I received my Botswana research permit about two weeks ago. I didn’t post right away because I wanted to chill out about the process and thus convey a sense of relaxed gratitude about receiving my permit.
My first application got lost in the mail. Since I registered it with the U.S. Postal Service, I was able to find out what happened. Three weeks after my inquiry, I received a letter explaining that my application was waiting for pick-up in the Maun post office.
At that point, I started making phone calls and googling Botswana offices. I still wasn’t sure I had sent my application to the right Ministry, even if I mailed it again. I should say at this point that I find international calling intimidating. I use Skype, which is less expensive but can result in poor connections, so much of the phone call is spent saying, “can you hear me now?”
I eventually found the email and name of the Interim Secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism. I expected that sending him an email would be like emailing your Senator, in the sense that the actual Interim Secretary was unlikely to write back. But he did – or at least I think it was him. He let me send my application by email and said he would forward it to the Research Officer and I would hear in a week.
I was lucky and very grateful for his help. My only mistake was not asking for the name (and email) of the Research Officer.
Six weeks went by and I started to worry. The problem for me was I really didn’t know how to follow up, who to call, or even if my application was in review. The Interim Secretary was no longer responding to my emails. Without the permit, importing my gear might be difficult at the airport, plus I can’t do my work if I don’t have a permit. There are stories of researchers who spend weeks (months) in the field waiting for their permits.
I had to track down the Research Officer. Which meant I had to call Botswana. I had to get out skype and settle down in the early morning for a session of “can you hear me now?” This required moral support from my family.
Really it wasn’t so bad. The connection was okay as long as I talked really loudly. It took two calls and the cheerful assistance of a lady who thought talking to someone in Tennessee was cool. I got the name of the Research Officer and used google to find his email.
Back to email. Less chance of confusion but greater chance for no response.
I sent one and hoped for an update….which, awesomely, arrived bright and early the next morning, in the form of a shiny research permit attached to an email.
My sense of relief was incredible. I realize we live in a world of constant updates and ability to track things like packages and even applications. When tracking isn’t available and you have no idea when or even if a response will come…….. well, you need a lot more time to get it done. All told, it took about three months to get my permit and in the end it worked out fine. I just wasn’t sure it would.