Dear Sister, a repost {I am not cut out for espionage}

20 February 2014

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. 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 repost from February 2013, with some foreshadowing mixed in for good measure

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