INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for visa

Off the Cuff

There is something distinctly comforting about the lack of possibility. To be entirely unable to do something, to be barred from success by the laws of physics or nature or immigration — this is a kind of freedom that relieves us of the stress of trying.

If, say, I had to be on Mars by 2 p.m. today to polish the wheels of the Rover, I just couldn’t do it. Relax. It’s impossible. But even the faintest whiff of the minutest possibility that something cool is out there or somewhere cool is visitable and that the time and the tides are right — this is the pea under my mattress. And this princess has a lot to do in the morning.

Recently, the Vice-Consul of the Embassy of the largest democracy in the world, which will remain nameless (rhymes with Joo-dan), rejected my application (delivered by a Sudanese friend — Americans cannot apply directly from Abu Dhabi) because my last name revealed a deal-breaker: that I was Jewish. In Saudi Arabia, a country I want to visit out of the kind of curiosity that sends a couple of young kids to drop by Boo Radley’s house, I have also been stymied. No tourist visas, and no 2-day transit visas for men traveling alone (without a wife or family).

Their proximity, and the fact that I once thought I could go to these places, has made me unable to give up. There must be some way. Once the possibility switch is flipped, it may be impossible to flip back. Or maybe there is some way to let go — to realize that some things just cannot happen, or aren’t worth forcing, or, or, or…

When I run out of time, I can decide whether to regret defeat or to be satisfied by the attempt.

For now, I guess I’ll keep trying.

Prologue — فاتحة

First they said two hours, then four days, then six weeks. It wasn’t going to be easy to get a visa to Pakistan. Reciprocity, they relayed with a shrug. It isn’t easy for us to go to your country either.

Two months later, I let myself hope there would be a visa in my name, just waiting to be glued into my passport. They said they would call. Calls to the embassy switchboard would almost never go through, certainly not long enough to survive the transfer to the “visa office”, and my one contact — the sole officer responsible for my application — had ceased answering his phone, quit, and returned to Pakistan.

The embassy is only open for business before lunch. At 9 a.m. a crowd of a couple hundred men spills out the door in lines down the steps and pools around the snacks and tea stand; others mill about idly waiting their turn to be ignored. But having other business, I pushed through the infernally dim, musky floor to the much smaller room I remembered from months ago: VISAS / ATTESTATION.
Abandon hope.

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