It finally happened!
233 days later [7 months and 21 days] all 54 pages of NGO paperwork was 2-hole punched, put in a 'proper' folder, was checked, re-checked, re-checked again, and re-checked 3 more times and finally submitted to the NGO board to await approval.
As the Country Director I would love to state the process was simple and pleasant and positive. It was NOT.
Definitely positive moments happened, but the entire process was stressful, tear inducing, and upsetting. I did not know that I was capable of feeling so many emotions in one day, one hour, and one minute. But, I am. And I'm still alive.
So, let me share with you just a tidbit of the process. I'll take you on the last 4.5 hours of yesterday when the final steps were being made to submit the application to be approved by the NGO board.
WARNING! Its broken up by time, because a LOT managed to happen in 4.5 hours.
I boarded a boda after showing my driver David my crumpled piece of paper of a lawyers office that was recommended on the Expats page. We weaved through traffic, got into the middle of town [which immediately makes me feel claustrophobic because of the congestion and chaos] and got dropped in front of King Fahd Plaza [tall building filled with shops and offices].
David promised to wait for me. I then began the walk up 5 flights of stairs. Arrived at the lawyers office and showed them the piece of paper I needed to get notarized as the final step in the application process. The receptionists and I then proceeded to rush out of the building and down the street where she left me on a staircase and told me to stay put [if I had gone with her I would have been overcharged]. She came out 10 minutes later while I twiddled my thumbs next to a staircase in the middle of town. Then we ran down the street to check one more place, THEN ran back to the original place and paid 50,000 shillings (~25 USD) to get our Ugandan Constitution for AAD notarized. I did not know a shiny sticker could be so expensive!
Talked to two different receptionists about having the application checked. The folder was taken and I was told to sit under the tent, which is the makeshift waiting area. 15 Ugandans and I sat on benches that tipped precariously towards the ground [the amount of ab strength used to hold my body is an accomplishment on its own]. After 10 minutes "Susan" was being yelled for from the office. Susan was me, and I made my way in to talk to a man about my paperwork.
We bickered about if all the paperwork was present in my folder. The man's continued response was "I didn't see it so it must not be there". Patiently, I would take the folder, flip to the appropriate page and show him again and again that he was mistaken and all the forms were in order. I continued to smile throughout this strenuous process, because a person in power is always right...right? [even when they are wrong].
Finally, I was told to go to Diamond Trust Bank with 200 USD [he was very adamant that the money needed to be in USD] to deposit and to bring the receipt back, so that I could officially submit the paperwork. Sprinting outside I jumped on the boda and requested that I be dropped at the bank.
Standing in the line for 15 minutes, I was told by the teller that I was in the wrong spot and needed to go two doors down to get the payment slip and pay. Rushing through security I was directed to a young man. He informed me that USD was NOT accepted and that I needed to go down the road and across the street to the Foreign Exchange office and get Ugandan shillings. I ran right by David [the most patient boda driver in all the land] handed him my helmet to hold while I was dodging cars, taxis, and bodas to make it safely to the Foreign Exchange office. Catching my breathe I went up to the teller and requested for the exchange to be made.
Of course, luck continued to NOT be on my side and the amount I received in ugandan shillings was less than the amount needed to pay the application fee. Asking the teller for the closest Stanbic ATM [the only ATM that does not charge a fee to withdraw] I was informed that it was too far away. Instead I had to cross two intersections and dodge traffic again to make it to a Barclays ATM where I pulled out the remaining money needed with the added bonus of a 16,000 shilling fee [~6 USD]. Looking at my watch I realized how little time there was left before banks and offices began to close.
While waiting to cross the street again to make it back to Diamond Trust I was shaking with anger for being harassed on the roads, for being misinformed about the currency needed, and for feeling like I was about to cry.
I finally got enough courage to quickly walk across the road while bodas drove around me and cars were honking at the angry looking mzungu that was too impatient to wait for traffic to stop. <-- NOT recommended to do, but is sometimes a necessary evil.
Payment made. Now the last step begins. Get the application submitted after 7 months and 21 days.
Having the application rechecked. The proper boxes ticked. And listening to the most creative bribe from the woman logging the application [a giant handwritten book]. I bit my tongue, smiled and thanked the receptionist profusely for her time in logging the book.
I walked out of the office with a receipt documenting that the application had been submitted and was notified that approval or denial would be given in 1 month.
Relief flooded my body and I jumped into the air, did a happy dance, and giggled like a crazy person in the middle of the "waiting area". So, now we wait.
But, at least now we are only 1 step away from being an international NGO in Uganda, instead of 233 days worth of steps away!