Under desperate pressure with an already boarding plane waiting we made the decision that my two daughters and I will go and Irene and our son will stay behind.
In infinite wisdom the South African Home Affairs decided to mark my son’s passport as lost or stolen. This fact we got to know from the immigration officer after booking in our luggage and passing through security. Good-bye we said and hugged, swallowed away the tears and off we went.
I prayed and had no more airtime, but some data and SMS’s so I whatsapped my brother who called my other brother who called me back and promised to look after them. (Which he and his family did with great kindness. Thank you…) I prayed and SMS’d my father in law and spoke to the airline people about the luggage which they had to leave behind for them, which accomplished nothing but to delay one bag to four days after we arrived in Chandigarh. I prayed and had to switch off my phone since we were about to take off.
Irene posted this to our church whatsapp page:
Me: You are definitely not on the right side.
She: Yes, I am on the left side.
Left as in left behind, left alone, left…
And what is indeed the right side of the ocean to be? There could be only one answer to that: The SAME side.
To compound the problem our visa’s in India are about to expire and the guys at the Foreigner Registration office said NO PROBLEM you can extend your visa’s after you are back in India so we did not worry then. But if they cannot come back before the visa actually expires they would have to get new visa’s which would take 2 weeks and which would be based on my visa which would first have to be extended which could take two to three weeks minimum. A month at least… so we had a week to get them in India.
But the Home affairs could not make the passport unstolen again. I wished I could just get my hand on that database and “Update Passport set status = active where id = xxx” and hack the whole thing back to what it should be. They also acknowledged they had done nothing with the new passport application that we put in yet. So it will take a month, but we do not have a month and got them to make it urgent and so we followed the trail through all the stages of passport-making until we understood the whole business better than they themselves and know all their help-desk people on first-name basis.
Meanwhile I had to go back to work and alternated executive meetings and client calls with help-desk calls, airline queries about refunds and new tickets and fervently typed whatsapp and skype messages while my poor daughters did all the cooking and washing at home. Finally after the passport was printed and sent to dispatch and verified they found an error and sent it back to printing and our status became SOS = “stressed out severely” and Irene started camping out in their head office.
That day, yesterday 23 January, was the longest day of our lives. Our son devoured before lunch every scrap of snacks that Irene took with her to the office and I must have had 6 cups of coffee by the same time. With every peep from my phone (and it has an impressive array of sounds for different notifications) I grabbed it with such enthusiasm that my cracked ribs complained. Irene had to stand in line outside the building for most of the morning. When she finally got in and reached the counter, they had no news and the supervisor who earlier called the dispatch center avoided her. The folks at Chandigarh Bible Fellowship were alerted to pray as closing time came nearer. One hour left, 30 minutes left. Finally 5 minutes before closing time Irene’s name was called. We got it!
As I am writing this the two of them are somewhere over the Indian Ocean busy getting to the other side, this side. Thank you God.
Approximate statistics of the battle:
Total number of frantic calls made: 127
Trips to Home Affairs offices: 5
Camping out at the head office: twice
The stress isn’t over yet, as they still have to arrive here and we still have to get our visa’s extended. But I am again impressed with God’s kindness and also the kindness of everyone who helped and prayed and encouraged us in this “week from hell”.