There was a silver lining arriving in Baku ahead of schedule. I was able to hit the Uzbekistan embassy before the weekend, and the three-day holiday that would follow, as Ramadan drew to an end. As it is, the embassy is only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Carol accompanied me dead on ten, and we greet the local police, held up in their 3×2 metre cabin, to the left side of the gates, “Salam”. “Salam” was the reply, followed by “Wait, five minutes”. It transpired that they were not quite ready to phone through to the main building, and needed more time, reclined in their plastic garden chairs.
With a loud electric buzz, the outer door unlocks and we step through, up a sharp staircase to a terrace and through the front door, which is unlocked. The inside of the building was bizarre. I had imagined an office type, set up with officials and well, office furniture and open space. Instead we stepped into a walled square, no more than 10 meters in each direction, a carpet hanging from the wall, an old sofa and not a soul in sight.
Straight ahead was a small window, a kitchen hatch, ¾ of the way down the wall, at the height of the individual seated on the other side. Which means, the visitor has to crouch significantly to make eye contact. It appeared to be a way to assert their authority.
An energetic and upbeat Asian man, lets call him Ted for simplicity, begins to discuss the visa. I provide the papers and stress urgency. I am polite but assertive. This visa is notoriously difficult, like all, in that they take their time processing it. Despite the fact that Carol and myself were the only visitors, and there seemed to be little occupying the officials on the other side of the hatch, I was confident that it would take hassling, to encourage the process along.
After suggesting that Carol bought a second hand bike and accompanied me to Uzbekistan, Ted quotes me a price for an urgent application and assures me he will do his best.
Monday, the embassy is closed. Wednesday I arrive with Amund in tow, to submit his application. I cheerily walk in, dressed in the same clothes from Friday to encourage familiarity, and greet Ted. As if it were cruel joke, he looks puzzled and asks if I want to make an application. I explain that we met on Friday, blah blah. He says to ring him on Thursday, and that he “will do anything for me.”
We return to the embassy in the afternoon, as Amund could potentially pick up his visa. Ted has yet again another puzzled look, and asks if we would like to make an application.
I’m starting to wonder if Ted’s memory is on the way out, or if he is simply, an expert at playing the embassy game.