I'm back in Toronto right now and thought I'd write an update about how things are going. In short: Shitty.
This interlude was meant as a time for me to come back and sort out all the things we didn't have time to confront / organize / take care of before our extremely fast departure to Kigali in June. It's turned out to be a time of uncertainty, disappointment, stress and extremely high temperatures (thanks Toronto). I've managed to do little more than sweat, drink a lot of wine and sit around in the most minimal clothing possible while trying to push down the sinking feelings that things aren't going to work out and we're going to go bankrupt.
When we first talked to MASS about coming, they assured us that the work visa was a painless, fast procedure because of Jed being an architect (one of Rwanda's "in-demand" professions qualifying for a special H1 permit). Our own research online seemed to confirm this. As long as we had all the paperwork in order, the department of immigration should process the visa application in a mere 3 days. That's got to be some kind of bureaucratic record!
Upon arriving, Jed was told *not* to apply for his work permit until the contract for the project he was hired for was signed and sealed. It seemed sensible at the time... but as weeks dragged on without a signed contract for the project, we began to get worried. With only a few weeks left before returning home Jed was told to 'get going' on his visa (actual words...) without the signed contract (as if he was the one who'd been dragging his feet).
More and more complications arose as Jed prepared to take his application in. People in the office started mentioning mysterious documentation that was 'required' (though not listed on the immigration website). Other factors, such as a start date too far away from the time of application and a potential penalty for not having applied for the work visa within the first 2 weeks of arrival started plaguing us. Jed decided to instead request an extension of his tourist visa and apply for a multi-entry 90-day visa instead.
Amongst all this, we've been trying to communicate as much as possible via shitty internet and figure out where we will live when we return in August. We have found a great place and we're ready to put a deposit on it... when Jed's boss gave the ominous advice not to sign anything, since Jed might not get his work permit.
We've been operating (perhaps naively) on the good faith that if MASS was prepared to bring Jed to Rwanda and to offer him a job with the expectation and understanding that I would come too (giving up my own job in the process), that they would be taking care of the visa. They have done this before - they should know how it works. Until this point we had been feeling more or less confident that, in spite of the crappy advice we'd gotten so far, someone knew what they were doing and we were confident about procuring all necessary permits for us to return.
But when Jed told me this, I felt defeated (...and full of rage). We've given up *everything* about our lives in Toronto; our jobs, our family, our apartment - and I'm in the process of getting rid of all our worldly belongings. We've spent our entire savings on plane tickets, moving, storage, and preparing to put a deposit on a house in Kigali. More than all this, we've mentally committed to living in Rwanda with all its quirks, frustrations and challenges. We're both willing and ready to do it - and now it seems like it could all be for nothing.
I'm sharing this even though it's difficult to put it out there. No one wants to share the negative parts of life but I'm hoping that this experience can be helpful to others.
Jed's having a discussion with the head office tomorrow to try to hash out how this is all going to work (best + worst case scenarios) and I'm prepared for anything. Will this be the end of the blog? I'll let you know... For now I'm trying to zen out on my front porch as the sun goes down and the heat abates.