The queue was exceedingly long. I had woken up at 4am to be the early bird. That was never to be as by the time I arrived by 5am there were about fifty people ahead of me. It was extremely cold, the kind that gets under your skin and wreaks havoc with your sinus system.
Before leaving home, I had told myself that this was the day I was going to get a passport. My previous attempt had completely failed as I did not even get a chance to pass through the gate and be served. So on this day, my expectations were very high besides the damp weather that made the whole process difficult.
I was tired working for Amandwande Security. The pay was low, the hours were long. It was a drab existence. And if I was not careful, a day would come and I would fail to feed my family.
So getting a passport was my first step at a life long ambition of working outside the country. One of my cousins, Clement was working in South Africa. Come Christmas time, when the festive mood was at its peak, he would make the northwards trek back home. I always admired his fancy clothes and glassy shoes which sparkled like glass.
For someone who worked in the construction industry, on the menial side, he brought plenty of groceries for his family. I really envied him. All sorts of imagination flooded my head. I told myself that I could do better than him if I get the chance.
I had spent months serving money for this process. I was quite sure that my cousin Clement would take me with him back to South Africa after the festive season.
“You must have a passport if I must take you with me,” he had said on his last trip.
“But I hear others have no passports,” I had replied.
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“The life of a border jumper is full of uncertainties. Each time you see a policeman, your heart jumps out of your mouth with fear. You can be deported any time and any day,” he had said.
Little wonder I was in the queue for the passport that blistering cold morning.
I was determined that come the new year, I would join the great trek down south.
This was nothing new. Ever since the discovery of diamonds in 1887 and gold, our fathers and forefathers had made the great trek south. They had a name for it, “Wenera.”
More than 100 years later, the south was still attracting thousands of economic refugees and job seekers from all over the continent. Others would return back to their countries of origin, but quite a big number disappeared for good and were never heard of again. Their fate was to remain unknown forever.
The learned fellows always say history repeats itself. It is only the folly of men that we do not draw lessons from it.
I had told myself that nothing was going to stop me from getting a passport. I wanted a new beginning. The south offered vast opportunities for someone who was determined to work. I knew quite a number of people in the township who had crossed the boarders, either into Botswana or South Africa. It was not all of them who had passports . A majority were border jumpers. There were so called agents who assisted boarder jumpers, at a fee of course. It was too risk as some had to brave making the crossing across the crocodile infested Limpopo River. There were many stories of desperate people drowning and others getting trapped in the jaws of these man eating amphibians.
I did not want this dangerous route..
As I stood in the queue, I kept checking my wallet to see if my money was still intact.
Some people had put on a fire by the side of the road to keep the chilly weather at bay. The fire would give a strong blaze and then die down after a few moments. Someone had to keep throwing some cardboard boxes into the fire to keep it ablaze . The fire was tempting enough. I did not want to leave my position in the queue for fear of losing it.
By now it was around 6am at the passport office. There was still two good hours before someone from the department would come and count 100 people. This was the number that was served daily. I was on the safe side, fifty was a good number..
It so happens in life that when you want to do something so bad, time does not move but the moment you are doing something meaningful, time literally flies away. Such is life. On that cold morning, as I stood in the queue, shivering and my teeth chattering from the harsh cold weather, time seemed to sit still. In this kind of weather, one can actually freeze to death and depart this world..
At the beginning I had been taking my phone out from my pocket and check time now and again on the cracked phone screen. But with time, I no longer had the will nor effort to do so. Each time I took my hands out of my pockets, the cold weather cut through my fingers sharply.
By now there was over a hundred people in the queue behind me. It happened so suddenly. I had not noticed that the gate had been opened. There was a sudden rush of people and I was swept off my feet by the sudden rush of the people to the front. I lost my balance and fell. Someone stepped on my left leg and I felt cold excruciating pain. By the time I found my feet, I was right at the back of the queue. I tried to check my wallet to see if it was still safe. I pulled out my pockets in sudden dismay. My wallet and all the money had grown legs. I looked everywhere in case it had fallen down. There was nothing. I was in shock. I sat down stupefied. Was this a curse?
As I sat there, I could see my dreams evaporate. With the money gone, I could not get a passport. In the confusion, someone had stolen not only my wallet but my dream! The hard knocks of life a poor man receives are worse than the kick from a horse.
Onie Ndoro is a writer, educationist and IELTS tutor. For feedback: [email protected] Twitter: @Onie90396982 Mobile Number: 0773007173