Monday, April 28, 2008

What to do, but pray...

The Stenlands, the Norwegian family here studying Swahili at the language school have become pretty good friends. These are the folks I traveled to Zanzibar with and had an adventure or two there. They are facing huge unnecessary trials at the moment.

They are here with the Norwegian Lutheran Mission. Their organization has been working in this country for over 50 years. Lars and Kjersti will be working with a very isolated people group in the interior of the country when they finish language school. They had received a residence permit to do their work through all the proper channels when they arrived. The established church in Tanzania had written a letter inviting them and done all the work necessary to get the correct kind of permit. The Stenlands realized one problem, their initial stamp was only good for three months, and language school is four months. So after Easter they made a special trip to get things straightened out.

The proper authorities in their area didn’t get the paperwork done and somewhere along the line somebody realized a technicality, they are students right now, they need a student visa. So they started the work of sorting that out.

The language school has a man who gets our permits for us. He went to the local immigration office to get a student visa. Last week our man explained they needed not just the stamp in the passport but the original (paper) to cancel the current residence visa and get the new one. That paper was filed away in an office on Arusha, an eight hour drive from here. Oh well, they got it mailed to them and our man went off to finalize it today in town.

But he came back to get Lars mid morning. Someone in the local office was saying that they had done something wrong and needed to pay a fine of $500 per person. Now their visa expires tomorrow!

Arrr. This is the point at which everything in me screams, this is so wrong, no one should pay a fine that is just a “little something” (bribe) to come here to help the people of this country. The principal of the thing really has me upset. Lars has a totally legitimate visa and just needs it renewed. On the advice of their mission leaders in Arusha they will drive to Dar es Salaam (three hours) tomorrow to try the immigration office there. But first they must get their passports back for the immigration office here in Morogoro. What happens if it doesn’t work? Not sure there is a back-up plan but leaving the country comes to mind.

Lars calls this Good Missionary Training (GMT). I say the training is over, this is the real thing.
I start working on my resident visa when I get to Kenya. The tourist visa I have now expires the day before I arrive back in Kenya.

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