The trip to South East Europe that didn’t quite go as planned.
Earlier this year, my partner and I were scheduled to vacation in a tiny resort town on South East Europe’s Adriatic coast, so with just 14 days to my intended departure date, I gathered my duly filled visa application, supporting documents and frequent traveller bravado and went to the supporting embassy for submission.
The office, a lean operation that felt more like visiting a family friend than an outpost for a foreign power was warm and welcoming. While there, I was lucky to meet the highest-ranking officials of the mission whose affability put me immediately at ease. After some light banter, rubber-stamping and promises of “there shouldn’t be a problem” my file was accepted. That evening, I went straight home and confirmed with full payment, all the provisional bookings I had made. These included return tickets and my contribution for the accommodation costs. Such sweet folk these South East Europeans, they’d even agreed to retain a scan of my passport rather than the physical document itself as I was due for work travel that same week. There shouldn’t be a problem they said.
With anticipation for my trip building up, I started to make frequent calls to the Embassy to track my application and when the responses from the lovely phone operator didn’t suffice, I used the personal numbers of my senior official friends which I had been able to source through my very reliable networks. Introducing myself to them, all protocols observed and whatnot, it became clear that what I always thought was a memorable presence I possessed wasn’t quite so as neither of them could remember me from our encounter less than two weeks before. There’s no telling you what a thing like that does to a man’s ego. Confident trooper that I am, I replayed conversations we had had in verbatim which jolted their memories in the same exact moment they remembered pressing matters that they had to attend to. In an almost rehearsed fashion, I was very diplomatically told to wait until they got back to me, goodbye. And so I waited. It went on like this for a few days until finally on my day of travel my anxiousness grew into desperation. When after my umpteenth attempt, one of my rafikis from the embassy answered the phone; it was to tell me that I must never call her again. Period. End of story.
There’s a common phrase in the English language that’s used to denote that moment when it becomes clear that the universe is playing a sick joke on you, something about dawns and realisation. Well I can tell you that it is nonsense because the realisation that there would be exactly zero visas for me that day pounded rather than dawned on me. After a small breathing exercise to regain control of my bearings, I swung into disaster management mode. My options were few and extreme but my enduring and noticeably irritated lover got on the phone with me from the U.A.E for a process of elimination. It was agreed that to cancel the holiday with no knowledge of when next my leave from work would be approved and with air tickets already paid for would be foolhardy which left me with only one course of action. We had to find a new destination for our holiday in a matter of hours.
Naturally, we had booked accommodation on a cheaper, non-refundable policy so we didn’t get a single dime back for the cancellation. Then came the impossible task of finding a spot on the globe where the carrier servicing the second sector of my trip flew to that was visa exempt for me or could issue a visa on arrival. Because my partner is an employee of the airline, we could secure generous discounts, saving us from impending financial ruin ergo other airlines were out of the question. When we finally decided on Nepal and tickets were booked, I tore out of the office like a mad man, went home to finish packing and was on my way to JKIA. Still, I went on to have a most romantic emergency holiday and at the end of the day, it was I that had the last laugh.