Views expressed are my own and do not represent the Mandela Washington Fellowship program

I woke up in my hotel bed. By woke up, I mean I got out of bed because I hadn’t slept a wink. Imagine having gone through all the preparations and paperwork just to be denied a visa last minute. The thought made me weak.

At this point God was tired of my prayers related to the visa or the Consular but he was my only hope. You see, the Consular’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. If your visa is denied, you can’t reapply. Someone on the waiting list takes your place and all that you’ve done to prepare would have been for nought.

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I met the rest of the aspiring fellows in the lobby and we headed to the omnibus. We arrived at the US Embassy and went through security.

We sat in the waiting area. No one spoke. No one wanted to jinx anything. At this point, it’s safe to assume that everyone was communing with their respective higher power. Then the games began. First window 7 to submit papers, window 4 for fingerprints then the last window with the Consular.

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The questions were simple.
You’re going to this university?
Do you have family in the United States?
Do you live in Harare?
Please come collect your visa.

One after the other they were approved. I had hope.

Then I heard, “Thumb-elishe.” All hope was gone!

It was my turn.

Why did I wear heels? It’s hard enough keeping my knees from giving in. Now I have to worry about my ankles. If this doesn’t go my way, I’ll tumble like a tonne of bricks.

None of the other questions that I had heard, we went straight to the one question I was worried about.

“So you applied for a visa in 2015?” she asked.

“Yes I did,” I responded.

“You were going to visit an uncle?”

“Yes I was.”

“Can you write down his name for me?” as she slid yellow sticky notes under the window.

I was shaking like the patriarchal tables when feminists show up.

She started typing on the keyboard. I want to describe it as typing violently but my adrenaline might have been blowing things out of proportion.

She jotted some stuff down.

I was sweating boulders!

“Do you live in Harare?”

“Yes I do.”

“Your visa will be ready Tuesday 1pm. Monday is an American holiday. You can collect it then.”

I went straight to the bathroom.

This is where it gets really funny.

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So I get to the bathroom and it’s dark. I go to Window 7 to ask how I turn on the light. She chuckles and says it will switch on automatically once you walk in.


I walk in and handle my business. Then I hear a weird sound like a baby shrieking and the toilet starts flushing itself. I’m paranoid of the supernatural so my soul nearly left my body.

It’s funny now but it wasn’t in that moment.

Now that I have an American visa, it’s time for the Pre-Departure Orientation aka the PDO.