Thursday, August 06, 2009

Monkeying at the Office

It's hard to see his...ahem...bright anatomy in this photo, but I decided to allow him some privacy.

Today, as I was walking back to the office from the little hole-in-the-wall restaurant where I get peas and rice for lunch every day, I heard someone running up behind me. I turned to find a monkey had leapt up onto the wall next to me. With a brown body, black face and eyes ringed in white, its long tail curled down the wall. I was observing him from two feet away, when he turned, revealing bright, teal-blue testicles. Given the general dullness of his coat, it was certainly a surprise.

Soon, I found myself surrounded by a whole family of monkeys. They were swinging from the trees, running along the walls (which were topped with broken glass for security, but seemed to have no effect on the monkeys), and one that jumped down and walked next to me for a while before running off and jumping into a tree. I carry a camera for these moments, but of course, when I turned it on, the battery died. I managed to shake it a little and get it to turn on for a brief few seconds, during which I blindly snapped photos of one of the monkeys before it scampered off.

On another note, I have a visa update. The PAF finally found my file, and despite my having clearly stated that I wanted a one-month visa renewal, they gave me a 70-day visa. I had requested a multiple-entry visa, because I was thinking of popping into Rwanda one of these weekends, but have come to realize that I simply don’t have the time (partly because of work, partly because it took them so long to give me my visa). Now, they’re insisting that I pay a whopping $140 (this is in addition to the $80 I paid back in Washington), when I should be paying only $60. They’ve already written it in my passport, but I’m going to see if I can negotiate to have that cancelled and get the visa I wanted. (We’ll see how long that takes...and how successful I am.)

It seems rather strange to me that a country so starved for tourism and development aid charges unjustifiably high prices for visas. Rwanda, by comparison, allows free visas for three months to citizens of several countries, including the U.S., Canada, and the UK (but not France)—and it’s a real incentive for people who wish to volunteer or visit. I've been collecting my thoughts on the Burundi-Rwanda comparison, but those shall be reserved for a future post!


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