schengen visa

May 27, 2006

I am in Europe until August 2006; before my departure to Afghanistan I wanted to go and see my sister and her family in Nederlands. I have filled an application for a schengen visa in the royal Dutch embassy. This was a month ago. I have made such attempts before, but there was either something wrong with my invitation letter or my polish visa, the dutch only issues a visa if these are valid for three months at the time of applying.

First attempt was during the winter holidays a few months ago, but they rejected my application on the ground of not having the three month valid polish visa. This is while during the first six months of my stay in Poland, the polish immigration was only issuing me one month visa and that is after waiting in a queue of 30 people. I was spending two days every month to get my polish visa. I went to the immigration office to ask for a three month visa, but they said I can’t file two residency applications at the same time. They were processing my temporary residency card valid for five months. So I give up on Dutch visa.

Before the Ester holidays which was a month ago I asked my sister to send me another invitation, by the time it got through all bureaucracy and it reached me it was ten days later.
I thought since I have all the documents I might give it another shot and luck may accompany me this time.
The room was packed with a lot of Belarusian running away from an ugly dictator and Dutch provide them a safeheaven with better life. There are around 30 people in a 30m2 it was scorching and noisy, it resembled a prison cell but the inmates were not relaxed they weren’t as though they were going to stay there. They were all as there body was itching they all wanted to reach the officer desk. There are four cabins but there was only one woman and she was moving in between, she was doing the job of cashier, receptionist to hand out blank forms and interviewer. The room was full with the odour of sweat. it’s a glass room that is perhaps why it was so hot comparing to the outside, it’s a very modern room with those modern glass doors that you don’t know how to open there are four glass doors while one is required and visa applicants who usually comes from poor countries, as rich people of course don’t need visas, would inevitable trap themselves in between and it took me some time to make my way through them. The whole building is modern, the walls are made of tree-shaped metals bundled together and curves into each other; some are palm some are banana, but they are blue as oppose to natural green tree colour. I was surprised while I saw the visa section in one room; applicants were waiting, filling the form, paying the fee, getting the form and visa in the same room. I am sure Nederland could afford to make another room, I am not an architect but looking at the amount of money spent on the decoration of the building, if that money was spent on the visa section, you could easily make another room. Inside the visa room is also very modern, there are two huge post-modernist pictures of faces, played with very brutally in Photoshop, I easily spotted how they had used the liquidize, squash and stretch options. The colour effect was horrible, they look like a post nuclear radiation generation. My first impression was if it was reminding the Belarusian anything, I was wondering if it was reminding them the Chernobyl, a human catastrophe, seven million people who suffer from malbody shape, kids with four times bigger forehead than normal people whose parents either suffer blood or skin cancer, whose parents can’t go to the work and buy him medicine, because he can’t grow anything on the farm because the high radiation kills the plant and the soil and it will continue to do for another at least 900 years. The only way of survival is to live off 40 cent a day from the government to buy uncontaminated food. Pain is torturous for some people but exotic for other. The hardship and survival style of the poor inspires the glamorous art of the rich.

Half a dozen shabby Belarusians seemed more in pain, there fat bodies were occupying more space in the room and they were sweating more. Their skin was wet, they looked uncomfortable, it resembled as they had acid on their skin and constantly were using tissue paper or a piece of wet cloth to wipe off the sweat. in this world of 30m2 there were some people singly standing, frowning depressingly, at a corner of the room. There were also crowd of four to seven people in the corners of the room they were in circles and they whispering loud to each other, if it wasn’t in this room I would have thought that they are playing American football and they are planning an attacks. In this one team there was guys only wearing a waistcoat, some were wearing dutch sport cloth, one was orange with bold letters saying Nederland.
These guys were together because an employer in Nederland needed five cheap east European labour and found these guys and sent an invitation letter for four to be granted work visa in the embassy.
Women were separate in a corner of the room, four blond women were discussing something, and each of them took something out of their purse, an apple and some punchok. They were sharing it. One had a big plastic bottle of coke cola; they more often needed to go to the toilet. Every time you needed to go to the toilet you had to ask the visa section woman to open it, you were only able after her approval and her pressing some button.

There is an A4 size notice on the consulate window saying ‘if you volunteer to provide us with medical insurance of more than 25000euros we will probably issue you a visa tomorrow, this is if you submit all other documents’.
This explained why I saw some polish company brochures everywhere in the room. They were trying to sell health insurance.
I wanted to make some clarification to make sure I have the right insurance. But they closed they said there time is over and they don’t take anymore questions.
I dashed outside and tried to put this insurance together.

The next day I returned. Same thing, but new Belarusians, yesterday ones might have already been in Holland.
I waited for four hours until it was my turn, I happen to be the last person, although people who came after me made it before me. It’s the Belarusians who screwed me over. The clerk shouted something in Russian and I guess what she said: she asked how many people waiting.
And the Belarusians said six and I said no seven. The woman handed out a piece of signed paper. a Belarusian asked for some more and he distributed in the room and kept some for his mates who came later.
I had enough of it and I told this guy:

– Look mate, I have been here before you and I think it’s my turn
– He said: No you are the last.
– I said: what are you talking about I have been here before all of you guys.
– He said: but you are not whiting in the line.
– I said: I do, he said the line is here but you are standing over there.
– I said: what difference does that makes, we are not waiting in Red Army queue. I am here and I wait; we don’t have to be in one line.

Once this didn’t work he said, but can I go first because I have something urgent in an hour which I have to get to. I wanted to tell him that I had a class in an hour and many other things. I wanted to tell him that it was such a bullcrap to ask people if you could go first because you have some thing to do. We are always in a rush and everyone has something to do. But I said fine you go ahead, because I knew he was not going to give up he was determined to go first. And I knew it was going to turn out like one of those many instances where you are the minority and a majority who support their member unjustly and blindly. Six other Belarusian already started murmuring and they were establishing that I was an asshole. This is not about this room; this is how life in Europe is if you don’t have a European passport.

The next person wanted to go and I said “oh, no dude. It’s my turn”.
The clerk said: “give me your paper.”
I give it to her; she showed me the number on it and it was saying ‘seven’ while the other guy was ‘four’.
I realised when the clerk handed out the signed papers it was actually numbers and the Belarusians decided to give me the last number.

I submitted everything, except she didn’t like my photo and she made me to go and get another one with 75% of my face. I had to be back in an hour before they close. That was quite a race. After I delivered my new photo she asked me to come tomorrow at three.

The next day the room was packed and yesterday applicants were receiving their visas. She shouted out my name but she pronounced it really bad. In polish they read Sanjar; like sanyiar. So I missed it the first time; I went closer to see my picture or passport and I managed to spot it, she pronounced the name wrong again.
I got my passport but there was no visa.
I said: “where is my visa”
– and she is: “we are not going to give you today you have to wait two to three weeks.”
– I said: “but why? Everyone else is getting their visas”
– and she said: “We have to run a background check on you at the ministry of foreign affairs”.
She said I have to call in three weeks.

This is still fine and I thought if I get the visa on 22 or 23 then I can fly out on 26 and get to see my sister for a few days before her departure to Kabul on 29. I purchased a non-refundable but cheap ticket on 26. I called the embassy on 23 as 22 was a holiday and they said your visa is not yet here. He asked me if my host in Nederland has been questioned by ministry of foreign affairs and I said it was a week ago and they delivered all the required documents.
I asked him if he could advice anything, what shall I do with the ticket? He said he can’t dare to say anything. I said you have the experience of working in the embassy and there must be precedents. “Please, help me”.
– He said: I should call again before 26 to see if my visa is there. I also sent him an email, which he didn’t reply to.
It turned out that the embassy was not working on 24 and 25 was a Dutch holiday. Now it’s the 26th and I can’t go to see my sister. I am stuck in Warsaw. I paid 60euros to change my flight to July 24th, when my sister returns to Nederland; returning back to Warsaw on the 3 of august.

But I just realised that my polish residency expires on July 31 and I can’t return here to catch my flight to Kabul. Now I have to pay another 60 euros to change it to some other dates. Nothing can be planned; there are so many things which could go wrong. Maybe the visa is only valid for one month, I didn’t ask for it, but what I ask or didn’t ask for doesn’t matter it depends what they issue me. If it’s less than three months I can’t use it because my sister is going to be in Kabul for a month then I have a conference and faculty diploma jury panel to defend my thesis and exams. Maybe I wasted so much of my time for nothing I missed classes to file application I spent a lot of money on the tickets and visa; but I won’t be able to use it. There are so many things that could go wrong. It’s very frustrating, because I know they make up all these regulation to make you not to travel but you can’t do much because everybody accepts it. You can’t say it’s unjust and irrational because its part of a process and it’s hidden in bureaucracy.
The good old John Locke said: all persons have natural rights just because they are human beings. Everyone is born with these rights. No one can take these rights away and they include: the right to life, property and liberty. The right to liberty is to be free. It includes what you want to speak and travel wherever you want to go.
This sounds logical but not necessarily practical.


i am a terrorist

May 27, 2006

I am a terrorist… I am a personal terrorist … I use terror tactics to scare myself and so sabotage my progress. So by being a terrorist I often never attain the goals I want to reach and can do easily. I haven’t yet figured out what goes wrong.
So what form of personal terrorism do I practice? I am afraid of failure and yet I am an efficient person, when it comes to helping others I am a pioneer. I volunteer to talk about my neighbours or the attitude of the bus driver or the baker for an hour. As a habit I need to visit some friends or relatives everyday. It’s my very strict religious duty to distribute part of my wealth to the poor, no matter if they deserve or not as a matter of fact the distribution system is decided by someone else.
It doesn’t finish here. There are other codes of morality in the society too. I am strictly obliged to be hospitable, generous, aggressive, protective of my wife, sister and mother.
I terrorize myself by constantly letting other people’s feelings and anticipated feelings come first. The more I do this the better person I am accepted in the society. am I a martyr because I have always lived for others and therefore avoiding painful situations and am seen by others as a good person? I even don’t know how to enjoy myself without doing something for others. As a matter of fact I don’t know if there is anything I could do for myself. I tend to feel selfish If I do something I want to do, and even that is not enough the moral orders of society make me feel not only selfish but terrorized.

My terror started long ago when I was a kid; it started when I was a little boy. By the time I was six or seven, I had lost something very important. I didn’t know I had lost it, nor did I know what it was, and it was a very long time before I knew. But what I had lost was my mother. I didn’t know I had lost her because she was still there. But I had lost her because she had stopped being my mom. She became an embroiderer. Traditionally in our family, a girl can’t get married before she learns how to do embroidery and sewing, and every mom in the family knows how to do it.
She had to do embroidery so she can sell it to Agha Badar across the street. Agha badar is a tall man with long beard and light skin. He comes from Kandahar.
Agha Badar had a big gold ring with a piece of diamond sparking on it and a yellow watch on his rest. I always liked to run to his shop and ask him for time. Agha badar owned the only watch in my street and everybody was coming to him for time.

When playing with the boys on the street I was hearing rumours that he has big businesses abroad and he exchanges the embroidery for foreign currency.

This was all rumours, but what I knew for sure was that he was always praised by my mom for being a respectable person who always helps others and he doesn’t care about his well being and comfort. I remember my mom was saying that Agha Badar has some money to support himself without working but he chooses to help others.

My mom didn’t have the money to buy the materials and tools to do her own embroidery and sell it for a higher price. Even if she had the money the materials and tools were hard to get around my village. So Agha badar was a good person, because he provided the tools and materials and a reliable market for selling embroidery products. He was also putting orders for more and more embroidery, he also was supplying the designs and colours he needed every week. But in exchange for all this he was buying the product for 50% of the price.

I also heard that foreigners liked to wear hand made embroideries from Afghanistan.
I never understood “why?”. Apparently, they thought it was fashionable. That made me more confused; I thought it was the tradition of my village and it’s only fashionable here. One day I thought so and I run home and asked my mom.

– Mom, is embroidery the tradition of our village?
– Yes, of course it is. That is why I know how to make it and so does every other woman in the village.
– Then can I have a new embroidered dress?
– I will make you one day.
– can I have the one you are working on?
– no this is not for you. This is not for the village.

I soon learned that my mom would never be able to make me embroidery; she was too busy sewing for Agha Badar. She was sitting by the flickering oil lamp until mid-night sewing. In the morning her nose and eyes were black like the factory chimney. So was every body else. In the dark long winters we closed all air holes to protect ourselves from bitter winter. In a way the black thick smoke was appealing it kept us warm but black the next day.
In the summers it was better; my mom was sitting on the roof under the moon light and sewing most of the night. This way she could have saved the oil for cooking. But I hardly remember any hot food, first she couldn’t make time for cooking and every once in awhile when I asked for food she was telling me there is not available in the village to cook. So all I had was bread, and in the evenings with grounded garlic in salty hot water.

From time to time I was thinking about the embroidery and the kind of people who would wear them. I was wondering about what they do and I often thought if they were bothering to think who make their fashionable clothes.

My mom started the embroidery after my father’s death; after she had to support our family.
One day four men delivered a bed covered with white clean sheet to our house as soon as my mom saw it she knew what has happened, she started weeping loud, grabbing and pulling her hair, I never seen her so emotional before.
Neighbours started to visit my mom and in every visit my mom had to repeat the same torture. She had to go through the same process of deep grievance and stress. To my total surprise all the neighbours were also doing this with my mom. It was like the whole village was trained how to make themselves deeply upset and how to help others become sad by spreading their grievances. First I thought my dad’s death meant he went to a long, deep, clean sleep somewhere; especially when I saw the men taking him out in the same bed with the white sheet on it and some red tulips too.

After a few months I realised that no one in the village, neither my mom herself, tries to get out of mourning and continue with her life. In fact she and everybody else wanted her to be sad and it was the best to show her caring toward my dad.
I doubt if my dad wanted to kill my mom emotionally by his physical death.
I sometimes think I have inherited from my mom; the will to sacrifice my desire in order to meet others anticipations.
In my highly stratified village, with very little opportunity for people to move out of their given social positions, when you are to mourn you should only mourn in the village way, there is no other way. a code of rights and duties serves the village which at least serves to curb some excesses, and to mitigate the effect of domination. I was not sure whose domination is served by my mom’s behaviour. Maybe Agh Badar had a benefit. Maybe all the men of the village.
I was depressed as I saw there was no possibility for my mom to go outside it; and raise any question of the village in am more fundamental way. It was inconceivable for my mom to negotiate with Agha Badar. The question of needs and interests can’t be brought to the open in my village.

In my village there seems to be many situations where people resort to moralistic considerations about what they ought to do in relation to others, when it would be perfectly possible to consult those others about what they actually want.

Then I started to see more and more men in the village going to sleep and they were carried out of the village on a bed with white sheet and red tulips. The same process of moaning was repeated over and over again. After the moaning the lives of women had totally changed; they transformed into depressed creatures. I was really surprised how everybody reacted the same way to mourning and lost of their loved ones. Later I came to realise if these women continue with their normal life and with their own way of dealing with the crisis; the village can’t tolerate that, there was not enough room for everybody to be themselves. I started to understand how the moral order worked.

As I was growing up my thought were evolving. First I thought my dad was asleep then I was convinced he is in a secret place, then I liked to believe he has joined his soul and is in another parallel world and finally I just accepted the termination of his physical existence. But it’s weird that everybody in the village no matter how old they are they all think my dad is living with the angels.

With the increased number of deaths in my village more and more women had to do embroidery to support their families. There were more cloths than Agha Badar could sell to the rich foreigners, one day Agha Badar said the foreigners don’t want to buy them in the usual price so he had to bring it down. Every body was sad at the beginning but they started to get used to it as Agha Badar was buying it cheaper and cheaper; and one day everybody decided to stop doing embroidery because they couldn’t make enough money. Instead they started waving carpets. My mom started to make more money again. But it didn’t take that long until the carpets lost its profit too. Agha Badar was saying the foreigners still like our carpets but it’s not something they can consume everyday.

One day my mom wanted to talk with me. We were sitting in our garden. Her hands were shivering, her eyes were flat and watery, she was pale, her cheeks had lost its colour, she was covering her head with a piece of very old scarf. She started:
“You know I am old now I can’t do embroidery or waving anymore. My eyes can’t see, my hands don’t help me anymore. But I still have to bring some food for us.”

She was really looking worn out and old, but my mom wasn’t old, she was seventeen when she got married and it was twelve years ago. She started to believe she has no control of the difficult situation anymore, she showed more emotional stress than ever before; more than when she believed its all going to be over soon. My dad’s death and support of the family caused my mom to face the difficult situation of life and experience a more intense shock of life as more uncomfortable than before.

She asked me to find a job and help her support the family.
This is the day when my mother becomes my daughter whom I had to look after her and be responsible for her. This meant that I had to be very old, almost as old as king Zahir shah, who also had daughters. And I had to look after the young little boy as well. Of course I didn’t want to be an old man because it made me very anxious. But I became two people in one, a young little boy who wanted his mother, and an old little boy looking after his mother/daughter.

I had no skill and no idea of what to do, the only thing I had was the blessing from my mom, and she blessed me clearer in spirit, simpler in thought, greater in love, more confiding in hope more ablaze with faith more humble in spirit.

The village was brining up a new generation of teenagers after the war, whose fathers were dead in the battle and whose mothers were dead in their very alive bodies. some modification in the village culture came about in response to variation and destruction of village agricultural and irrigation system, the fortitude of villagers, and the discovery and adoption of some new material technique like the carpet waving. This is not the end of it; the air of the village was filled with smoke of the war and the rooms were dark and filled by the thick smoke of oily lamp and sadness.

The teenagers decided to revive the agriculture and resort to the pre-war condition of their fathers. But it wasn’t possible in the short term, to live the teens started to grow poppy. It was introduced by Agha Badar, he said the foreigners will buy the product at higher price and it is not like embroidery or carpet. The market for Heroin is unsachetable, because there is always more and more need for it. This started to become a single social life-world. A single framework of shared meanings; a single way of agriculture and survival. All the social practices, both those which we describe as having mainly instrumental function (such as procuring food and shelter) or those primarily expressive (such as music or story-telling) fitted together into a single pattern. The symbolic structure of myth and religion helped to make the fears, tension and contradiction of poppy cultivation acceptable in daily life. Then the interpretation was not enough and using the religious myth my village started to promote the open expression of emotions. Hyper emotionality replaced some other expressive instruments such as music and story telling. Emotionality banned music in my village.

This is when the terror got deep in us; I was not the only terrorist in the village. All of us shared the same faith, and terror didn’t remain a personal issue. We started to terrorize each other. Village control was a collective principle and responsibility; the principle sanction of action was shame, a public loss of face. There was no internalised sense of ought. Punishment became a collective action for losing the face of guilty.