What I did on my day off (Part 3)

Yesterday I took a day of annual leave to sort out some issues pertaining to our upcoming emigration.

Stage 3: Where the f**k are our medical forms?

The Canadian High Commission is in Pretoria, along with most of the other high commissions and embassies. This is because Pretoria is the state capital of South Africa.

Pretoria also happens to be on the other end of the largest construction site in South Africa: the M1 / N1 freeway. The only thing “free” about it is that the tollgates haven’t been installed. Yet. The posted speed limit due to construction is 80km/h. We’ll come back to that later.

Someone at the SA National Road Agency Limited decided to upgrade the road infrastructure. This is due for completion in the future. No one knows when. It won’t be before the 2010 Fifa World Cup in June.

At the same time, there is massive construction going on for the rapid rail Gautrain, which is linking Johannesburg to Pretoria, as well as Sandton and the international airport. I think they call it O R Tambo International Airport at the moment, but it has been called Jan Smuts International Airport and Johannesburg International Airport as well.

So a bit of background: M went to Pretoria to apply for our visas, on 3 December 2009. It takes around four working days for them to open a file and send us the medical forms, so that we can be poked and prodded by a doctor.

Some time in early January, we emailed the High Commission, asking where our forms were, and what our file number was, because we’d heard nothing. Eventually we received an email last week, giving us a file number, and asking whether we’d like to collect the forms, or have them mailed by insured post, through the South African post office. For whatever reason (blind hope?), we elected to have them mailed. After all, that should take four to five days, and we had seven working days before our appointment. Which was yesterday at 3pm.

On Friday, M went to the post office to ask if our forms had arrived. They refused to look in their book because he didn’t have the tracking number (that useful piece of information was not furnished by the High Commission). He went again on Monday, and again they refused to check because he didn’t have a tracking number.

So we decided to go to Pretoria and ask the High Commission to either issue us with new forms, or collect them if they had not been posted.

It was an adventure on that freeway. Cement mixer trucks overtaking me while I’m in the left lane, travelling at 80km/h, because according to lore (that’s not law, mind you), speed limits are for sissies. One cannot describe the terror and anger one experiences when a rearview mirror is full of cement mixer bearing down on one.

We made it to the High Commission at 10:50, alive, and stood in the queue outside. You see, they only allow collections between 11am and 12pm. Applications are done between 8am and 10am. I imagine that 10am to 11am is their morning tea break.

Getting inside is fun. We know the drill now, so we left our phones in the car. You need to have your green barcoded ID book, which the security guards check. If you have ANY electronic equipment, it must be switched off. This includes telephones, iPods, etc. Said electronic equipment must then be deposited in a tiny security locker, for which you are given the key. Of course I forgot that I still had my iPod with me, so instead of going through the rigmarole of taking it out, I suggested putting my bag in the locker. This was not a simple process: those lockers are tiny. I suggested to the security guard that I might have some sweets in the bag, which she could help herself to afterwards, if she helped me.

Once inside, we were attended to, only to find that the file number we had been emailed, was in fact incorrect. So, Mr Mohammed, we saw your file. Sorry. Anyway, it turned out that our medical forms had been posted last week. We got the tracking number from the woman (who declined printing us new forms because this would require permission from on high, which makes sense).

We took the tracking number back to the car (the security guard got her sweet), went onto the SA Post Office’s website via iPhone and 3G, to discover that the forms had ARRIVED at our post office on Friday last week.

Tempers were frayed.

So we drove back to Johannesburg. Directly to the post office. We discussed various methods of torture we would employ upon the staff, and decided on sarcasm.

Once inside the post office, we gave them the tracking number, dripping with sarcasm. The lady disappeared into the back with (I think) a senior member of staff, and emerged with our letter. The delivery date, written on the envelope, said 15 January. Last Friday. So please explain to me why they couldn’t write a collection slip for the envelope, and drop it in the post box for us, last Friday?

The medical forms were inside, thankfully, and it was now 1pm. Two hours before we had to be at our appointment. Time for a light snack and time to argue relax.

At 2:20pm, we left for Rosebank. [Read the rest in Part 4.]