Dear Sister {I am not cut out for espionage}

01 March 2013

Dear Sister,

So there we are, sitting in immigration for unending hours, our number just about to be miraculously called, when Matt has to leave. E is done with school in 40 minutes, and we are in the city centre, a 20 minute bus-ride away. He asks me, "Are you OK here?" and I'm all like, "What? Me? Me and the stress migraine? Yeah, sure, I'll be fine. What can possibly go wrong?"

This is all a part of moving to another country. Visas (or immigration bureau cards) have to be applied for, procured, renewed every year. It's routine, really. Except you gotta be specific, have to assure them we won't work here, that we live off of funds from the United States and won't be a drain on their own fragile State. There are words you should use, words you definitely cannot use, and then there's the fingerprinting. No matter how honest and upright we are in the citizenry department, I still feel like a criminal. I still feel like I'm in deep cover, using an alias. 

As it turns out, I am not cut out for espionage. I text Matt all panicky and maniacally. I forget I have a bank card. And the fingerprinting - done digitally - takes as I can't hold my shaky hands steady. I joke with the immigration officer about my dad being a policeman, how I should know how to do this, how it's really so crazy they can't get a clear image of my prints and we have to do them over 2, 3, 4 times. "I'm sorry," I say, "I really don't know what the problem is."

But today I remember, the hours we sat there with the television on. Sky News and the dragging of a man behind a police van. A police van. Images may be graphic, they say, but it's really the best way to get you to pay attention. You can't unsee this, is what they should say, as a crowd of men pulls him kicking and screaming, ties his hands behind his head, and attaches them to the bed of the van. It pulls away slowly, maybe to make sure he holds, I don't really know. Then it takes off, and the man - hands over his head and backside banging along a dirty South African road - is gone. He died in custody, they tell you.

And you, you just can't unsee that. In a room filled with immigrants, veiled and exhausted and babies crying under unfamiliar eyes, we all can't unsee that. And it's not until later when I think, maybe the others there, from every country and language imaginable, maybe they've been much closer than a television screen to that man on the South African road. Maybe that's why they're here. Giving fingerprints. In deep cover.

So no, Sister, for as much Alias as you and I have watched together, I'm just not cut out for espionage. Or international intrigue. Or torture. Or police with blood on their hands. But I am cut out for here, and for these people, and when he says, "You must've liked it well enough to come back here again," I say, "Yes. We love it." And my shaky fingerprint leaves a smudge.

I miss you. Hug dad.



A new series of posts entitled Dear Sister. I have four of them, each one unique, each brought to me in a different way (and now I realize I have so many more than four sisters, most of them brought to me directly by Jesus). I thought I'd write to them here... it'll save me a stamp. Plus, I get to make another button!


  1. Replies
    1. it was painful - though therapeutic - to write.

  2. I saw something once on TV. It was in a foreign language, to no explanation, but it still haunts me. We've been sent other links that I just refuse to look at. I don't need to know everything. My mind writes in permanent ink. I don't want to add horror I can't forget. What I have seen was bad enough to cope with when my husband was missing for four days.

    And on a different topic, you crack me up sometimes! I grew up in "espionage". I still live in it. I am good at it. Once I had a whole hour long conversation with an interrogator where I only stated the following information - but stated it many time in many forms all with a smile on my face:

    1. I am the daughter of my father.
    2. My father is the father of me.
    3. My father is not here currently.
    4. If you want to talk to my father, perhaps you should phone for an appointment so you can be sure he is here.

    Over and over we went. They tried asking all sorts of things. "In what capacity is your father here?" "Well, he is here as my father." "Well, what role do you play here?" "My role is his daughter." Big, innocent smile.
    Where is your father? "He is not here." "Where is he, though?" "I did not ask him where he went. He is not here. Does your daughter ask you where you go every time you leave the house?" Another lovely smile.

    I smiled. And I stuck to my four truths. Which I stated over and over with no embellishments.

    They finally left. I smiled again, and went to have a cup of tea and shake. To replay the whole conversation again in my mind and double check that I had said nothing but those four truths.

    But I grew up in it. I learned to force calmness and shake later.

    You made me smile today. I can just imagine you shaking there, and imagine what the finger-printers were thinking. I've also seen those lines from the eyes of those veiled who have reasons to fear. We are so blessed when "all" we have to worry about is our papers denied. Even if that happens, we go back to a safe place. Their reality is so different.

    Hoping all the paperwork works out. I so hate paperwork!

  3. Loved the story here. And your clear heart for these people.