You guessed it! I’m having issues obtaining yet another Visa. I feel like I’m losing my mind.
I wasn’t going to announce this yet, but I’ve decided to make another trip over to Mali before I depart Ethiopia for now. There are a couple of pediatric patients there that require some advanced surgery and have no other choice.
To add to this, because of our failure with the US Visas, I have decided to use some of the money we raised to bring two residents with me to Mali. Fili and Andom with be joining me (chosen from a random drawing). Due to my misadventures in Mali in March, and because I was bringing Ethiopians with me, I decided to obtain the Mali Visa the legal way this time.
So, I called and E-mailed the Mali Embassy in Ethiopia. Which was sketchy by the way. They don’t have a website and I found the numbers and emails totally randomly. Anyways, I received the following very detailed letter from the embassy.
I followed their directions perfectly, collected all the paperwork and confirmed that I can get the Visas for Andom and Fili. All good. I planed this quick trip down to Addis so I could submit and pay fully knowing that I would have to return in 2 weeks in a separate trip to the capital just to pick up the documents (takes them at least 5 days to process apparently).
The embassy told me that their house was located next to a gigantic park in the center of city. So, I went to the park and started to search. Walking down every street while simultaneously on the phone with my American friend while she attempted to good images of the embassy to help me out. It was ridiculous. 3 kind Ethiopians and one donkey later, I was able to locate the house due to their carefully labeled sign.
I was the only person there, so just walked right in, up to a very kind appearing lady on the second floor. We exchanged pleasantries in my broken French and I handed her all the paperwork. As she is stapling the pictures together, she asks “where is you legalized invitation letter.” “Pardonne-moi?” I ask gently.
She explains that I needed to obtain a letter from Mali from the hosting institution that was then taken to a local police station and somehow “legalized.” Are you INSANE!??!? I was thinking in my head. I followed the instructions perfectly and there was NOTHING about a legalized invitation letter. She continued to explain that this is the rule and there is nothing she can do until she has the letter.
The frustrations from my previous Mali trip and the US visa experience started to bubble inside of me. I was furious but held it inside. I appealed to her ethos. Since there was no indication on the e-mail that her office sent me, then maybe she can give me a break and help me figure this out. Nope. Hard no.
I asked to speak to the higher ups. Blank stare.
I sat on her desk and told her that I’m not going anywhere until a solution is created. After gifting me the stare-of-death, she stood up and went upstairs. I could hear her explaining in French that there was this American that refused to follow the rules and insists on speaking with you; to whomever she was speaking to.
Sometime later, a man saunters down in a grey suit with a blank, but a somehow worried facial expression. I turned on the charm and explained my situation. He says that they do need a legalized letter, but that he will call this hospital in Mali and see what he can do.
After an hour of sitting in the lobby and missing my flight back to Mekelle, he calls the women and tells her that he was unsuccessful. It didn’t matter. After stewing in my frustrations for the past hour, I had already changed my flight, booked another hotel room, canceled my surgeries for the next day and informed the people in Mali of my situation.
I left with a smile informing the lady that I will see her tomorrow with all the ridiculous, although necessary, documentation.
As I write this, word has gotten to the Mali hospital administrator of my issues, but I have not received a response from him. We have 24 hours to figure this out. Wish me luck!