As mentioned before, I’m visiting Serbia-Montenegro, in particular the town of Novi Sad, capital of the semi-autonomous (don’t ask for clarification) region of Vojvodina. I’ve been here a lot, and always enjoy my stay, despite—and sometimes because of—the Kafkaesque confusions that inevitably take place.

An example:

Whenever a foreigner enters the country, 24 hours after arriving at his destination he must register with the local police, or milicija. Every time I visit I do this, traveling with my girlfriend to the after-hours desk of the main militia station, pay a couple bucks, and get a stamped card that will be taken from me at the border when I leave again. Simple.

This time it was different. The desk-officer sent us to another office, next door down, where the information officer told us “the guy” (his boss) who takes care of it had left work early. We should come back tomorrow. We did, and a little earlier too. But, alas, the boss had again gone home early, despite the fact he was supposed to be at his desk until 7. “Tomorrow,” said the officer. “Try to come in the morning.”

So today we arrived under full daylight, and took our IDs to a clerk’s window. The clerk pointed out that we were 3 days late; she was unimpressed. So she sent us upstairs to an office, where the boss would give us a stern talking-to in Room #16. He’d give us the stamp we needed. And so…

We trudged the steps and knocked on #16, but there was no answer, and it was locked. We waited a while, then went to #14 (which, by the sign taped to the frame, also dealt with strana, foreigners); they told us to go to #15. The man in #15 said we should go to #21. The secretary in #21 told us to wait for the guy in #16. So we waited in the hall until the guy from #15 came out and asked what was going on. We told him. He told us to go back to #21. The secretary, while laughing, wasn’t entirely pleased—the boss in #16 was supposed to take care of these things, not her. But we insisted, and she used a key to infiltrate his office and stamp my card.

Total time of this visit: about an hour.

Very Kafka, but, unlike Kafka, not oppressive at all. At no point was I worried or even depressed. Everyone was extremely nice and good-humored—such is the way in a country where these things happen every day. You have to joke the inconvenience away. My girlfriend even got the sense that it was an extended joke, them using us to get at their coworkers (yeah, go see Zorica, she’ll know what to do…heh…). I don’t know. All I know is that one hour gave me ideas for about 5 more stories.

(Originally posted at the Contemporary Nomad)