Saturday, July 23, 2016

47 Simple Steps on How to Get a Visa for South Africa When You Are an Indian Citizen with an American Permanent Resident Card Living in Côte d'Ivoire

After Bobby’s adventure with the South African Embassy here in Côte d’Ivoire, we were inspired to write this attempt at a humorous recounting of his visa saga. Please know that we write this tongue-in-cheek, knowing that God had this under control the whole time! So here it is…

47 Simple Steps on How to Get a visa for South Africa When You Are an Indian Citizen with an American Permanent Resident Card Living in Cote d’Ivoire

1.     Like anyone would, google the embassy website and download the visa application.

2.     Become confused by the application’s directions on the embassy website and attempt to locate the embassy the next time you are in the big city (Abidjan).

[Next time you are in the big city where the embassy is reportedly located…]

3.     Before going out, look up the street address of the embassy listed on the website.

4.     Find that the street name on which the embassy is located (according to the website), does not actually exist on any city maps.

5.     Call your Congolese friend who is a pastor and lives in Abidjan to find out if he knows where the South African embassy is. When he refers you to your Nigerian pastor friend, call him next to see if he knows where it is.

6.     When your Nigerian pastor friend gives you directions that the embassy is near the Ivorian president’s residence, drive around the residence while trying to look out for the embassy, but trying not to look suspicious to onlookers.

7.     When you can’t find the embassy near the president’s residence, ask random people on the side of the road, using the street name which you found on the embassy website but which you cannot find on any maps.

8.     When no one in that area has heard of that street, drive to the U.S. Embassy because embassies are sometimes in the same area, right?

9.     Ask more random people on the side of the road while trying not to look suspicious in front of the U.S. Embassy.

10. When the random people from the side of the road give you directions to a completely different part of the city, decide to take a break and attempt to look the embassy phone number up on their website using your phone.

11. Call both numbers listed on the South African Embassy website.  Repeat. Wait patiently while no one answers.

12. Drive across town to do another errand while waiting for someone at the embassy to pick up the phone. (Wait some more while no one picks up.)

13. While your spouse is inside a place of business running the errand, use your phone to google the embassy website again. Use your sleuthing skills to realize that the street name on the embassy website is missing one letter and that is why you cannot find it on any maps and why none of the random people on the street had any idea what street you were asking for.

14. Laugh in a half-mentally-unstable-half-this-is-ridiculous manner in order to maintain the sanity you have remaining and to avoid yelling and being a bad example to your three-year-old kid in the back seat.

15. Take a brief moment to relish in the fact that it was because of the typo on the website, and not your poor French pronunciation, that caused people on the street to look at you as if you were a few crayons short of a full box.

16. When finishing the errand, realize that the consular’s office of the embassy where you can inquire and drop off applications will close in 15 minutes and even if you knew where it was located, you wouldn’t get there in time.

17. Try not to lose your religion.

18. Give up for the day and decide to do it the next time you are in the big city.

[A few days later…]

19. When your Nigerian pastor friend asks if you found the embassy, say no and have him realize that where you went was the president’s offices and not the president’s home residence.

20. Say “yes, please” when your Nigerian pastor friend offers to go with you to search for the embassy on your next trip to the big city.

[On next trip to big city…]

21. Make arrangements to meet your Nigerian pastor friend.

22. Get stuck in traffic and be 45 minutes late to pick up your Nigerian pastor friend.

23. Pick him up and get stuck in more traffic.

24. Arrive at the South African Embassy (YES…FOUND IT!) four minutes after the consular office closes and try to be patient while the front desk worker tells you the office closed four minutes ago while simultaneously chasing your 3-year-old who is running and screaming on the lawn of the embassy because he is so glad to be out of the car he just sat in for 3+ hours.

25. Ask the front office worker if you at least have the correct application.

26. Find out that the visa application you downloaded from the South African Embassy website is not the application the South African Embassy requests for visas.

27. Get the correct application from the front office worker.

28. Decide to complete the application on your next visit to the big city.

[On your next (now third) trip to the big city…]

29. Collect what you believe is all the paperwork you need according the list given to you by the front office worker at the embassy.

30. Arrive at the embassy and find out they will not accept your application because you have the wrong size of passport photos, your Ivorian residence card (which you have translated into English yourself even though everyone working at the South African Embassy speaks both French and English) has to be translated by a certified translator from the list provided by the embassy (although the embassy never provided said list prior to this visit and your card has approximately 3 words on it: Bobby, male, and Indian), you don’t have a letter from your employer saying you are allowed to leave the country (uh, why would you need this?) and you don’t have an invitation letter from a resident of South Africa inviting you to come visit.

31. Ask the woman at the embassy how you can get an invitation letter from a resident of South Africa when you do not actually know any South African residents.

32. Try to remain calm when the woman at the embassy tells you to get an invitation letter from the owner of the retreat center where you will be staying in South Africa although the owner does not know you from Adam.

33. Leave the embassy and track down a certified translator to translate your Ivorian residence card.

34. Find the translator and have her translate that “genre”=”gender” and “Indien”=”Idian” on your residence card.

35. Correct said translator by telling her she left the “n” out of “Indian” when she translated it.

36. Receive blank stare from translator because she writes in English but does not understand much spoken English.

37. Listen to sigh of relief from translator when you explain her misspelling in French because she finds you speak French. Continue the conversation in French at her request.

38. Pay 15.000 francs ($30 U.S.) for “certified” translation by the non-English-speaking English translator.

39.  Go home to collect other three items you need before another attempt to submit your application.

[At Home…]

40. Request and receive needed invitation letter (profusely thanking the South African resident who wrote it who has never met you) and letter from employer. Take a passport photo of the correct size.

[On your next (fourth) trip to the big city…]

41. Go to the embassy and have this conversation with the embassy worker:
Embassy Worker: “How did you get this letter from your employer?”
Bobby: “They sent it from the U.S. Our colleagues brought it with them
when they came from the U.S.”
Embassy worker: “How come your employer did not specify in the
letter that you are a missionary living in Yamoussoukro?”
Bobby: “I was told I needed permission to leave the country but not
that specific information.”
Embassy Worker: “Hmmm…Okay. Come next Tuesday.”

42.  SUBMIT APPLICATION AT LAST! Do happy dance.

43. Pray for the visa to be granted.

[On your fifth trip to embassy…]

44. Return to embassy three days before your scheduled departure to South Africa and find that you HAVE BEEN GRANTED THE VISA!

45. Praise God.

46. Call your wife to tell her the good news.

47. Start packing!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Simple Gesture

Sammy and Yao sharing toys

Our 3-year-old, while trying to learn three languages, has gotten really good at gesturing. When he can’t communicate in French, he points and makes noises. (He also pretends to be a train, running and whistling while he pulls his “tender,” but that’s another story.) So, a couple of months ago when we visited a village about 45 minutes away from our home and he met a young boy who is deaf, they connected immediately. Neither of them needed words to communicate. They could use gestures and noises and got along great.

We’ve been going to this village often because it’s one of two sites of the start of the Children of Promise sponsorship program and each time, Sammy loves playing with Yao. Some other kids find it strange that Yao can’t speak French or Baoulé, an African language common in this village, but Sammy can’t communicate well in either of those languages, either, so he finds gesturing and noise-making a normal means of communication with his new-found friend.

We found out that deaf children can’t attend regular schools here and there’s only one deaf school in the whole country, meaning education is inaccessible to most deaf children who live in villages.

We’ve been praying for Yao during Sammy’s nighttime prayers. The first night we prayed for him, Sammy stopped the prayer and said, “Yao. He can’t hear. Mom….he’s my best friend.” Now, Sammy’s 3 years old, so his best friend changes weekly, if not daily. But his words still touched my heart. More than that, his gestures touched this mama’s heart.

Monday, June 29, 2015

To Every Thing There is a Season

Winter. How does one explain this concept to a room full of Ivorian teenagers who have likely never experienced temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit? And snow? Well, some of them have heard of it, but that’s as far as it goes.

Two students in our
English class
During one of our English classes, we were faced with explaining the concept of winter because the word appeared in an article we were reading as a class. So, armed with my 10 years of teaching English as a second (or foreign) language, I knew just what to do: I asked what the four seasons were in preparation to explain the idea of winter and what it entails. Blank stares. Silence. “Uh, rainy and not rainy?” a student attempted. Well, he wasn’t wrong. That pretty much sums up the weather throughout the year here in Côte d’Ivoire: rainy or not rainy. Oh, and hot. Really hot when it’s not rainy.

We’re in the rainy season now in this part of West Africa, but the days, weeks and even months are not specifically designated as “rainy” or “not rainy” – it varies. How does one refer to time, then? Multiple times, we’ve caught ourselves just before explaining a time period as “autumn” or “spring.” How can one keep track of the months, elusive time?

In Ecclesiastes chapter three, we read about the seasons of life. No season of life looks exactly the same for any one person. There are times of change, and times of consistency. Times of laughter and mourning – sometimes during the same season.  Various seasons, so many chapters. When God brings up the next adventure in life, we sometimes re-evaluate our seasons. Maybe that season we thought was a season to soar was really preparation for this next season. Are we always in a season of preparation for the next season?

We are, and hope to always be, still in a season of learning here in Côte d’Ivoire. But this month has marked a bit of a change in the season. This month, our teammates, the Sellers, returned to the U.S. for their home assignment until next year – a different season for them as well.

One thing transcends these seasons: prayer. We need it in every season. So in our varying seasons, will you pray for us? Pray for Bobby, Jenny & Moore as they continue to adapt and learn how to minister in the Ivorian culture. Pray for Larry and LeAnn as they travel and share throughout the U.S.

Oh – and how does one explain time periods throughout the year in Côte d’Ivoire without using the seasons as a point of reference? We asked our French tutor and he explained the concept of trimesters. The first trimester: January through March. The second: April through June, and so on. So, we learned something new. And the season of learning continues.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Water of Life

On June 7th, Bobby and fellow missionary Larry Sellers travelled five hours one-way to visit the village of Sokoura, where a new permanent well had been drilled for this village. Bobby put together a video of the worship dedication service. To view the video, click below:

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Driving Saga

A page from the driver's
manual warning one to watch for animals
and some blobs to represent said animals
The saga started seven weeks ago, at the beginning of April, when we went in to find out the best way to get Ivorian drivers’ licenses. We signed up, paid a fee and received the “rules of the road” book to study. The book was informative, although some of the signs in the book appeared to have blobs representing different things. Would we be able to recognize the blobs on the signs? We would try.

Graffiti on the door to the exam room reads "le terrible"
Four weeks later, at the end of April, we went to take the oral exam to get the licenses. We arrived at 9 a.m. & as we waited, the anxiety mounted...15 minutes...30 hour. At 10:10, we were told to wait in front of the exam room, where a single piece of graffiti had been written on the door: "le terrible." Not encouraging. Other people keep jumping in line in front of us, then it's finally our turn. We sit. The man behind the desk asks me twice if I speak French, but he doesn’t ask Bobby. Bob gives his info & goes across the room to wait for the oral questions. I look across the desk to see that the employee has already signed his signature stating that Bobby has passed the test.

Another man currently taking his test (as Bobby waits) is getting questions wrong & his examiner is yelling "ZERO!" (Again, not encouraging.) The man behind the desk asks me an incomprehensible question (while yelling at others that there is too much noise in the room). I attempt an answer that does not satisfy him & he tells me to go across the room to identify road signs. But Bob is still waiting, so he orders Bob (who has yet to be asked a single question) out of the room, they ask me a few questions (including, "Which signs do you know?"), tell me I'm done & tell both me & Bobby to go home. Good news: We passed this portion! Bad news: At this point, I'm a bit concerned about the thoroughness of this process...
Bobby's view from the back of the truck during the exam

Fast forward two weeks later. Since I have never driven a manual transmission car, I decide to practice and Bobby goes in for the driving portion of the test. When he arrives, he is discreetly shown a stamped piece of paper, but doesn’t know what it means. He sits down and waits. And waits. And waits. Finally, an employee tells him that he will accompany Bobby to the site where the driving portion will take place. Apparently, the others taking the exam are already there. Bobby drives the employee, who questions how Bobby can be driving without a license (he answers that he has an international license), and they arrive at the testing site. Although Bobby is getting a license to drive a car or a moto, the testing vehicle is a truck…with about 20 people piled into the back. Bob piles in the back, too, and with the examiner in the passenger’s seat in the cab, each examinee jumps out of the bed of the truck to take turns driving…for half a block each! There’s jolting and lurching and finally, as each examinee finishes, he leaves to walk home and the number of men in the back of the truck gets less and less until no one is left in the back except Bobby. It’s his turn. He gets in the driver’s seat and drives the examiner back to the motor vehicles building. He has passed part two!

Time to get his license, right? Wrong. He retrieves his paper with the stamp on it, goes to the office to get the license and finds that the state where he was born in India, the state of Meghalaya, does not exist in the computer system. One’s place of birth must be stated on the license and since his state is not in the system, no license.

But the employee assures him that they will call their main office in Abidjan and have the state of Meghalaya added to their database in order for it to be printed on his license. They will call him next week when the system has been updated.

He receives a call on Monday afternoon: Meghalaya now exists in their system. He has all he needs for his license. He goes to the motor vehicles office and when he arrives, he is asked for a copy of his passport, which he had produced six weeks ago at the start of the saga but he does not have with him now. Another trip back home. He finds his passport and, voila! He finally gets his Ivorian driver’s license…which never expires.

We were thankful to finally have the saga come to a positive conclusion and now we ask you to join us in praying for safety on the road!

UPDATE: Two weeks after Bobby received his license, Jenny took her driving test. She may or may not have attempted to drive with the emergency break on, killed the car twice and heard "Doucement!" (French for "Gently!") from passengers in the backseat, but she passed and also received her license! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Welcome to Weevil-Land

Sifting through the pasta for weevils
Friday night was my turn to cook. I boiled and de-boned the chicken, added the spices and vegetables and now I was ready to add the packaged noodles to complete our meal of chicken and noodles, one of my comfort-food favorites. Opening the package and dumping in the noodles would be the easiest part of the process…or so I thought. As I opened the box, I saw something small and black moving around: weevils. They had burrowed inside each and every noodle and were eating their way through. I was faced with a dilemma: Do I throw away the whole box? Would I have time to go get another box at the store in order to salvage dinner? 

I sought LeAnn’s advice. She was the one who had taught me how to shop for pasta and be sure they didn’t have weevils by looking through the clear packaging to see if there were any white spots on the noodles. (White spots would indicate that weevils had burrowed inside.) But this particular package of noodles was the only type available at the store the day we went shopping and it was not in clear packaging, so I wasn’t able to check the weevil population before my purchase.

An old anecdote I had heard popped into my head: When a new missionary finds a bug in her cereal, she throws away the whole box. After being on the field for a short time, she picks the bug out and continues eating the cereal. The experienced missionary finds the bugs, mixes it in the cereal and exclaims, “More protein!”
Zooming in on the evil weevils

I wasn’t quite ready to raise my protein level in this manner, so I had to decide between throwing the whole box away or picking out the weevils. Would it be worth it to go through each piece just to pick out the good parts of the pasta? LeAnn suggested we pick out the weevils. So, there we stood, scrutinizing every millimeter of every piece of pasta to see if it had been weevil-ized.

LeAnn mentioned that it reminded her of a Bible verse about searching and sifting in our own lives. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, it says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves.

Standing at the counter, examining each of tiny bit of pasta to exterminate the unwanted guests took a while. Longer than I’d hoped. Longer than I’d planned. But it made me think: How much time am I spending examining myself to see if there is something unwanted that needs to be sifted out in my life of faith? I’m glad that the Lord finds it worth it to spend time helping me sift through what needs to be exterminated from my life.

As we stood at the counter, two repairmen arrived at the house to work on an appliance. As they entered, I wondered what might be going through their minds as they saw the two of us picking through the pasta.  “We should say, ‘Welcome to Weevil-Land,’” I whispered to LeAnn as they entered.

Moore Sings "We Are The Light of the World"

Listen to Moore sing his new favorite worship song!