Note: this is the experience of one American Peace Corps Volunteer, so if you are an expat from another country living in Ethiopia, it might be a little different. I’ve tried to address the differences here but it doesn’t hurt to call. The Consular General at the Embassy was SUPER helpful!
Before You Go
- Fill out the application form at http://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/
*make sure to upload your scanned passport photo or you will be rejected!
- Print it out and sign the first AND second page
- Paste (with glue) your passport photo to the upper right of the first page in labeled space
- Get copies of the following:
- Red ID (or other resident ID if you have one)
- Yellow Card (including pages with yellow fever and OPV vaccines)
- Bank book
- Flight information (specifically return flight)
- Hotel information
- Form for foreigners living in Ethiopia (pick up at the Embassy and fill out ONLY if you don’t already have a resident ID, this does not apply to PCVs)
- Have 1720 birr exactly per application (no change to be had!)
- Bring these all to the Embassy (and don’t forget your passport)
Getting to the Embassy
It IS possible to get to the Indian Embassy by line taxis and really not that difficult. Take any line taxi to Arat Kilo and pick up a line taxi headed toward Meganegna. On the left you’ll pass a neighborhood that is below street level. Waraj after you pass the neighborhood on your right (on the left will be a tall white hotel) and turn right down the paved street. You’ll see a sign pointing down a diagonal road for the India Embassy. The Embassy is at the end of the road. Knock at the gate to be admitted!
Arriving at the Embassy
Once you arrive at the Embassy, you’ll drop all electronics off at the guard house, sign in and get a number (on your visitor pass). Leaving the guard house, you’ll walk toward the building. The consular section is the open door on the right. When you walk in, sit down and wait. The one consular officer will call numbers out (on your visitor pass). When your number is called, go up and hand over your application. The officer will then let you know what he needs to see next and ultimately ask you for the payment. He or she will hand you a sort of receipt that you must have to pick up your passport. Don’t lose it!
If you are number 35 and they are only calling 8 when you arrive, don’t fret. Many of the visitors are there for other reasons or just to pick up passports, so it will go quickly! My first experience was when they were on number 1 and I was 23. It wasn’t too bad.
I had to go to the Embassy twice since the first time the application wasn’t complete. The first time was on a Monday and I arrived exactly at 9:30 am and was given number 23. I wasn’t called until past 11 am and didn’t leave until almost 11:30 am. The second time I arrived at 9:55 am on a Wednesday and was given number 23. I was called by 10:10 am and out of there by 10:20 am with a successful application! Of course, your mileage may vary but it pays to go in the middle of the week if you can.
- You can arrive before 9:30 and get a number
- You are allowed to drop off and pick up for friends (just make sure they’ve signed all the forms!)
- You can pick up your passport after the number of days (3-5 later) that is written on your receipt. You collect your visa from the guard house between 4:30-5pm.
- If possible, don’t request a visa much more than a month in advance of travel. PCVs in the past have been able to get a visa more than a month in advance by explaining they don’t live near Addis and won’t be back beforehand. However the Embassy prefers to issue them less than a month in advance if that is feasible for you.
- It’s important to remember that your visa will likely only be valid for three months from the date of issue. You CANNOT get tourist visa extensions for India so plan accordingly!
Last summer, I talked a bit about doing Gondar Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). I served at the Camp Director of the fourth iteration of Gondar GLOW and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my service. Meanwhile in Tigray, a group of PCVs was hosting the second Camp GROW (Growing and Renewing Our World) to take place in Ethiopia that focuses more on caring for and appreciating the world. It’s the only one we’ve got so we might as well love it!
Myself and a couple other volunteers thought it was a brilliant idea and decided to bring Camp GROW to the Amhara region. For the past year, we have been creating an entirely new camp model. Instead of being based on a university campus–usually outside of town and quite isolated–we thought it would be lovely to hold camp in the center of a small town. We chose Addis Kidam, the site of my friend and fellow G8er Amanda. There is a local NGO in her town started by Dr. Tilahun Zeweldu called Northwest Investments (NWI) that has a strong dedication to improving the lives of the community in a sustainable way.
I’m proud to say little over a month ago, 51 students from all over Amhara gathered for the first Amhara Camp GROW!
It was a massive undertaking as we had almost 80 people there at one point (including guests and guest speakers). Dr. Tilahun donated his community center in the heart of town for the 8 days of camp and we turned the six classroom, one meeting hall into a place of learning and fun for the week. The classrooms downstairs were turned into dormitories for the students and counselors while all the programming took place either upstairs in the meeting hall or outside.
At first the kids complained about the rough conditions, lack of electricity, rainy season weather and the fact that they were having the do real work outside (digging, planting, collecting trash, etc) but by the end of the week they were proudly showing off what they’d learned to about 200 members of the Addis Kidam community! These teenagers were telling older, well respected members of the community what a composting toilet or double-digging is! Amanda has a beautiful write up of the community fair here.
Not only did we want the camp to be sustainable through community involvement and a strong partner in NWI, but we wanted it to be healthy for the students and end up with little to no waste. First of all, Amanda’s G10 sitemate Ellery did ALL the cooking (read about her perspective here) and provided a variety of healthy, nutritious meals for the students. Cooking for 80 hungry people every day is no easy feat, yet Ellery managed to do it three meals a day for the eight days. We also collected the students leftover food after each meal and at the end of camp we had less than an injera platter of wasted food! Compared to camps past this was an incredible feat.
Here is a not so tiny list of what we accomplished during the week:
- Creating a small tree nursey
- Learning about and creating a permagarden
- Using tippy-taps to conserve water during handwashing
- No water bottle waste! The students refilled their water bottles with filtered water and then built a bottle brick bench with the bottles
- A nature walk at Lake Zengena crater lake
- Building a composting toilet (or three)
- Learning about the science of soils
- Cooking more nutritious dishes
- Creating their own herbal salves
- Designing an urban/container garden using waste materials
- Learning what leadership means and how the students can be leaders
- A community trash clean up
- Creating art from trash
- Having constructive free time where the students learned about environmental jenga, science experiments, music, the family planning game and coloring their own versions of The Giving Tree and other books
- Designing a “Bring It Home” activity in conjunction with the counselors from their town
- The first-of-its-kind community fair!
We could not have done this camp without a small grant from USAID’s Feed the Future initiative to help us purchase supplies and hold the planning/post-camp monitoring and evaluation meeting, but it truly was a combined effort from the community, our partner Northwest Investments and Dr. Tilahun, our counselors (both Peace Corps Volunteer and Ethiopian counterparts) and the students. The first Amhara Camp GROW was a huge success and I know that I hope to see it for many years to come.
The days are swiftly counting down. I spent the last week in Addis at a Cross Culture Committee meeting and doing my COS medical. The next time I will be in Addis, I’ll be leaving Ethiopia for good. Every time a doctor or other PCV would ask me, “When do you go home?” and I’d respond casually, “Friday night.” They’d stare at me in shock and say, “You’re going back to America on FRIDAY?” Oh, you meant that home.
It’s hard. As excited as I am for the next phase of my life, Ethiopia HAS been my home for the past two years. As much as I struggle at times with how to talk positively about my service and my experience here, it has been my life. It’s hard to process what exactly leaving means. I’m paralyzed by my inability to describe my end of service and I feel that has been reflected in my lack of posting lately. I have SO many things to talk about, like Camp GROW and Morocco, but I just feel frozen. Maybe they won’t be my best work, but I’ll try to get at some some words out.
This past month, this got very real. We bought plane tickets out of Ethiopia. We booked hotels in India. We got Indian visas. This big trip is so close.
We arrive in India before dawn on Christmas Eve and, if all goes according to plan, will arrive in the beautiful south Indian state of Kerala on Christmas morning. It will be my third Christmas away, but my first with my fiance! Then after five weeks in India, we’ll continue our travels according to the plan we decided on months ago. I’ll be landing in my hometown in less than 6 months, 30 months after leaving in September 2012. Crazy.
I mentioned above I’m having a hard time talking about my service lately. Stay tuned for updates on Camp GROW, Morocco and maybe even COS Conference in the coming weeks!