- Image sources: https://tinyurl.com/kksukqv, https://tinyurl.com/mrvwmlk, https://tinyurl.com/n4grs3a
Important note: Please do not let this terrify you from going the wonderful, exciting, stupendously awesome route to having kids that adoption can be. In fact, let our paperwork woes encourage you so that more people can put pressure on Home Affairs to get their act together. It also doesn’t only affect adoptees (this only delayed the process a little), but rather ALL people of foreign backgrounds who wish to obtain unabridged birth certificates.
The following story of adventure and intrigue is suitable for all audiences, but perhaps better suited for those with limited experience with South Africa’s unique and surprising governmental department known as The Department of Home Affairs. Not the sort of surprising that, say, receiving an unexpected bouquet of flowers can be, but rather the sort that is usually accompanied by “What’s that smell..?” and a quick scan through the house for where the cat you haven’t seen in a few days might be.
For those who have experienced prolonged exposure to said department, the following tale might prove to trigger terrible memories, heart palpitations, unpleasant sensations of being simultaneously squashed and stretched thin at the same time. Not unlike a well-chewed piece of Chappies gum, with the effect of coming out of the experience similarly discoloured, limp, and paperless.
It should be noted first, that the story is not a devastating one – largely because its author is very, very lucky. Mostly, she is lucky to have flexibility with her work, is financially not in as precarious or dire a position as many of Home Affairs’ other victims, and is not a refugee. Not being a refugee is key to being able to talk about this later and have a hope of being OK. For her, this story is just one of a fantastic myriad of inconveniences, not to be confused with life-threatening assaults on one’s human rights.
But enough about threats to life.
The story, as it goes, goes a little ways back to the year 2014. It was the year before everybody kept saying: “Thank god THAT year’s over”, and so I suppose it was a somewhat hopeful year.
In that same year, a small, dinosaur-shaped baby was born and destined to be delivered by stork (otherwise known as the adoption agency in Wellington) to eager and naive parents who told only started panicking about what they were about to do once they were sitting in the parking lot waiting to meet their baby. They had, at that moment also just discovered that they left the carefully-prepared bottle of formula in the bathroom at home (at this point they did not possess a kitchen, which is a story perhaps for another day), and so things looked like they were off to a rocky start.
Baby Dino and parents, let’s refer to them as an amiable sloth and a demented fruitbat – two guesses who’s who – meet for the first time very early in 2015. For many, this is a Bad year. But for the sloth, the fruitbat and the dinosaur, it is wonderful. It is a quick year wherein none of them get much sleep and is heavily peppered with cold and flu viruses and the viruses’ accompanying snot, but it is a good year all the same. The trio find harmony in their little life, and even manage to leave the house now and then to meet other creatures who can tolerate their strange habits and sleep schedules. The key here is that they are filled with Hope. Hope is a nice thing to be filled with, and completely different from other things like Dread, Despondency and Decrepitude, which the trio (mostly the fruitbat and the sloth, because the dinosaur continues to happily go about his life) are now well-acquainted with.
You see, things started off smoothly. When the dinosaur and his parents met, nobody complained about the missing bottle of formula and nobody told them to their faces that they were probably off to a bad start and should give up immediately. They said the opposite: “Oh what a pretty little family you are. Here’s a nice letter saying you’re legally in charge of this dinosaur, please make sure he is on a strict diet free of gluten and GMOs. No, look, you’re already giving him GMO gluten. Whatever, here’s your other piece of paper to say we’ve sent all your documents to court for approval. Give us a call in a few months, all will be well.
Months go by and the kind storks at the adoption agency are very helpful. But the fruitbat and the sloth receive their adoption order – the many beautiful pages of it – a little later than expected. They are relieved and overjoyed and they have a cake party with the dinosaur’s cousins and aunts and grandparents in the park. Even the sugar overload and ensuing sleepless night do not dampen their joy.
The adoption now needs to be registered. All the paperwork (the sloth & the fruitbat’s – including application forms, criminal checks from the sloth’s country, from SA, their earnings, the sloth’s visa status, their citizenship, identity documents, where they lived previously, their marriage certificate, and vigorously approving letters by people who know them; not to mention the probable paperwork the dinosaur’s birth parents were required to submit) is now locked away and not to be used under any circumstances for registering the adoption. That is, the adoption is not to be registered at the same time that all the clever people reviewing the sloth and the fruitbat’s appropriateness to adopt the small and bitey dinosaur. It must have new paperwork, and requires the most dangerous and gruelling part of the journey: the interminable visits to The Department of Home Affairs.
Chapter 1 – Registration
“Would ticket One-hundred and seventy-‘to’ please go to counter ten. Ticket one-hundred and seventy-‘to'”, the calm, automated voice calls out. They appear to have programmed an excessively short ‘to’ to read out instead of ‘two’, and at first it is annoying, but after a few hours becomes something to look forward to, like the chorus in a pop song that you hate but you can’t help but tap your feet to.
Yellow walls and brown tiles fitted with long chrome benches. It’s a step up in some ways from the old Wynberg Home Affairs offices, and there is a handy cafe next door that is sometimes open and sells you chicken samoosas (they sell you the chicken no matter what it is you order, but they taste good if you’re not vegetarian) and cool drinks. It’s also conveniently located in a shopping mall, suspending you temporarily from the usual excitement of waiting outside where the living things are.
To register an adoption you need four forms. A notice of birth (to note his birth as it was originally registered), another notice of birth (to now note his new identity as your own dinosaur), a form to change his first name(s) and a form to change his last name(s). Take eight forms from the reception desk because you will probably make a mistake on one of them and have to re-do it. Don’t let your partner hold your pages for you because it is all too easy to lose track of your mind and start grumbling about how you’ve forgotten where you were born, what your mother’s favourite pet was called and what your first name is. Hold all the papers in the your lap, don’t lose sight of them and, by gods, don’t make a mistake because you will have to do it ALL OVER AGAIN.
After asking the person at the information desk for a third set of papers, a jolly young man with cheerful blond hair casually swept across his face like a young stud in Grease and his shirt collar popped up to show us that government officials can also make standard-issue uniforms embody a sense of personal flair, will take your forms and chew gum at you. Then he will see that you have made a mistake on form three and he will chuckle a little bit and get a fourth set of forms to fill out while you ask the person next to you if they remembered what your name was when you walked in earlier. Your eyes will be boggling by this point, so the person will try to shift away from you, but they can’t because the chairs are bolted to the ground and your sloth partner will stroke your head and shush you gently as you whimper.
It is but the beginning, after all. Whimper, friend, whimper.
Chapter 2 – The Wait
Once you have submitted your forms, you go home to wait. It is recommended that you resume life at this point, because the wait can be tremendous and your young dinosaur will be in need of feeding. He has a hefty appetite and has started chasing birds for food, so to prevent other people from frowning at you, continue going to work and feeding your family.
After six months, you will wake up one morning and ask your sloth partner:
“Partner…did we go to Home Affairs six months ago?”
“Yes, darling” he will say kindly, because he is always kind to you these days (fruitbats do not deal well with torment).
“Oh” you might say, before going back to sleep. But of course, you don’t go back to sleep because dinosaur woke up a few hours ago and is chewing through your bedding and has made his way to the fleshy bits of your feet and there is blood everywhere. You get up and clean up the blood and feed the baby his morning feast of exclusively GMO porridge with all the sugar you can find in the house. He doesn’t eat it of course, because he is thirsty for flesh, but you finish it along with last night’s fish fingers because the extra weight you’re now carrying around your middle has become as comforting as having a friend at your side(s) all day.
Chapter 3 – A period of nagging
Ten months have now passed since you applied to make your child a fully-fledged member of society with his name, ID and parents registered for all the world to see. His original birth certificate with his original ID number is still attached to the adoption order you received from the high court and you think: at least he has a name and is not somewhere in limbo, nameless & paperless.
But this would be a silly thought, because Limbo exists, even for us non-religious types, and it is in the place where the chrome seats, the yellow walls and the fluorescent lights are. Yes, it is The Department of Home Affairs, more specifically, the Wynberg office on the first floor of Maynard Mall.
You see, when things are getting a little urgent, and your partner needs to leave the country (oh, not for anything major, just a milestone birthday for his father, his only brother’s wedding, the birth of his nephew, his father’s emergency surgery, seeing his sister for a rare visit in years, to visit his elderly grandparents’, nothing major, just those ordinary everyday things), you will start making phone calls to various people at Home Affairs whose numbers you got in Facebook forums and complaints departments.
“Hello Mr —-, thank you for taking my call.”
“Ah, Mr Sloth & Ms Fruitbat. Yes, it seems we’ve lost your forms that you sacrificed a permanent piece of your sanity to fill out and that has caused your one eye to twitch every time you smell printer ink”
“Noorrgff!” you will say with eloquence.
If you keep saying this to him and texting this to him and e-mailing this to him, he will eventually e-mail you back with something very exciting. Young dinosaur will have a new ID number and name!
“We celebrate tonight!” you both shout at each other and there will be dim sum and cheap sparkling wine. Baby dinosaur is blissfully ignorant of everything and wakes up extra early the next morning, before the dim sum has been fully digested, and the wine is still somewhere in your chest, head & stomach area.
Chapter 4 – Disappointment
This chapter touches on the folly of getting one’s hopes up when one deals with The Department of Home Affairs. It reveals that you as applicant, and only you, are to blame for this silly emotional response to what should clearly be a time of pessimism and skepticism despite the signals being given by said Department.
Upon your return to the First Floor of Maynard Mall, you have got a little wise to the ins and outs of the place and have discovered that there is sometimes a golden hour in which to arrive. Do not come too late – you might never get in. But do not come too early (unless you arrive there long before opening to wait the dark hours with fellow hopefuls in the before the doors open. Please note: NEVER go during school holidays.). If you are clever you will come sometime after lunch – around 2pm, when most people have given up and have left to cry or return to work or their babies have started university.
“Next!” the neat woman with the soft cardigan & the tightly-pulled pony-tail will shout, hopefully, at you.
I triumphantly announce to her that I’ve received a call from none other than Mr —- in Pretoria who has informed me that I can print my child’s unabridged birth certificate.
“Clickety-clickety-click” goes her keyboard. I hum happily to myself, looking at the poor suckers around me. Young dinosaur has accompanied us, as we thought we’d be clever and get his passport at the same time. I ponder how to distract him long enough to get his passport photo taken.
“I’m sorry,” I hear her say, except I don’t hear this at all, I refuse to hear it, and I smile a frozen smile that can only indicate that I have recently smelled printer ink.
“It seems your child’s name has been changed, and he has his new ID number, but you are not listed as his parents. I can’t print this for you, because it’s basically rubbish.”
“I see” I say, and then look back at her.
“Clickety-clickety-click” I say next, looking at her computer.
“What?” she says.
“Oh sorry, I’m not talking to you, I was talking to your computer. I’m sure it can sort this out.”
“You don’t understand” she says, taking the Tone. The Tone that has already started to indicate to the hungry people behind me that I’ve used up my allotted time at her desk and am now cutting into their time, for which I might have to suffer Consequences.
“You don’t understand,” she repeats, “I can’t do anything. You’ll have to sort this out with Pretoria.”
Sloth-partner gently looms in from behind me and calmly explains to the neat person his important instructions from the official in Pretoria, and his zen-like presence is enough to make her hail her manager and pass this vital information on to her. An hour later we are given more blank forms to fill out, but my partner is smart enough to distract me with the flashlight on his phone while he patiently fills it all out correctly on the first try. We leave with the promise of an e-mail later that day or early the next.
A couple of weeks later I send out polite Enquiries, and receive word that our case is finalised. We call Wynberg Home Affairs.
“Clickety-clickety-clack” we hear before the voice says, “Sorry m’am, I don’t know why they said it was finalised. We still can’t print it for you. Nothing’s changed.”
“But you were the one who sent me the e-mail to say it was finalised.”
“So you see my trouble”
“Yes. Well, no.”
“So…why did you say it was finalised when it wasn’t?”
“Sorry a minute, the computer is just…”
“Are you still there?”
“I was wondering -“
Chapter 5 – Affairs outside of Home
If you have the misfortune of being from anywhere other than South Africa, you should aim to become South African at your earliest convenience. This will naturally be hampered by a series of impossible tasks, quests and insults to your person, but in the end you will probably give up, leaving you wiser, if not stronger. Once you have determined that you are unable to become South African, you will have to inform your own government (depending on how badly they are interested in these things) of the fact that you are currently in possession of a child who has the good fortune – unlike you – of being South African and the misfortune of being your child – wherever the hell you come from. Depending on who your government is, they might either be pleased or irked at having been given this information, so use your discretion.
To register your child as having been adopted, some governments (e.g. the Norwegian government where patient sloths are known to originate and flourish) require fortified documentation so they can be absolutely sure that you are not lying to them. So they will ignore the ten thousand checks you had to endure to simply obtain the set of documents you already have proud possession of – that is, the adoption order, the original birth certificate, his new unabridged birth certificate (in our case, still pending, pending), proof that you are not a felon, proof that you are not a pervert, proof that you are generally an upstanding and tax-paying member of society. To convince them that you are the real deal, a legitimate person with documents proving that you are human, that your child is human, that your child is a child and your child and not, in fact, a dinosaur which has been extinct for millions of years, you need to get an Apostille stamp on all of your documents.
Eight years ago I applied for just such a stamp when attempting to do something as stupid as getting married and it immediately made me realise the gravity of the thing I was doing because it was issued as a sort of wax stamp with green ribbons sticking out of it. Anything sealed in wax is uncomfortably impressive and makes you think, so I spent some time wondering if getting married was really the right choice for me. Fortunately, for myself and hopefully Sloth agrees, I decided that marriage would be OK after all, and here we are almost nine years later not filled with regret yet, but possibly with regret sneaking up in quick waves as we deal with all the paperwork marriage and children have entailed.
The next journey of the quest became a little bit frustrating, all the more because all of this occurs during working hours only, meaning that at least one person at any one time should be available to do all of this. If you, like us, are not flush with cash, skipping work in order to legitimise your child’s identity can be quite frustrating.
But we trundled on.
Apostille’s can be applied for at the High Court. It’s a fancy building just off Long St and you can head straight through the Western Cape Government buildings on Wale Street to reach it. This building is boring, so just walk through and don’t look at anybody and if anyone makes contact, just look straight ahead and keep walking. This way they will know you are on a serious mission and won’t try to distract you with questions about how well you think they are running their website these days and what your phone number is so they can call you before election time to ask you about which group of historically marginalised people to next evict to make way for luxury housing.
At the high court, be sure to do what we did and find a stranger who knows where he is going and pretend you’re not following him. The corridors are long and winding, so don’t lose sight of this person as there are rumours of dungeons or cells down there. The desk that issues the Apostille stamp is on the floor below the entrance, down a pretty maze of corridors and, inexplicably, behind another long desk and past a sign that says that “Members of the public are not to go beyond this point”. Because the sign is just made of paper, you are presumably allowed to move beyond that point unmolested, and behind the rows of dusty shelves, you will reach the desk you are looking for. Be sure to thank the man who didn’t know you were following him for showing you the way.
Stand politely and wait. Don’t dance. Don’t sing. Just wait. A smile will probably be acceptable. A person will come to you under another paper sign that is dubiously spelled, and she will look at your documents, and you will know that concluding this part of your journey will never be as easy as coming into a building, finding the right person, and getting what you came for.
“Who is the person who signed this document?” you will be asked by the person at the desk.
You tell her, scanning the pages between you, finding the signature just above the very official-looking stamp from the court and wondering again why the Norwegian government finds this lovely stamp to be wanting and demands wax and ribbons on top of it all.
“I see the person who signed didn’t write their name & surname on the page, so I’m not sure who signed it” she will add.
“Yes” you say, nervously. “Where should their name be written? How strange that they would issue an incomplete form.”
“No, it isn’t incomplete. There’s nowhere for their name to go and they’re not supposed to write their names down. But for you to get this nice stamp, I need them to write their names down so I can put it in my computer.”
“It is a very nice stamp, I suppose.”
“Can’t you just write the surname down? It’s there, in the signature.”
“Do you want this stamp?”
“Then find the person who signed this and get them to write their name down for you. Come back then and I’ll give you the stamp.”
“Where do I find them?”
“I don’t know, it looks like they’re in Bellville”
“Surely not Bellville! I hate Bellville.”
“Yes, me too. But there you have it.”
I turn to leave. But she stops me and my hopes are, momentarily, raised.
“Wait – see this here?” she points to the birth certificate at the back of the documents (I don’t dare tell her it’s the wrong one and that I’m still waiting for his new one). “We don’t issue Apostilles for that one. You need to get that from The Department of Home Affairs.“
“But I’m already having to go to Bellville. Isn’t that punishment enough?”
“Um, say, do you think I could have a word with your computer directly?”
“You know, the computer that is insisting on this name from the woman in Bellville – perhaps if I just reasoned with -“
Chapter 6 – Bellville
“It’s not so bad out here, really,” Sloth-partner is full of cheer this morning and it’s not helpful to anybody.
We ease the car through a small crowd of people outside the courthouse and find a parking spot not far from the entrance. Small victories.
A good tip for getting things from the courthouse in Bellville is to be Observant.
Observe the crowd standing outside of the courthouse and observe that they are not relaxed. When you drive your vehicle – bicycle, car, lorry, whatever – smoothly through a convenient parting in the crowd, think to yourself: why is this group of people so conveniently parted for me? Is it because they are law-abiding people and don’t wish to obstruct a public road? Is it because they think I have a very nice hatchback and want to stop and look a little longer at my Hyundai? Or is it because they are two opposing halves of a quite acrimonious argument about something not altogether legal? Be assured that it will be the latter. Because nobody likes your old car.
When you reach the doors to the courthouse, a crush of people might be trying to get in.
“Wow, what a popular place to come to at ten in the morning” Sloth-partner will muse. You nod in agreement. You don’t know how the people of Bellville like to spend their time.
The policeman will shout something like: “Those who leave here will do so at their own risk!”
“Excuse me” you squeak at the policeman who has suddenly become at least a foot taller than he appeared before entering and is now eyeballing you furiously from above.
“What?” his eyeball will shout.
“What do you mean by ‘at their own risk’. Do you mean the risk of losing their place in the queue?”
At this point his eyeball will be in danger of exploding at you so you wish you hadn’t said anything, but it manages to shout quite loudly for an eyeball:
“WHY ARE YOU BEING SO DIFFICULT?!”
“YOU COME HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF A GANG FIGHT. MEN ARE STABBING AND GUNS ARE DRAWN AND YOU ARE SQUEAKING THINGS AT ME THAT MAKE NO SENSE”
There is nothing to say at this point and when the lady at the security check confiscates your lunch box with your peanut butter sandwiches you say nothing. This is the smartest thing you will do all day.
Do note that when you get to the magistrates court, nobody will appear to work there beyond the shouting eyeball and the security guard who confiscates sandwiches.
Find your way to the family court section. Find a nice lady in a nice office with a soft voice who makes you forget gang fights and policemen and rumbling stomachs where sandwiches were supposed to be. Don’t get despondent when she looks puzzled by your request to find the person who signed your papers. Don’t lose heart when she says: “This person is in Pretoria”. She is very helpful and will track down the Pretoria person (I now believe that anybody who can ever help me with anything anywhere is based in Pretoria) and then tell you (and get ready to embrace despondency now) that the person is on leave. And nobody can be certain when she will get back. And nobody else can issue you with the piece of paper with her name on it that says she signed the adoption order. Nobody in the whole building, the whole of Pretoria, the whole country. Except this person. Who is on leave.
You leave Bellville Magistrate’s court significantly deflated – so deflated that you forget to retrieve your lunchbox and your peanut butter sandwiches. It was a very nice lunch box. A fancy one given you by some friends with clip locks and a brand name. This will be all you have to show for your Bellville trip.
Chapter 7 – Hope
If you, like me, are dangerously averse to conflict, you’re going to dread this part. Here is where you have to do:
Learn how to use Twitter.
Tweet the shit out of your problems and do so regularly to the Twitter account of the Department of Home Affairs. They don’t care or anything, but incongruously their social media team will respond very quickly saying that somebody will contact you. It’s very cathartic. It’s so nice to have soothing things said to you. It feels a little bit like having your head gently stroked while somebody inserts a long probe in your ear (I said EAR) to poke around and see what they can extract from your bureaucracy-addled brain.
Then use Facebook and people in adoption groups will send you e-mail addresses and contact numbers. Contact all of the people whose addresses and numbers you get. Tell them you’re distressed. Tell them about how frustrating it is that your young dinosaur is being disrespected by not getting identity papers. That it’s irksome (and confusing for him) for health professionals to call him by the wrong name because the medical aid will only list him by what’s on his birth certificate. That pretty much they’re violating a court order that guarantees you the right to a birth certificate in your child’s name and with you and your partner listed as his parents.
Once again, nobody will care, but along with the tweets, the calls and the messages to Home Affairs complaints department, you could get lucky. We were kind of lucky in that somebody DID contact us, he had someone in his office call me a few days later, and she chased our case up for us. A few weeks later, it’s still not resolved, but she gave me her direct line, so it’s progress.
And after a trip to an out-of-town Home Affairs office, we are now in possession of a birth certificate! Well, half of one. It has our kid’s name on it, his ID number, my name (though apparently I now come from a town I particularly despise, which I’m sure will come to haunt me later, like at election time), and a nice blank gap where my partner’s name should be. They’ve put neat lines in place of his name, which I think looks quite nice and doesn’t highlight the gaping hole at all. We’re tempted to write his name in pencil where the lines are and hope nobody notices.
Chapter 8 – Consolidation
Give yourself the opportunity to celebrate a little. After all, you have a birth certificate which gives one of you the right to send him off to boarding school if he acts up too much. That’s a joke, we don’t have boarding school kind of money.
The best thing at this point is not to be pressed for time. We had a deadline of 6 months from the start of the year to get our asses to sloth’s homeworld because of the important family-related things we have to do there around June.
Four months in, we’re starting to feel the pressure. We now have:
- 1 birth certificate with just a fruitbat for a parent
- 1 adoption order missing a name for the person who signed it
Fortunately, there are some great people involved with adoptions. They’re kind and patient and answer their phones. One such person (the person in Pretoria who was on leave and has since returned to her office) sent us a fancy piece of paper yesterday as proof that she signed it. So now we have the adoption order and can take it to the high court to get the Apostille stamp.
The birth certificate must be couriered to Pretoria Home Affairs for its Apostille stamp. This is how that conversation went with the person who handles this (he is not the same person in Pretoria who has handled anything else at this point):
“Can you come here to get the stamp?”
“Sorry, we live in Cape Town”
“Do you know anyone who can do it for you?”
“OK, courier it over”
“Thanks, I’m so grate-“
“Wait! I’m not done. I need to have it notarised first”
“OK, I’ll do that and send it”
“Nope, it has to be notarised in Pretoria. Or else it’s out of my jurisdiction”
“You are joking of course”
“I’m not. You poor fool. I feel so sorry for you that I’m going to notarise it for you here. But it costs R400. Can you put that in an envelope and send it?”
“For sure! Anything! Thank you!”
At this point you’re so grateful you’re willing to offer the person anything – your left kidney, for example – for being so kind and helping you wade through this system designed specifically to turn gentle souls into bloodthirsty lunatics. For the first time I understood what motivated the Reavers in Firefly – they too must have tried to get unabridged birth certificates from The Department of Home Affairs.
“Thank you thank you,” you continue to say on the telephone to the kind man in Pretoria.
“Yes yes, that’s enough”
“I’ll send it all tomorrow. You can’t know how grateful I am. Are you sure I can’t send anything else? I have a spare kidney I’m not using now”
“Just send the money and the document”
“OK. It’s in very good condition though, I’ve lived a healthy life and we have good genes in-“
“Please stop, I don’t want your kidney”
“Or any other body part. Just the document and the R400 fee”
“It fits in the same envelope I’ll put the money in”
When you try to courier R400 along with your document at PostNet the next day, they will either a) call the police or b) tell you that you’re doing something illegal before calling the police. You (or rather sloth-partner) will call the kind man in Pretoria and ask if perhaps there is a less illegal way of doing this and he will remember about EFTs and online banks and tell you he forgot it was the 21st century and you can just send him the money that way. Relief.
By next week we will have:
- 1 adoption order with the name of the person who signed it & an Apostille stamp.
- 1 half a birth certificate without Sloth-partner’s name & an Apostille stamp.
This we will send it all off (along with proof of residence & other ID docs for ourselves) to the authorities in sloth’s home country to register. Nothing can happen until this is registered. This, we’ve been told, takes another 3 months. It also requires us sending our original documentation to Norway, something we’re nervous about, but have to trust. I’m considering sending them a preemptive kidney as thank you for not losing our documents.
Once child is registered, we can apply for VISAS! This will be the exciting stage where we wait to see if I’m desirable or not by Norwegian standards and it can be a very nerve-wracking time because Norwegian standards are high and I’m a fairly deranged sort of fruitbat with zero standards and an inclination to offer internal organs as a show of gratitude.
The standard procedure for visa applications is to make the application with the Kr3000 fee which you reluctantly hand over to the person behind the bullet-proof glass at the consulate, and then act totally normal until you leave the building. Don’t give her what you think of as a pleasant grin, because in this state of anxiety your grin can only be perceived as disturbing and she will automatically reject your application. Don’t play a joke on her by pretending to have a gun to shoot at the bullet proof glass because she will also automatically reject your application and do some other things as well like phone the police and you’re tired of having people saying they’re going to phone the police on you. Don’t ask her if the terrifying picture of the deathly landscape on the wall is an artist’s representation of hell because it will be a photograph of her childhood town in Northern Norway and she will just tear up your application in front of you. Just give her the application, the money, and leave.
Then you wait. I don’t know how long this wait is. I haven’t even got into the queue yet.
And there you have it! A short (I lie) tale of navigating the adoption process as a family from 2 different countries, one of them being South Africa and terrorised by The Department of Home Affairs. Since I’ve started writing this post, a cabinet reshuffle has shuffled out the Minister of Home Affairs, which raised my hopes, but then I saw where he was reshuffled to, and I fear that the reign of tyranny might not be over.
If you, or anyone you know needs advice on a similar process, please leave a comment with your question and I will send you all the numbers I have in my armory.
I will also leave updates on how far we are and if any success is to be had beyond hiring a lawyer (this costs upwards of R75 000, btw, unless you join a class action suit) to get the unabridged birth certificate.