I think I may have mentioned that I have begun visa paperwork. (I think I may have mentioned it several times - I'm excited, and I also can't be bothered to check...) This is bringing back memories of renewing my visa last May/June, and my friend's saying that went something like, "In South Africa, you kill one bird with three stones..."
USA: I call ahead and find out what time I need to go down to get my fingerprints taken. I promptly show up late (I've forgotten the proper times.) Too bad. Gotta come next week.
RSA: We go to the police station. Oops. It's a holiday. But the police officer hints (for a price) that he can take my fingerprints. No bribes for us though...
USA: I walk into the jail. I go up to the lady at the desk. She doesn't go out of her way to greet me, but she sends me in the right direction. I explain what I need. The lady is slightly confused for a few seconds (she thinks I wanted them done electronically, I think) but soon sends me to fill out a form.
RSA: I walk into the police station. The sign on the wall (SAPS - stands for South African Police...Service??) always makes me giggle a little...
The police officer asks (jokingly) for me to take him home to America. Although he's less interested when he finds out Alyssa is from LA. (Los Angeles, New York, Disney World, and cheese make up America for many non-Americans - kind of like lions, giraffes, and elephants make up Africa - which is one country, right? - for many Americans. Admittedly, our assumptions are cheesier. Although theirs include more cheese. Which they are right about, by the way. Love that cheese!)
I go to two or three different offices and explain what I need. The police officer, with a completely straight face, tries to send me through the doggie door - or whatever that random half door under the counter was supposed to be.
USA: I fill out a form.
RSA: I fill out a form. Everyone is rather confused because they think I dated it for December, which hasn't happened yet. I then must explain that Americans (unlike the majority of the world) write their dates differently - month/day/year instead of day/month/year. (I'm with them on this. It totally makes sense to put the smallest block of time first - the day.)
USA: I get my fingerprints taken, twice (for two cards). Pleasant surprise: I don't have to pay like I thought I did.
RSA: I explain what I need. I get my fingerprints taken approximately six times. Fingerprinting standards are rather different. The SAPS are very kind and accommodating, but they really have no idea how to get what I want. (I finally end up going back later that afternoon.) The manager comes out and I finally get what I need. With a smile, they strongly hint that they don't want to see me again anytime soon.
USA: The lady hands me a special wipe and a paper towel from the neatly folded stack at the fingerprint station.
RSA: Ink is everywhere - the tables, me, outside of its proper bounds on the fingerprint cards. I'm led to the bathroom, where there is a large jug of soap and the policeman fetches me a big wad of paper towels.
USA: I go to the post office. I drop it my fingerprints and the form in the mail. It gets there promptly. I never before found it amusing how seriously we take our mail service here in America...until I experienced mail in a different country. We have a SLOGAN, people!! "Rain, snow, sleet, hail..." There is also a sign at the local post office that proclaims that they are "Serving YOU with POSTAL PRIDE and PLEASURE!" (Weird capitalization: theirs.)
RSA: I dare not drop anything in the mail (is the post office on strike? Right in time for that new postman animated movie to be advertised on signs around town!) So I send it home with friends who are, fortunately for me, traveling back home.
USA: I execute all this while using my own awesome parallel parking skills - no waving car guard in site.
RSA: The car guard keeps me from absentmindedly parking in the reserved judge's space, right where the policeman on lunch can see me.
(No, thankfully I did not get a ticket!)