So apparently my golden ticket is not so golden. This morning I went to the Senegalese consulate to inquire about visas, since they are not required for visits of fewer than 90 days but I may want to stay beyond that.
It was quite a surprise to be told that the visa is the least of my problems. Once in Senegal I can visit the immigration office at any time to apply for a visa… but I will not be allowed in the country – or for that matter, on the plane – if I show up to the airport without a return ticket.
I spent about twenty minutes trying unsuccessfully to ascertain whether “return” meant going back to the country of origin, or onward travel to any destination outside of Senegal. The two people I spoke with consulted about the nuances of this question and I could not follow along in the least (nor could they give me a firm answer in English). At first I thought they must be speaking Wolof, but I kept hearing words that, if pronounced entirely differently, would have sounded like French to me. This led me to wonder, not for the first time, whether Senegal is actually the best place for an American to learn French. But I’ll table that question for now in favor of the bigger issue.
As it turns out, you can’t just buy a one-way ticket somewhere and promise them at passport control that you will definitely leave within the time allotted to you. I feel pretty naive for making this little faux pas, but I’m not entirely sure how best to correct it, since I have no idea when I want to leave Senegal nor where I want to go next. I don’t want to book an arbitrary placeholder return ticket and change the date and/or destination later, because that will cost money that I haven’t budgeted for this particular use. But it looks like that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do.
Looking forward to spending the next eight hundred hours on the phone with United…
[Photo: Eva Holm]