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The Brave Warrior in West Africa 5 – Expect the unexpected!

In Travels on January 30, 2013 at 9:01 am

Expect the unexpected!

Thursday dawns very early for the Brave Warrior. He has some major transport logistics to achieve. Dear Wife is coming through Paris on her way to London. An aunt has fallen seriously ill and the family are gathering to be there for her. It is also a special surprise for firstborn grandson as he gets to join his Dadu on this expedition, without knowing where we are going or why.

We leave home in the dark at 7 am, and I quickly realise that my timing is likely to be thrown out quite a bit. He simply cannot walk as fast as me on his little legs. Whatever the case, we plough on in the bitterly cold darkness. First it’s RER to Gare Montparnasse, then Paris Metro to Denfert-Rochereau, where we connect with another RER service going all the way to Roissy-CDG. Firstborn grandson is loving the experience and keeps asking how many stations before we get ‘there’…

Finally, after almost 2 hours we pull into the modernistic railway station at the CDG. Outside it is very foggy. We’ve received a SMS informing us that Granny has had to move while they blow up some poor person’s abandoned suitcase where she is waiting for us. I cannot imagine what that feeling must be for someone to discover his bag and contents are now in over a million waterlogged bits and pieces, and smelling of explosives.

Firstborn grandson is so excited to be at the airport that seeing his Granny (and her, seeing him) is a complete surprise. A great reunion takes place – Granny has been with him in France for most of the past 7 months – before we move off to have a hearty and healthy breakfast at Macdonald’s. That done, we wait for the AF ‘Car’ which will take us right across to South East Paris to Orly Airport. When we get there, we have to wait for a while before Granny can check in. Before leaving firstborn grandson makes sure that Granny is very clear that he is expecting her to come ‘to my house in Paris’ when she has finished in London. We say goodbye to Granny. From Orly, we take a high-speed tram link before waiting twice for over 20 minutes in the cold at various stations and returning to Chaville. Firstborn grandson is delighted with the complete experience of the Paris transport system, but is completely exhausted.

After dropping him off at home, the Brave Warrior does not dally. After all, there are African embassies to be tackled. I arrive 30 minutes late for my ‘appointment’ with a thought that I really hope that my visa is actually issued; that there isn’t another Ivorian step in the process. On arrival in Africa (102 Rue Poincaré), I hand my receipt to Mr. Efficient who tells me to wait in a queue. Before too long, Mr. Smooth Senior Executive comes out with my passport, asking me to check the dates. I try to explain that next year, I expect to have to organise visas for a delegation and do they really need to spend almost an extra week in Paris to get a visa in person. His reply is that they need the fingerprints, but the Consulate could exceptionally speed up the process – from 4 days to 3 days. Very helpful indeed!

By this time, it’s late afternoon. I’m not sure that I can even get to drop off my passport at the Congo Embassy before it closes. I walk around the corner – it seems that the former African colonies decided the buy up the whole area, as every third building is an African embassy or consulate. Now, it is not in the make up of a Brave Warrior to worry, or even to be concerned.  Possibly a slightly raised left eyebrow might indicate anticipation of a challenge to be faced. So, full of self-assurance and in total confidence, he enters the Congolese Embassy… only to be told the Consulate is in another building around the corner.

At the Congolese Consulate, no one is pretending to be super hi-tech efficient. Everything is a bit messy and tatty and the lady at the cash desk takes (all) my documents and says she will see if it is possible to issue a same-day express visa, costing an extra €50 over the usual fee of €60. She tells me to wait, which I do, expecting to be told to return late tomorrow (Friday) afternoon to collect my passport and visa. This is cutting it a bit fine for my early Saturday morning departure, but we are in Africa after all…

20 minutes later, she calls me over and, without a word flings my passport to me on the counter. My first reaction is that there is a problem. Very likely, someone must have reported the hissy fit I threw in Brazzaville airport in 2000, when a customs official tried to confiscate my foreign currency. But, no, I have a visa in my passport. Who could believe it? After all the travails with the Ivory Coast, little disorganised and bureaucratic Congo has managed to do the same thing in less than 1% of the time.

What can a Brave Warrior say or do in the face of such efficiency? Expect the unexpected? Maybe the best answer is “Africa wins again!”

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