Microsoft has just notified me.
I have been approved to attend their AI For Earth conference at the headquarters in Redmond, Washington USA.
Apparently they’re interested in some of the work I’m doing with Artificial Intelligence and Endangered Languages.
They have offered to cover the costs of my flight ticket and hotel accommodation.
Great. This is great news. I have been entertaining thoughts involving a motorbike road trip across the USA. I think this opportunity will prove highly amenable to the effectuation of that intention.
I don’t even know how to ride a motorbike. Not yet. All of those variables will fall into place don’t worry. Let things come together first.
Ah, I need a new passport. This one is expired.
National Immigration Service Website.
32 page passport? 64 page passport?
64. Let’s get the 64 this time.
It’s time to pay the processing fee.
There are a number of different financial service providers to make use of:
Hm, there’s a strange error.
Let’s try again.
The same error.
No wonder there are so many ways of paying the processing fee. Because their failure rates are so high.
Oh my God.
But I believe this people like money a lot. If that is the case, then why is making a payment so difficult on their website?
I keep bumbling about until the money is paid.
Hm. This interview date is too far away. I haven’t even booked a date for the US visa interview. This is just the passport. And the wait time for US visa interviews have been so long recently. I was invited for another all expense paid conference in Virginia a number of months ago. The wait time for the US visa interview was too long to make an attendance possible.
The discomfiting wait times are a consequence of some modifications the Trump administration recently made to the visa renewal process. Trump to me, is usually just this person who is in the news every once in a while. I don’t really watch the news, so I don’t see his face too frequently. Maybe when I’m in a restaurant or at a cafe. This is the first time any of his actions are having an actual effect on my life.
The amount of people who seem to viscerally detest him, makes me wonder how he became president in the first place. But what do I know about US politics.
I think I’ll need to visit the Immigration Service office in a few days. To see if the passport procurement process can be expedited.
Nigerian Immigration Service Office, Alausa Ikeja.
I just walked in through the gate. I am already feeling somewhat ecstatic. I can taste my passport already. That Microsoft money has to be spent. I wonder what the hotel room is going to look like.
I am talking with someone at the Helpdesk. She directs me to an office upstairs.
I head up the stairs, to the mentioned office.
I have been in this office for about three minutes. I think I am invisible. I have to be. These people cannot see me. That has to be why they are still engrossed in conversation, entirely oblivious my presence. It is like I’m not even here.
I am going to have to interrupt their conversation. If I keep waiting for these guys to acknowledge my existence I’ll be here till next tomorrow.
Excuse me Sir.
Oh God. I am going to be here for a very long time.
Eventually an officer pays attention.
There’s a woman beside me. I was here before her, but she snuck around me to get closer to the officials in the room. Maybe she was here before. I don’t know. Or maybe she’s just jumping the queue.
I don’t understand these Nigerian people. Queues and general chronological order mean absolutely nothing to them. If the world used a Nigerian number system, 99 would be the first number. Followed by 32. Number 1 would be in like position 1004.
I do not understand these people.
The officer’s face is alight with excitement. I did not know this initially very stern looking officer was capable being this excited.
Dubai! Germany! USA! Kenya! This woman! You have travelled to all these countries!! Ahhh! You are enjoying o!! What work do you do?
I am a housewife. My husband is the one who makes the travel happen.
Ahhhhh!!! Your husband is the one doing all this???
Ahhhhhh!!!! That your husband deserves be worshipped!! Yehh!!!
His face is aglow, as he rubs his palms against each other, like a person in supplication.
I am only mildly excited by his theatrics.
Where is my passport please. Microsoft is waiting for me.
He is looking through my application form.
Where is your NIMC?
Your NIMC Your NIMC!! There is no NIMC!
Ah. Oh you mean the NIN! The National Identification Number? Well on the website there was no red asterisk on the NIN field. And so I took that to mean the field was optional.
Apparently whether or not there is a red asterisk on some obscure webpage is absolutely none of his business.
You need your NIMC!! Without the NIMC you cannot submit the form!!
The last time I tried getting the NIN was like last year. I got to the NIMC office in the afternoon. The queue there was severely dispiriting. I was told that even if you get to the office at 5am, you’ll meet about a hundred and ten people already on the queue.
That is the number this officer says I need to obtain, for my passport to be processed.
I am in trouble. I am in serious trouble.
NIS Office. Second Visit.
I have obtained the NIN.
I got the office at 12am. I still met some people already on the queue. It was an annoying morning. I lay outside the office in a sleeping bag my mother gave me. I initially did not feel like I needed the sleeping bag- I didn’t even want to take it from her. But lying out there in the cold, I was thankful I had it.
I assuaged my discomfort by making displeased tweets and watching Youtube videos of Goth music and Jeff Bezos.
I am back at the office of Mister Your-Husband-Needs-To-Be-Worshipped.
I am directed to another office.
I feel like a six foot plus tennis ball with arms and legs.
What sort of existence is this.
I am in yet another office.
A young lady is trying to sort out an issue.
Ahhhhh this one is not possible o! You will have to go back to Abuja to rectify this issue o!! Ahhhh!!
Apparently she is faced with a very formidable problem. She has to travel to the country’s capital to get it resolved. I feel bad for her.
Another official walks by. She quickly runs up to him. They head outside, and I think she whispers some things in his ear.
All of a sudden, this new official re-enters the room with a newfound sense of purpose and clarity.
Officer, put her documents in the corner. We will handle it, don’t worry.
I am entirely stupefied. Are we not talking about the severely formidable obstacle of a few minutes ago??
I don’t understand. How did the incontrovertibly impossible suddenly become a light breeze???
What in the name of God did this lady whisper in this guy’s ear????
I have been here since morning. Bouncing about like a bouncing baby boy. Look at how quickly this lady got her problem solved! Ahh!!!
What in the name of Obadiah is going on???
Can someone please let me in on this secret???
Apparently there is a Nigerian “Open Sesame” you can whisper in the ear of an Immigration Officer, which will automatically render the impossible possible.
Technical difficulties. Organisational bureaucracy. The invariance of the speed of light relative to the reference frame of an arbitrary observer. All of these phenomena completely disappear once you utter these magic words.
Ah!! There is a lot I do not know in life. There is a lot I do not know.
I have a lot to learn, Jesus. I have a lot to learn.
Microsoft has just notified me.
The conference has been converted to an online conference due to the pandemic.
There goes my motorbike road trip across the USA. East coast to West coast.
There goes the expense-paid flight tickets.
There goes the hotel room.
I have still not been able to extricate my new passport from the NIS. Even getting a US visa a few years ago, was not this difficult. How can getting a new Nigerian passport be more frustrating than getting a US visa? I don’t understand.
I do not understand at all.