You crushed my dream today, one I’ve waited for for five years. It was going to be a stupendous day, when the fighting to stay with my husband was finally over. When the three month visas, desperate border-hopping, long stories for the immigration officers, years of putting life on hold because life revolved around visas, came to an end. I figured it would be a day to celebrate, a new holiday to observe each year; the day I got domicile in Namibia. That day has now come and gone, and it turned out to be, after all that dreaming, nothing at all worth celebrating.
Please note, Namibia, that Dictionary.com, my official dictionary since the one I had in the States was too heavy to schlep over here, has two definitions for the word “domicile”:
1. a place of residence; abode; house or home.
2. Law. a permanent legal residence.
This piece of paper from your Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration has given me neither.
The cream color and ribbed texture give it a deceiving air of importance, as if it were something I should treasure for the 8 months that it is good for. The words emblazoned across the page – unity, liberty, justice – beneath your country’s coat of arms, apparently do not apply here; they only mock me as I read what I was given.
You could’ve saved your money, Namibia, and just given me a stamp in my passport. Then I could’ve saved my money on those photos you required, now attached to the bottom, and would not have had to walk around Windhoek all day with a purple thumb, after you took my thumbprint, too. These pieces of identification aren’t necessary, anyway. If anyone is going to go through the effort of stealing an identity document, they’re going to go for a legitimate Namibian ID, or something that will actually allow them to stay in the country.
The only good the photo and thumbprint actually do, is to add to the official appearance of the paper, which has less worth to me than its own receipt. With that, while you processed my application, I stayed in Namibia for a year and a half.
The point was driven home when I was handed an application to reapply for domicile upon my exit. Besides the ludicrousy of reapplying for something that is supposed to be permanent, it happened to be the very same form I’ve filled out for years, asking you to let me stay. It meant, for five years, you and I have gone in a big, exhausting, expensive circle and achieved exactly squat.
The real irony however, is that, like many countries, you are belligerently fighting foreigners like me for fear we will take jobs away from proper citizens. In reality however, we provide loads of them. The amount of people employed at the airport and border crossings to hassle and interrogate me, and at the ministry to review my relentless applications for months on end, to take my money, take my picture, take my fingerprints. These people would constitute a small army. Yet, if this time and energy was instead focused on providing productive work for Namibians, not harassing folks like me trying to make a life for themselves, and better the lives around them in the process, we would all be moving forward, not ending up back where we started.
In a shrinking world, fighting foreigners is futile. Let it go, Namibia. Let’s give people reason to celebrate.