How I got on my Journey to Sweden

To Stockholm

My road to Sweden started with a curious mind, and an email later, I ended up in Stockholm. Sounds pretty simple. But unfortunately, this is life, and nothing is ever that easy.

How It All Started

I love travelling and so I usually jump at any chance I get to travel. This time it was from some colleagues who had just come from Stockholm, Sweden through a partnership between my university and KTH University.

My curious mind at play, I asked the organizing lecturer what it took to get the chance. He told me that the faculty nominates people and also conducted interviews in the past. But he also said that he could nominate me if I wanted. To which I said, “Hell Yes!” without the cuss word out loud of course. 

I nearly forgot about it, in any case, it was just a conversation, many things could have happened. He could have forgotten it, or he could have nominated me but then not get picked for the final list. But he did nominate me and on top of that, they changed the policy to taking the GAs instead of outsiders. So my colleagues and I got picked.

The email came when I was at home preparing to go to school. It said that I and my GA pals were nominated for the opportunity. I was beyond ecstatic, to say the least. We met the organizer that day to start the application process. He told us that it wasn’t final, and we still could be dropped, but I think he was just scaring us for nothing.

We gathered all the documents, made the application and waited for KTH to send us acceptance letters and grant information that was needed for visa application. The visa application process took roughly 2 months but it was in May and we were to travel in August so there was nothing much to worry about there.

Passport Nightmare

As I said, nothing is ever easy and that was proved to be true. We had all the information by the end of May, and I was planning to start my application on Monday 27th May 2019. I had every document in place including my old Kenyan Passport that wouldn’t expire for another 6 years. There was this law that all old Kenyan passports would expire on August 31st, 2019, but the Deputy president had spoken at a meeting and said that the deadline was pushed to August 2020.

On Sunday 26th May 2019, I joined my boyfriend for his cousin’s birthday. During one of the conversations, his uncle asked about new passports and I noted that I still had my old one and I wasn’t worried cause the DP said that the deadline was extended for a year. His uncle nearly laughed and said that it was just a political statement and that the law was still in place.

I was livid. How can a Deputy President of an entire country make a statement like that for the sake of it? Here I was, only two months to my travel date, with an old passport that I would not use beyond August.

The passport application process in Kenya is Shit! And that is me being polite. I applied online which is fairly easy, but I had to take the papers physically to the immigration offices. I got there at 6.40 AM and I was number 478 on the line. Since I had lost my ID in Tanzania and was taking my time getting another one, I was worried they wouldn’t accept my copy. I asked the guard at the door and she said that I would be allowed since it was a renewal and I had my old passport. So I queued, and queued, and queued, until around 3.45 pm when it was my chance.

I walk up to the counter and the guy has an EGO the size of Atlantic. He refused to serve me without an ID. I tried to argue that I was told that it was possible, in the morning. He said that I need to apply for the ID first. He was saying like  “You think because you are a lecturer you are above the law?” Like dude, I did not mention that. My only argument was that I had asked about it in the morning. If I hadn’t then it would have been my mistake, but this wasn’t. I later talked to a supervisor and after explaining my ordeal, (I had waited in line the whole day), I was assisted. My passport is a legal document that is used to identify me, and it is stupid not to assist me while I have it.

On the website, they say that the new passport should take 2 weeks but in reality, they take months. After a thousand and 1 hustles that may or may not have involved money, I got my passport and applied for the Residence Permit. I had a month and 2 weeks to go for a process that normally took 2 months.

The lucky Break

We received the emails three weeks later, (which was 1 week earlier than expected, Yeeei us), saying that the decision was made and that we should make an appointment with the Swedish embassy in Kenya to find out what it was. My friend got an appointment, but I didn’t. I started panicking. What if I was rejected? Maybe that is why they were delaying my appointment. I was so sad that day, which was a Tuesday, that I asked my best friend to have a cocktail with me in town after work. On Wednesday I called the embassy and they assured me that I was accepted, and I could be called for an interview on that Friday. We now had exactly four weeks before the travel date and the permit card that would be produced after the appointment took 3-4 weeks according to the embassy.

At this point, we decided to book the flights past the arrival date since we didn’t expect to get the cards earlier and also because the flights were getting really expensive and that was the cheapest date.

Luckily, the permit cards were ready in 2 weeks, thanks to Swedish efficiency and all was well in the travel department.

Approaching the travel date, I had my farewell party with my friends, I visited my mum at home, and I had a Saturday outing with my siblings and my dad. Then all was officially set. My brother drove me to the airport.

And all was well thereafter. NOT! See, I don’t know how to pack. So my huge ass suitcase was about 5KGs more than the allowed 23KGs and this was after I had given my boots and hair products to my friend to carry for me. I was so sad since I had packed the minimum possible clothes. My brother and boyfriend who had accompanied me were waiting outside to take back the excess stuff.

Luckily, again, one of the colleagues we were travelling with had two suitcases and they were able to fit my excess stuff. Bless her. I called my boyfriend and told him that they could now leave.

The Journey, Finally!!

The flight to Dubai was good. The food was the usual plane food, but it was pretty good. We had a 10-hour layover in Dubai, so we moved around shopping (mainly window shopping only one of us actually bought something). Good thing they have McDonald’s, where we ate and did just about anything we could to kill time. We hoped on the flight to Sweden which I was asleep for most of, given that I hadn’t slept at all, and finally we arrived in Sweden.

Through all this, I couldn’t believe I was actually here. There was a car waiting for us to go to KTH to get the paperwork sorted. It should have been smooth, but we lost one of the guys at the baggage area and we spent 10 minutes trying to find him.

International Reception Wrist Bands

We got our bank cards and bracelets for events from the organizers and then got on a Taxi to our new home for the next 6 months.

Stockholm is a beautiful city and all I remember from the first day was my jaw, dropping at the sight of everything. Including the fact that the sun was still up at 8 PM. We read about long days at school but experiencing it for the first time is something else.

That night I slept thinking “This is gonna be great” Until I woke up at 5.15 AM panicking that I was late due to all the light. Damn Long Days! But there was more to everything.

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