This poor relationship began in Nairobi when we first entered the Ethiopian Embassy to apply for our visas. Our “application” was approved rather quickly but we were then told that we would have to pay $70 to enter, rather than the $20 we would have to pay if we flew. This is how the conversation progressed:
Consular Officer: Your application is approved, go pay $70 each at the bank and then come back with the receipt.
Us: We thought the fee was $20?
Officer: It is if you fly, or if you belong to ANY OTHER NATIONALITY IN THE WORLD, but as a big thank you to all the American tax dollars that are sent annually to Ethiopia by the CDC, USAID, HHS, and other sources we figured you could do without this money as well.
OK, he didn’t say that last part but that’s how we felt. Reciprocity for our insane visa process is one thing that we’ve learned to deal with, but this is not reciprocity, this is nothing but a big slap in the face, one that we didn’t appreciate. Of course, the story doesn’t end there. When we arrived at the border (driving in with friends) we had more fun:
Military Police Officer: Why did you drive past my road block?
There was no roadblock. The arm that was meant to stop traffic was located in front of the immigration post and was up, allowing us to pass. As the officer questioned us several other cars and motorcycles went past without stopping. As he continues his questioning a second man, wearing a Tommy Hilfiger shirt walks up to the driver side and demands our passports.
Us: We were looking for you, where is the immigration and customs offices, where do we go now?
Officer: Immigration is closed for 30 minutes, this man (motions to the man in the Hilfiger shirt) is from there and will review your passport.
Us: Where is your uniform, can we see your ID.
Hilfiger shirt: What, you think I’m a crook? Give me your passport. (A crowd gathers around the car)
Us: No but everyone is surrounding us, and you don’t have an ID or a uniform, how do I know you’re with immigration?
Military Police Officer: Go back to Kenya.
We eventually relented (we had no choice) and were allowed to park the car off the road and wait for immigration to open which was not a problem. Then the customs agent had to be called to the office – he was at home, where else would he be – to process the car. We then drove away and had our first Ethiopian food (which was quite tasty and cheap) and for a few short moments felt better about having gone through so much trouble to come here.
Then we found chewing gum had been placed on each of the 4 door handles to the car. Yeah….f*** you too, Ethiopia.