration officer.
I was on my way to have my hand slapped… or something. I had no idea what I was going to be up against. Imprisonment? Deportation? Fines... ? Everything crossed my mind.
Fines, yes. I knew I would be facing fines.
After all my time here, that was evident.
I will admit, I was scared.
I had no idea what I was going to do or what was going to happen to me.
Well… I sat on the couch outside the office, while they all gathered to speak about me and my blunder. While I waited, I scoured through my phone and tore my luggage apart, trying to retrieve each and every single email and hard copy document I could, including my original Tanzanian Visa and my letter 0f acceptance from IVHQ.
I tried to find the original of when Tanzania reissued my A6 VIsa, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find it anywhere. THAT would have saved me. I figured I’d thrown it out, figuring I wouldn't need it anymore.
Between all of the in's and out's of the office, I pleaded my case and I worked the room to the best of my ability. I enthusiastically mentioned all the volunteer work I’d done in Arusha. I showed them all photos and videos of the mamas I’d worked with. I explained the charitable work of Perfect Vision. I pulled up my website and all the articles I’d written. I even handed him my business card AND told them about how a wild gorilla had grabbed me.
During the entire process, I never took the gracious smile off my face as I praised their kindness and berated my ignorance.
I pulled all the punches.
Finally, I was pulled back into the office for the final time...
It was lecture time.
I was warned about the hazards of overstaying my allowance.
I was scolded for my mistake and my inattention to detail.
This part, I found very rich, considering the amount of times the Tanzanian government officials had screwed up on my visas... though I did NOT mention this at all.
I apologized profusely.
They threatened me with a $600US fine… but dropped it, considering all the good work I had done in Tanzania. Thank God. $600 would have certainly put me right over the edge after all the other fines I'd been forced to pay.
Once I agreed to continue to write good things about Tanzania, they allowed me to leave.
They had to call ahead and let everyone know I was coming.
The Tanzanian border patrol.
The Kenyan border patrol.
Shit... the bus!!!
I was escorted straight through and to the front of the line, so that my shuttle wouldn’t leave without me. They had all waited for me, terribly concerned...
Once back on the shuttle, I was depleted... elated beyond measure, but depleted...
Everyone was interested to know what had happened to me, as all they’d seen was me escorted off the shuttle and driven away.
What a day.
At least my hangover was gone.
Jolted out of me.
I was dropped off at the Nairobi airport and there, I sat for almost 13 hours, awaiting my Cairo flight. I found a little cafe with WIFI and just wrote and wrote and wrote. Good catch up time!
After 2 meals, 1 milkshake, 1 wine and 4 waters… I was exhausted and ready to go.
But I have officially left East Africa... and I’m on my way to Cairo.
Oh- and I found my Tanzanian Visa extension form.
Valid January 6th-April 6th.
All this was for NOTHING.
I was actually good until April 6th.
I’m a moron.