Our fecking, fecking passport!

I am writing this from the plane to Cape Town. And of course, it’s 04h30 and I can’t sleep. We had great intentions of joining the “Mile High Club” around this time but I am bunged up, dry skin, zitty, swollen feet and have airplane-food breath. In any case, Arvid’s sleeping too well to wake him for the dirty. And these German air hostesses are patrolling the bathroom cubicles like — well — Germans. Adventure – 1. Arvid & Binks – 0.

I got onto the conversation of flights with a fellow yachtie friend of ours — Brandon (an Engineer). He had written down every flight he had taken since he started yachting and encouraged me to do the same. So I just did:

Johannesburg (JHB) – Dubai – Nice
Nice – Dubai – JHB
JHB – Cape Town (CPT)
CPT – Nairobi – Zanzibar
Pemba – JHB – CPT
CPT – JHB – Sao Paulo – Rio de Janeiro
Buenos Aires – Santiago – Lima – Cuzco
Lima – Santa Marta
Bogata – Sao Paulo – JHB – CPT
JHB – Dubai – Nice
Nice – Zurich – JHB
JHB – Zurich – Nice
Nice – Dubai – JHB
JHB – Dubai – Nice
Nice – Copenhagen
Copenhagen – Frankfurt – CPT

I get a warm feeling when I look at this list. To think that in 2011 I was bound to a desk — stressed, worried I wouldn’t find the money to travel and leading the lagom life. Since I set off in March 2012, I have taken 34 flights, seven within South Africa and the rest abroad. It sounds romantic until you consider that I have packed up my life at least 19 times and spent most of the journey time bunged up, dry skin, zitty, swollen feet, airplane-food breath and unsuccessful at joining the “Mile High Club”. Still — I wouldn’t change this lifestyle for the world (the irony).

Though one thing that trips me up time-and-time again with my travels is how absolutely unwieldy our South African passport is.

Though one thing that trips me up time-and-time again with my travels is how absolutely unwieldy our South African passport is. It’s a brick in my bag. I was stopped and questioned now when we left Frankfurt. And that’s not the first time — I was stopped last year in Nice and again in Zurich in June. And of course, it’s quite technical to explain to a bureaucratic, hoop-jumping European airport official that you have “overstayed” your 90-day Schengen visa because you work in international waters and — are therefore not really living in Europe — even though your passport says you have been here for over 90 days and — here’s my seaman’s book to prove it and — I promise I don’t have biltong in my bag and — I have two university degrees so I’m not here to live off the dole and — blah, blah, blah.

I travel with 1.5 kilograms of boat and visa documentation just to prove all of this.

Part of me wanted to shout at this man:
Look outside you ollonhuvud (penis head)! It’s only afternoon and it’s pitch dark already. It’s pissing with rain. And I have flu from all this cold weather. My parents are sitting on the beach now in Cape Town, tanning and drinking cocktails. What would make you think I would even possibly want to be in your continent over mine? Ollonhuvud!

Of course, it’s not the man’s fault, or Europe’s fault. It’s my country’s fault. He’s just following protocol.

I understand that global travel is a first world problem and that the South African government would rather focus their time and efforts on our country’s third world problems like education and health care. But Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy have failed South Africans in every which way.

But Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy have failed South Africans in every which way.

Consider this: not so long ago we had unrestricted entry to the United Kingdom. Now we need a visa. A country that once colonialised us!

And Holland? Well — we need a visa there too. This, despite the fact that many South Africans (including myself) have Dutch heritage and relatives in Holland.

After Mandela passed on, Swedish TV reporters interviewed the head of the South African embassy in Sweden. The woman didn’t even make an effort to say a few words in Swedish! It made me wonder what in Dolly’s name she did for South Africans before Mandela passed on and a load of reporters arrived at her desk?

Then there’s the South African embassy in France which lit up the Eiffel Tower with our flag’s colours twice this year and hosted a “South Africa” week but it’s all a load of for show bullshit. Lighting up the Eiffel Tower doesn’t make a difference to me; our international relations with France and ease of travel would. I can’t even call on the South African embassy in France to renew my visa or assist me with my paperwork. I have to fly back to South Africa every time I need to do so.

The fact that we’re asked of a visa is not the problem. It’s the fact that it only lasts the duration of your trip (not more than 90 days), the paperwork required each and every time and the escalating cost.

Arvid and I wanted to meet up in the Sans Blas Islands earlier this year… but we couldn’t. We wanted to visit Morocco… but we couldn’t. I was going to meet him in Ireland after an exam he did… but I couldn’t. I was due to fly to London to collect something for our boat… but I couldn’t. All because of our shameful “Green Mamba Passport”.

And I’d hate to bring up the “A-word” in all of this but this is a legacy from apartheid when foreign countries wouldn’t have us visit because of our political disposition. But now we’re over that and so busy trying to change street names — our government have forgotten that South Africans living in the first world are still not free. At least, not free to travel.

Steaming kettle over and out.