Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tales From Walter Carrington Crescent

Have you paid a visa-seeking visit to the American Consulate in Victoria Island,Lagos lately? Well, I have and it was an interesting experience. From the time I arrived the nearby Napex parking area about 6.30 that weekday morning, there was one thing or the other catching my attention almost every couple of minutes. Since I strangely forgot to come along with the pre-requisite passport photographs for my application form, I was referred, by some hustling young men, to a busy place by the lagoon where chaps with digital cameras were busy turning the place to makeshift studios by quickly snapping those in similar circumstances as me. It was funny seeing how one person held a white cloth behind the applicant (since pictures with a white background were compulsory requirements from the Embassy) while the photographer did the needful.After obtaining my overpriced passport-sized picture,i then stood in line till it was time to enter the US territory.While there,we were entertained by a newspaper vendor who joked that buying a paper was a key requirement for entering the building. He also mentioned that no sharing of newspapers was permitted at the Consulate(his comical ploy to get every interested person to buy his/her own copy).This guy with a great sense of humor pleaded that applicants should kindly not go in with any charms,as a simple prayer was a better option in their pursuit of the coveted seal. The other funny observation was the variety of services being rendered by the large number of hustlers outside the consulate building. There were even those who offered to hold your mobile phone for you (for a fee, of course) while one was inside conducting his/her affairs within, since the embassy strictly forbade all applicants from going in with them. This service comes in handy in cases where the impending traveler didn’t come along with a car and had no other choice. That said, and apart from the few people who tried to be typical ‘Nigerians’ by attempting to jump the queue, there wasn’t any other significant incident noticed while waiting.Oh,i actually forgot something else.A s we queued,i enviously watched most of the foreign staff get to work via speedboat/ferry.A smart way of beating the legendary island traffic.
While inside & seated, I noticed the young guy beside me was taking no chances in his quest and had even included pictures from his wedding day (an extra effort to show the Americans that he had important ties in Nigeria).Then there was this Ibo man with his wife and 2 kids who had told a security guard, with whom he had a little confrontation, that he wasn’t desperate to go to ‘God’s own Country’ and, as such, should be treated with respect.Therefore,I was understandly quite surprised to see his eyes water when the interviewer told him later that she couldn’t grant him the visa as she was unconvinced he and the family would return after their intended ‘visit’.
I did feel sorry for one of two tense siblings who were hoping for student visas. They each saw a different interviewer.Outcome: the girl was given, while the brother was denied. He stood motionless for close to a minute after the lady had informed him of her decision. I wondered what the mood in their home would be later in the day.Bittersweet, to say the least. I also easily recollect a fair-skinned young lady who was denied barely 30seconds into her interview.
As for me, my interaction with my blonde-haired male interviewer was brief as well. And luckily, it ended with a positive result: 2 years, multiple.
By the time I was driving away from Walter Carrington Crescent, it was just past noon. I was hungry and a bit tired.Nevertheless,like i earlier mentioned,I enjoyed the experience.
Obama Country,see you in the near future.