Labor Day in America was on Monday (Yes, I still had to work. But I do get local Botswana holidays like “Ascension Day” so I shouldn’t complain.) This means midterm election season in the United States has officially kicked into high gear. Barely anyone votes in American presidential elections, let alone midterm ones (relatively speaking) so I don’t imagine this fact will affect too many people. But it will at least result in a slew of cheesy ads and a little mud slinging in tight races. Botswana’s own elections are coming up on October 24, but it’s the big one: the presidential race that only occurs every five years. You know it’s campaign time in Botswana because every ten yards or so on the streets, colorful placards with candidates’ faces on them are stuck on telephone poles. You also know it is election season due to the highly suspicious lack of power cuts the last few months—the government’s way of convincing the people what a good job they are doing providing electricity. I expect the country to be plunged into utter darkness soon after the polls close to make up for it. While waiting at a red light on the way to work this morning, I was able to take a good look at the most popular campaign poster plastered around town.
In order to work in a foreign country, you generally need the permission of their government. This makes perfect sense but is one of those things you don’t think about until you find yourself in this particular situation. Botswana is a sparsely populated country (at barely over 2 million people), and it is fiercely protective of its own citizens, which translates into being a bit stingy when it comes to handing out work permits for expats. You have to demonstrate clearly that you possess a “special, valuable skill” that is not already readily available in the country, and that your job has already been advertised widely to give citizens a chance to nab it first. No work permit = no job, so the stakes are high, especially when you’ve already moved your whole family to Botswana at great personal expense and exhaustion of energy and you literally have no home to go to if they kick you out.
Today I am enjoying the feeling of being a law-abiding citizen. It may be the last day of that for awhile. I entered Pakistan on a three-month business visa that expires tomorrow, at which point I have no official documentation to demonstrate my authority to remain in the country. Good times! It’s not like I didn’t do everything I could to follow the rules. I turned in the proper forms, signed the proper stuff, and endured an awkward visit from an agent of the Pakistan government’s Minister of the Interior (MOI). He stopped by our offices a month ago to check me out, presumably to verify that I was, in fact, a development professional and not a high-class Russian hooker. (After the Avari, I feel anything’s possible.) He was then supposed to forward my application to the proper authorities so they could issue me a nice, shining new two-year multiple entry visa. Our office has worked to renew my visa through all the proper channels. So far, they have not been successful. As I contemplate the kind of living quarters one would be assigned should one find oneself on the Pakistani government’s bad side, let’s do a quick scan of my office’s efforts to keep me legal:
Update: I am no longer a woman without a country–my passport’s back. AND all my stuff arrived. AND all my Trader Joe’s stash made it through customs. Things are good. […] Read More