Here we are with the VISAs!
We got our Cameroonian Visas! That was easy. 🙂
There’s a fun story here…
So as we hopped on the 8:33 train for Bern, Mr. Tanner, a member of the church, boarded with us. He was commuting to work and knows Bern pretty well. When we got off the train, he took us up and pointed in the direction of Bus 19 before heading off to work. [Background info: Bern, the capital of Switzerland, is in the Swiss German-speaking area. ) As we stared at the bus ticket machine like monkeys doing a math problem, a young black man arrived and asked us if we spoke French. ‘Oui”, we said. He told us that he was trying to get to the Cameroonian Embassy…and that he had his car but he wasn’t able to find the embassy alone…and having given up, He was about to try the Bus 19 that someone had recommended, bet he didn’t know how it worked, either. It seems that in this city with two thirds of a million people..he’d found the only two people headed to the same building. I’d already printed the road directions and he offered to drive if we would navigate. He had volunteered the information that he was going to the embassy long before we spoke, so we figured it was a God thing and there was no way he’d heard us say anything. So we walked to his car and rode off across Bern. I had some trouble getting oriented at first…but soon we were heading in the right direction. We found the right bridge out of the old city.. [More background info: This was about a 4-mile trip…and expecting to do this trip on bus, I’d printed it zoomed in so I could read the street names..clipping off one of the turns. Also, street names in Switzerland are plastered on the sides of buildings…and you can’t always see them till you’ve passed them.] We turned down towards Elfenweg for a moment…turned around and went further, but Elfenweg later turned out to be the right street…
When we got to the Cameroonian embassy, in between the German and Senegalese embassy, of course there was no parking. He eventually decided to chance parking in a spot that was perfectly safe (by any normal standards)..just not in a blue zone. We entered, and while being stared at by a large photo of President Paul Biya, we passed in our papers to the representative. A few minutes later, she came back and said that everything was fine, except that she only had the choice of a 3 or 6 month visa. Having already asked for the 3…that seemed odd. Turns out the date range we’d written was off by a month. it seems that 1 mistake per Visa application is my average, but this time we were there to correct it instantly.
[Background info #3: Inside an Embassy, you live by the rules of that country. There is a Muslim population in Cameroon, and in such a culture, it’s offensive to show the bottom of your feet.] We needed to re-copy the form with the correct date. Having a bit of a “Men in Black” moment (the scene starts around the 2:00 mark), I was trying to find a flat place to write. I knelt down next to the table to fill out the form, and the representative was a little flustered when she came back, asking me not to do that. Go me being culturally insensitive…but at least I figured out what I did wrong. We turned in all our paperwork, and paid our money..and she told us we could come back at 2:00.
Our driver friend, Ahmed was not finished…but he said we could wait outside…and he’d take us back downtown. It was a beautiful day…so we wandered a bit and looked at the other embassies on the street. The police came by and noticed the mis-parked car. Rachel ran inside to get Ahmed, and I told the policemen that we were waiting for him and he’d be right there. He arrived, spoke to the police, and they let him off as long as he’d move it right then. He still didn’t find a place, but he parked it in an empty private driveway. A second car pulled up soon after and took the “forbidden” space. An old man pulled off and left a legit space, but they decided against moving it. Bad choice. The police made another round 10 minutes later…and their unattended car got ticketed (about $110). Ahmed came out behind the frantic lady who got ticketed, fearing that his car was in danger again. He told us it’d be a while longer, and we decided to take the bus back to town in the meantime. (He gave me his card…and I recommended he take the open spot before the other lady was done with the police.) We never did figure out exactly what his business was at the embassy, they used some words we didn’t know, but I think he was trying to get a friend or brother to come Switzerland, and his papers kept getting denied.
We shopped for a bit..ate at Burger King and headed back for 2pm. We spent some more time playing flag bingo…trying to name each country by the flags. Turns out I know more African flags than obscure European flags. Can you name the country with the flag to the right? My first guess was Target. 🙂 Put your mouse over it to view the answer. Ahmed was gone when we arrived…but after 10 minutes or so the representative came down the stairs with our papers. We double-checked the information, got our change and our passports back, signed the guestbook, and we were legit.
So Ahmed saved us time, we worked together to find the embassy, we saved him from a 120 franc ticket. And we made a new Cameroonian friend. All in all, a very cool day. We’ll see where this leads..
On the way back to town…we stopped at the Einstein Museum (Einstein lived in Switzerland for while.) it was quite amazing and interesting, and now I have a little souvenir pin that says bErn=MC^2. 🙂
Tonight was my last night at the house-group Bible study. They have all been very encouraging during my French study, and were especially so tonight. Praise God. Chapter of the Day; Matthew 13. Weeds and Wheat.