July 22, 2019
I got it! I got it! I got it! I got it! I got it! I got it! I got it!
That is the refrain playing through my head. I still cannot believe that I got this infamously difficult visa. The rumors on traveler grapevine of Tashkent having a higher success rate has proved to be true, at least for me.
Applying here and told to come back in ten business days, I was still skeptical. Hanging around in Samarkhand, chatting with overlanders, the talk naturally turns to this visa. Tales of being denied with no explanation are widespread. Tall tales abound as do stories of being denied entry and being stranded in no-man’s land between borders. Yikes! Unlike some nationalities who don’t require visas, I have a single-entry visa to Uzbekistan; it is not as if I can turn back and re-enter the country.
So, it was with hope judiciously mixed with a dash of skepticism that I went to the embassy. Friendly-face plastered firmly in place, I walked up to the window. The man behind the glass wall looked through his binder once, twice and then double-checked my name. He was shaking his head. My heart sank. My friendly-face faltered as I tried to read his expression.
Then he looked up and asked “Transit?”
“Yes” I said, the lead ball of my heart rapidly morphing into a balloon doing a steep upward swing. Maybe there is hope yet.
“Ah” was the response as he went to a table at the back of the office and came back with a piece of paper.
“Okay” he said, “you sign here and here and here.”
After signing my life away, paying the requisite fee, leaving my passport, I was told to come back at 4 pm. Never satisfied with what I have, I pushed my luck as usual. Begging-face on, I asked for seven days.
“No, no, no madam!” was the instant response. “It is fixed; five days only. You want?”
“Yes, yes, I want. No problem, five days is okay” I replied hastily, lest they change their minds.
Back at 4 pm, the same man did not even ask to see my receipt. He pulled out my passport from a pile and there is was – a Turkmenistan visa. My ear-splitting grin said it all as I thanked them profusely. The little jump up and down underscored my delight. Grinning like a fool, skipping down the sidewalk, I sang out greetings to everyone I passed on the street much to their amusement. I am over the moon!
This has been a golden summer. The Pakistan visa that took me the better part of three years, Afghanistan and its dangerous travel and now Turkmenistan – places that I thought I would have to give up on but somehow, they all fell in place. Who knew that 2019 would really be the year? This summer is going to be hard to beat, if not impossible.