Visa hurdles should be an Olympic sport

I guess I also need to write the obligatory Olympics reference blog post, so here it is, albeit in a round about way and it will of course have nothing to do with sports.

In Thailand there are two main school holidays in the year:

  • October: one month, starting from around 1 October until 31 October
  • March/April: two months starting from approximately the beginning of March until the end of April.

This means that I will have some time to kill when I won’t be busy teaching – hello travel!

I had it all planned out actually – 2 glorious months in Italy, living with an Italian host family, eating Italian food, practising the language I have been learning for the past 2 years with a captive audience. La dolce vita, ad nauseam. So I emailed the agency and they replied and advised that the visa procedure is too complicated if you’re not a citizen of the following countries:  the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand. Shit! Shit! Shit! There goes that plan. I will just have to settle for a normal holiday in Italy at some stage in the future.

The thing is I really wanted to immerse myself into a different culture and this bit of bad news did not deter me. So I emailed back and asked if Jordan or Turkey would be viable options for a South African citizen for the conversation corps program. Jordan is also a complicated no go but Turkey would be possible as long as I am not planning on staying for longer than 3 months. All of this is making me wonder why it is so hard for the rest of the world to participate in these volunteer programs. So for now my 2 month cultural exchange is on hold and I will instead focus on Thailand which I am going to anyway.

However, sometimes I do wonder if the world really knows where South African is, I’m hoping the 2010 Soccer World shed some light on us. We are so hidden away and so far down south that this poor Canadian guy, whom I met whilst on holiday, thought South Africa is in Nigeria. Or people have this vague notion that it is somewhere in the South of Africa, not realising South Africa is a country all on its own. Maybe I should just stick to visa-free destinations for South Africans and by that I mean countries where you receive your visa stamp upon arrival and no jumping through hoops required. I found this interesting article online a while ago that gives South African citizens destination ideas of ‘visa-free’ countries. I can work my way through these countries instead before trying to figure out how to work around the 90 day Schengen Visa, so not all hope is lost.

For now I am literally counting down the days with just a few more months to go before I leave and I decided I’ll just spend March and April in Thailand and enjoy the Songkran festival which is apparently epic water fights of note.


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