As I mentioned previously, the most challenging aspect of wandering within Africa, has been navigating the varying bureaucratic systems, that seem to be growing here like cancer during the golden era of American tobacco.
Which is to say, unchecked.
Africa can be so much more than Visa stand offs and corrupt police checks.
Permits, regulations and elitist trivial bullshit.
It can be a place where people live free.
Once upon a time a man could collect his goats and set fourth on a path cascading out from a dawn soaked savanna.
When a woman could fill her gypsy wagon with hand crafted silver jewelry, animal skins and intricately crafted Moroccan lamps.
The sounds of precious metals eclectically chiming into one another, as strong black horses pull her wagon across the dark, starlit grass lands.
The long soft fingers in her heart oscillating toward a mysterious orange beacon of light, adrift on a distant hilltop.
A fire painted drum circle, where soft souls dance and wounded women sing, then dissolve like smoke into night.
Sadly, what was once a way of life, has been relegated to fantasy.
Or abhorrent dereliction, depending on you geographic milieu.
What was once a testament to freedom, now collects dust in a libraries catacomb.
Somewhere between Romantic Fiction and Self Help.
Nomadic freedom has been outlawed by strangers that have imposed their claim of authority over us.
This authority is either self appointed or bequeathed to them by some other righteous asshole, onto to we, the living.
Or as Tolstoy would call us, the proletariat.
Or as Van Gogh referred to us, the potato farmer.
Do not enter.
Authorized personnel only.
This area is being monitored by video surveillance.
I took this Photo in Togo.
These statements of fact have polluted our common space, partitioning it into categories.
The man and his sheep, not able to afford grazing fees or meet passport requirements, now drives a taxi in the city, while living in an illegal basement suite.
The woman, once an independent mystic, now dreams of owning her own juicery.
But turning 40 and still working for Starbucks has declawed her appetites for wanderlust.
She instead anesthetizes her spirit with homemade wine and the love of her Persian cats, Cringer and Cleopatra.
Bobby how could this happen!?
Well, building a citizenry designed to contribute to an economy, naturally begins with selective immigration, duh.
The pioneers of this tact, where national identities became synonymous with value, I suspect to be an appendage of the Roman and Mongol empires.
But who really knows?
Now I experience nationalism as a value structure, as a currency. Watching as it gives the narcissistic entrepreneurial nationalist a boner.
This new kind of product gave and gives rise to dynasties, empires, monarchies, countries, states, flags and even, though far removed, but still related, sports jerseys.
Paradigms that will eventually destroy ones inherent right to wander our world without limit, for a very long time.
My call to wander is not a choice, its a nescessity.
I will go insane otherwise.
And I am.
I’m going utterly insane here.
Upon experiencing the parallels between my “dignified country” and a “corrupt African continent” merge into a dark epiphany.
An epiphany I’ll share with you shortly.
I want a totally different system of representation.
One where freedom is paramount.
Not given to me.
Not an allowance under specific conditions, but absolute.
Of course being from Canada I’m regularly reminded how lucky I am.
That “they” the desperate African bushman, or Cambodian street hustler or Palestinian school boy or, or, or, all wish to go to Canada.
This reality is a reflection of our global failure as a species.
Not only have we become nationally minded, but we flaunt it like an entitlement, I’m Canadian.
I’m not Canadian.
I was born in Canada.
If you can’t understand the distinction, despite how mundane the semantics seem, than you are endanger of loosing your liberty at the cost of an ethereal national name tag.
Now Africans are adopting these European and North American ways of policing their countries.
Embassies that look like palaces and Visa requirements that resemble a shitty game of truth dare.
One border you can walk across without a second glance, while the very next is denying you entry because they didn’t like the way concierge answered the phone after calling to verify your hotel reservation.
This is adaptation, not Africa.
Some french asshole working for the Benin government is implementing French protocols like passports with biometrics and a finger printing, photo capture authenticating process.
These efforts will divide this continent into future upheaval.
I swear to you.
It’s this same french asshole four hundred years ago, that no doubt taught the African man and woman tribes are like nationalities, some are good, while some are bad.
Go talk to Rwanda about how that played out.
Or the Batwa people in Uganda.
When I mentioned that these parallels just recently merged into a dark epiphany.
I was referring to my most recent visit to the Canadian high commission compound here in Accra, Ghana.
My reason for going was because I need extra pages added to my passport.
I have four empty ones left.
I need five to get to Morocco.
I figured since Ghana is an english speaking country, it would be easiest to have the addition of pages process, done here.
That was ignorant of me.
I’ll graciously spare you the details of the very heated altercation between myself and the Canadian embassies alpha security team.
Save to say it was unnecessarily militant and lead to a yelling match with some of the policy cyborgs that work there.
After eventually passing security level one, I was directed to go to a office, at the end of a narrow bricked walk way.
At this point, I have been through 13 mainly ridiculous African visa acquisitions.
Most of these offices have treated me despicably.
Now My embassy, the Canadian embassy is behaving like all the others.
“How can I help you?”
I need pages added to my passport, I have four available, I need 7 or 8 available, I said.
“We don’t put pages in passports anymore. She said smiling. We haven’t done that for ten years now”
“You have to apply for a new passport.”
“Is this free?” I asked
She held up a form, I couldn’t read, and said “It’s 190$”
“I’m not paying that.” I said.
My passport is barely 9 months old.
Why am I being punished for poor design? I asked in earnest.
That’s a good question Bobby, she responded, surprising me with our new friendship.
“But this is the policy.”
“Whats the name of the high commissioner here?” I asked.
She called someone on her phone.
A woman entered the office behind her.
She sat in a chair, legs crossed watching the entire interaction, without saying a word.
“You can go to the website and…” She began.
“I’m asking you what your
supervisors name is and you’re telling me to google it, …really? ” I clarified.
“You can pay to have a temporary visa with eight pages until your replacement is ready.
“The cost for this service is 45 dollars.”
No, I said.
Now fully aware that I’ve entered a identity market.
“The replacement visa will take 20 business days” she said.
“That’s too long” I said, shaking my head.
“It has to go all the way to Canada” she said.
My eyes widened with complete disbelief, does this asshole think I don’t know about same day delivery?
Does she think I don’t know that European and North American embassies in Africa have access to Amazon and similar same day shipping services?
I rebuffed her condensing remark with my own.
“I can sit in my living room in Canada, order a
didgeridoo from Australia and be playing it the very next day.
Don’t use shipping as an excuse for your ridiculous turn around” I exclaimed.
When she started explaining the additional fees associated with the embassy’s clerical efforts, I reminded her Canadian tax payers pay for the embassy, not the fees imposed on nationals.
But here I was, fighting this invisible bureaucratic asshole again.
This time it was my countries protocols I was being manipulated by.
” Is my passport valid for 5 years, or is it a 35 country pass? ” I asked
she stared at me impatiently.
“Do you have a calculator?” I asked.
She swung in her chair to get a standard oversized calculator.
Ok, I’ve had my passport for nine months.
But it’s valid for five years.
So divide 60 months by 9.
6.66, she said.
Of course, I thought
Now multiply that by 190$, I asked.
“One thousand two hundred and sixty six dollars and sixty six cents” she said.
That’s what a five year passport costs in Canada, I said shaking my head.
“Y’know what, I’m going to write that in my passport” I said triumphantly.
She stood up, “No, please Bobby, don’t do that, I’ll give you paper, don’t write in your passport”
The mysterious woman in the background shifted in her seat uncomfortably.
With a big smile I wrote, “this passport cost $1,266.66 for five years.
Land of the free, my ass”, on the contact page.
Then I slid it toward her, under thick bullet proof glass.
I had no choice but to surrender to this particularly expensive process.
I swear that after I receive my new passport I will file a complaint with MasterCard accusing Canadian passport services of selling me a product that wasn’t as promised.
Let these two evils fight amongst each other.
As for us the human.
Ask yourself, what are you doing here?
On planet earth.
Are you making this place better, or worse?
If you’re making it worse, I’m going to flip ya.
Flip ya for real.
That’s my policy.