|Winter sky just after sunset|
We went to the surgery of a recommended psychiatrist and I sat in the packed waiting room for women (all doctor and dentist surgeries have segregated waiting rooms here), and tried to look inconspicuous. Most of the women sat quietly or chatted amongst themselves but one woman seemed to stand out as she was hugging her teenage daughter, and, at first, I thought maybe it was the daughter who had the problem and she was just giving her comfort. But when the woman started talking to the room in general and her voice started to rise considerably and she became more emotional I realized that it was she who was in need of the doctor. I tried really hard to understand what the problem was, but all I understood was that it had something to do with her brother and….. a qarantita sandwich! The Psychiatrist was a very nice man, just asked me a few general questions, signed the form and sent me on my way with a certificate entitled 'Certificat d'Aptitude Psychiatre', which to my mind implies that I merely have an aptitude for sanity….but who am I to quibble! Especially as the certificate expired after 3 months… and that was 7 months ago, so for a while I was certifiably sane, and now, I’m just as mad as the rest of them. Nor-mal!
Once we had all the paperwork together we brought it to the Justice Department in El Biar, in Algiers where a man behind a desk looked through it and stopped when he got to my translated Irish Birth Certificate. My husband told him that, as there was no Irish Embassy in Algeria it was impossible for me to have it stamped by them. The man got up, took down a large storage file, looked through it and took out a file identical to mine, flicked through the papers and stopped and then said that this one also didn’t have the necessary stamp either. My husband said maybe I might know this person and, of course, once he showed me the name I recognized the it as being a good friend of mine. The man said that, he would personally bring my file to the head of the department to explain that there was a precedent for the missing stamp, so along the corridor we traipsed to yet another office with yet another man behind another desk, who looked through the file and then noticed that one paper was missing, for which my husband apologized and said he’d be back in a while with it. So off we flew in the car (well maybe ‘flew’ is not quite the word to use in Algerian traffic) to another office to procure this piece of paper, and back to the Justice Department where finally the ‘man behind the desk’ accepted my application for Algerian Nationality.
One day some months later I received a letter in the post asking me to come to the Courthouse in Harrach to be interviewed by the Head of the Courthouse. Actually it was his secretary and it was more a case of filling in more forms than an interview. She asked me all the usual questions plus the dates of birth of my parents, and my education history, and whether I spoke any Arabic. As she turned over the umpteenth page I made an involuntary intake of breath when I saw how many more boxes on the form that had to be completed, to which both she and my husband looked at me in concern thinking I was going to pass out. She then asked me to write out in Arabic that I testified that what I had written was correct and to sign it. This wasn’t as difficult as it seems as I just had to copy the sentence that was written on the form, in Arabic and then sign it in English letters. I don’t think it would have been much of a problem if you couldn’t write any Arabic, as, surprisingly they are usually quite accommodating in these kinds of things, because a lot of the older generation are still either illiterate or don’t write Arabic.