A Comedy of Errors: The Baku Edition – 2

Did I ever mention that time I had to attend a literature forum in Azerbaijan during my exams and there were no direct flights to Baku?

April 9, 2013:

GSW emailed me with the finalized dates that I had to be in Baku and guess what? It was going to be an ALL-EXPENSES-PAID trip. Get that? Everything paid for. EVERYTHING. They needed confirmation of my participation, how could I say no? Actually I could because remember how I said in the the previous post that my exams were in three weeks? My exam schedule was right in front of me as I slowly marked the days of the event on the calendar on the days I had my exams, there was an overlap with two of the papers. I might have felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, but I wouldn’t say that because:

A. a rock can be a hard place too, why discriminate against it?

B. It just sounded wrong tbh.

C. I wasn’t really stuck anywhere.

So I had a choice: I could either fly out, miss my exams and retake them when I return, or, I could forego this event, give my exams and just keep swimming like this particular individual here:

dory-486x326

 

The only problem was that IBA wasn’t letting me go ahead and skip an exam, even when I promised to give it when I get back, cuz dat aint how we roll homie. Excuse me, that was not deliberate. Basically the only way I could make it happen was by getting the official documents from GSW to show to the administration that I was not exactly going on a two-day vacation to ex-Russian territory. Simple? No. Why? Because I did not have the documents. Because you cannot start a sentence with because.

April 10, 2013:

GSW emailed me the official document, sent a letter to the Azerbaijan embassy and told me to get in touch with them for visa processing. I sent the documents to the IBA program director, who sent it to the associate dean, who sent it to the MBA office, who forgot about it.

April 14, 2013:

I emailed them again so they sent it to the associate dean who sent it back to me saying I needed the teachers’ approval. I emailed both the teachers who had the papers on Saturday, 27th April. They agreed to make separate papers for me to give when I returned, so I forwarded their blessings to the administration. Meanwhile GSW was pushing me to contact the embassy and also asked me for a hi-res photograph of yours truly, which I later found out was going to be a part of a catalogue. I would’ve hired a professional photographer and not cropped a random smiling picture from a vacation in Dubai if I had known the bit about the catalogue.

April 16, 2013:

My call finally got through to the Azerbaijan embassy based in Islamabad and where the operator promptly informed me that all visa applications are to be done in person. Also, the process would take two weeks apparently. Two weeks. Too much LOLs in my face.

I spoke to the GSW representative who told me that a letter had been sent to the embassy so I need not worry and just apply.

April 17, 2013:

I skipped classes that day and flew to Islamabad by the 7am flight to apply for the visa to Azerbaijan. My best friend sent her driver who I had no idea about but thankfully he saw the sign on my face saying ‘Blundering Idiot’ and brought me to her home safely. From there is took me an hour to reach the Diplomatic Enclave where I had to hop on a shuttle that would take another hour to drop off applicants to their respective embassies. The driver dropped a family of 9 at the US embassy, followed by a family of 5 at the British embassy, followed by a family of 3 at the Afghanistan embassy. He was happily on his way back to the shuttle port when I meekly asked him how far the Azerbaijan embassy was. Perhaps he thought I was part of the pathan or baloch families that had been dropped off earlier, although I highly doubt I have any resemblance to either of the ethnicities, but he did not understand how I came to be on his cruiser. Shaking his head in disbelief, he dropped me off at the imposing Azerbaijan embassy building where I entered, spoke to the Counsel General who could not believe I had been told to fly to Islamabad for this, promised me that the lousy operator would be dealt with and then took my documents and sent me on my way. Basically I was in and out in 5 minutes. Not more, not less.

A two-hour flight to another city, then a two-hour road trip to an embassy, to get done in 5 minutes. A trip that apparently was not even required. NOT REQUIRED. I did not have to skip my classes, I did not have to fly to the capital and get mistaken as the child of someone I do not even know, I did not even have to meet the embassy dude. I just had to send the passport and papers and chill out. BUT I DID NOT BECAUSE I WAS TOLD OTHERWISE BY THAT LOUSY OPERATOR WHO HAD BEEN DEALT WITH. I hope. I think. Maybe not. Ok no I don’t want him to lose the job.

So I flew back to Karachi at midnight and resumed classes, waiting for my visa that takes five days apparently. The event was in ten days.

April 18, 2013:

I still hadn’t booked my tickets in case the visa didn’t arrive in time, or if the exam schedule changed, meaning more trips to administration. Luckily one of the exams was moved earlier so now I just had one paper to take care of. The administration still had not given me a go-ahead that it would allow me to retake the examination, so the situation was still dicey, I suppose it is part of their agenda to train us in the art of dealing with difficult people. How else would my MBA degree be complete eh?

April 19, 2013:

I got the call that the visa had been issued, but since this was Friday, the earliest I could pick it up was on Monday, the 22nd of April. The event was starting on the evening of the 26th. *bites nails*

April 20, 2013:

I received an ominous email from the Head of Examinations at IBA summoning me to his office, with an eerily calm “re-takes are arranged by the Examination Office, if approved”, notice how the last two words are practically screaming at me in horror at my gall asking them to retake my exam?

scream

April 22, 2013:

Exams had started by then and I called in a favor to get my passport with the visa back to Karachi because the couriers would take two days.

I met with the Head of Examinations and can someone say Lucifer, because I totally felt like I was making a deal with the devil when I told him how lucky IBA was that it had me as a student, like, could it claim it had any other student going all the way to this tiny country for an event completely irrelevant to a business school? I think he was in a good mood because he said ok. Not that his face ever tells you a thing, it doesn’t, one might speculate that the lines in his face hint at digestive troubles but you would not hear it from him.

April 24, 2013:

By this time GSW was sufficiently panicked about my possible cancellation and a suggestion to laugh it off as a national characteristic was shot down because that is not how we portray our country. Nevertheless I called the travel agent in the middle of exams with instructions to book the fastest ticket to Baku without asking me too many questions. Also sent in my confirmation to the event organizers and let my mother pack my suitcase while I prepared for exams. Should’ve packed it myself.

The agent emailed me the e-ticket which I blindly handed to my dad as I aggressively crammed marketing strategies for dishwashing soap for my exam the next day. The exam was on Thursday evening. My flight was on Friday morning. The event started at 8am on Saturday. Cutting it close, yes we were.

You would suppose this was the end of my troubles.

The fun was only beginning.

*continued here*

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A Comedy of Errors: The Baku Edition – 1

Did I ever mention that time I had to attend a literature forum in Azerbaijan during my exams and there were no direct flights to Baku?

No? Let me tell you all about my misadventures in the Spring of 2013 when I did something I never imagined myself capable of doing even in my next incarnation. And no it is not singing in public because trust me THAT is never going to happen. Not even over my dead body, despite the fact that it would be physically impossible to do that actually.

Anyhow, so I dabble in poetry sometimes and given the fact I have a blog set up here I certainly feel myself capable of writing a masterpiece once in my lifetime just like the other 300 million or so bloggers out there. Eventually, some day, maybe. So my attempts at rhyming words was apparently good enough for an old professor of mine to be interested in; the said professor was a poet by passion and an educator by choice and had often joked about being the founder of the Noreen Qayam poetry fanclub…the punchline being that he remains the only member. During one of such conversations he had asked if I would travel for poetry to a far off land, I said sure if there’s a sale on shoes. Ha Ha I crack myself up. Not. This was way back in 2012 while I was probably more concerned about the amount of food left in the cafeteria for me to pay heed to his golden words, because they were going to change my life. Quite literally.

So in early February, the professor calls me up out of the blue with a mischievous “How would you like to go to Azerbaijan?”. Now while I was trying to string together a coherent reply to his very strange question, he proceeded to tell me about having been approached by an international organization who wanted him to nominate a female to participate in poetry forum in Baku. I’m pretty sure he mistook my bewildered “Baku?!” as “Why yes of course I would love to travel to a desolate void on the world map that not many people venture to!”. The very next day I received an email from a representative of the Great Silkway International Youth Union, asking me to send me a few of my details for further processing of my nomination. And so I typed a short response while scraping my jaw off the floor at the sudden realization that the professor was not actually pulling my leg. Thus began a conspiracy to make me have the time of my life and actually do something worthwhile with the pocketful of talents I might possess.

March 29, 2013:

After nearly two months of silence the GSW representative emailed me again, explaining how she had been waiting for the dates of the event to arrive for her to get in touch with me again. She needed me to send in a poem I had written in Urdu, along with its English translation so that they could short-list the candidate. The only poem I had ever written in Urdu was when I was 6 years old and its rough translation in English would be something like ‘I am a Barbie doll and I will eat your food…‘ So being the resourceful Pakistani that I am, I translated one of my English poems into Urdu and sent it off laughing to myself at the silly notion of competing with all the other authentic Urdu-loving candidates who probably quote Ghalib and Iqbal when talking about the weather.

April 6, 2013:

The GSW representative sent an urgent email asking for my passport scan because my poem had been selected.

MY poem.

MINE.

A poem written by ME.

So in that state of statelessness I answered her email, and while I was contemplating the many ways in which my identity could be stolen, she replied back with the confirmed dates of the event: April 26-29. Basically in three weeks’ time I was supposed to be in Baku.

I was still processing that when my inbox pinged again, this time from IBA with the mid-term examination schedule that I had forgotten about as completely as one forgets the hiding place of the secret stash of money we keep for rainy days.

My exams were going to start in three weeks. The same time as the event in Baku.Things had suddenly gotten very interesting.

*continued here*