Monday, 21 May 2012

A day spent at the Road Traffic Offices!

Last Tuesday morning about 9am and I set off with Juma to the Road Traffic Directorate.  Juma is one of the drivers at Chez Maky and one of the “fountains of knowledge” when it comes to getting through driving related bureaucracy.  I thought it would take a few hours, I didn’t think it would take the whole day.  It starts off with Queuing at “Room 2” - none of the rooms are numbered or in any particular order so having Juma at this stage was essential. The queue didn’t take too long and after been given the one form to fill out we had to go and queue at another room to get the form stamped.

Finally it was stamped! Next room- where there is a really long queue. This is where you have to get your photo taken, fingerprints scanned and signature copied. The problem is there is only one computer, with one camera that works and that camera sometimes refuses to work! After lots of queuing and shuffling, and sitting and shuffling, we eventually get to the front of the queue! Then the woman goes on her lunch break! At this point, I gave in and Juma and I took the numbered cards we had and went off in hunt for some chocolate! I’m pretty sure I was the one in need of the chocolate, but at least we got to stretch our legs and get out of the cramped corridor.

After a 20 minute walk around Ginery Corner and dashing in and out of the shops we headed back to the Traffic Office to the long queue. Well no quicker had our backsides touched the seat than the woman shouted next and we were inside another room waiting for me to have my photo taken. Most of the process is done in Chichewa, which meant translation was Juma’s main task for most of the day. Well inside the room, the woman was just plain rude (mainly to Juma).  When I left, I’m pretty sure she was aware I wasn’t pleased with her, the rest of the room certainly knew, even if they didn’t quite get all of what I said.

Next we had to join another three queues so I could pay for the conversion and we then went to another two offices! By this point I was annoyed, so when an English woman thought it was her right to jump the queue because she was English (Several Malawians had already said there was a line) I got a tad annoyed and pointed out I had been in queues for most of the day so she would just have to suck it up and get to the back.  I don’t think I was quite so polite and by the look on some people’s faces, they may not have understood exactly what I said, but they knew that it wasn’t good. The people sitting either side of me looked as if they would be happy for the ground to open up and swallow them whole.

The final hurdle was to get it printed! That was the easy bit, although I was asked what side Scottish people drive on and what type of car I would normally drive. I assumed I was being asked Manual or Automatic so I replied with “normally manual but my UK License allows me to drive an automatic.” The question I was actually being asked was what make/model do you normally drive! “Eh – Suzuki“- the whole time I’m thinking – well whatever my mums has!! Thankfully the guy just nodded and didn’t ask any more probing questions. As soon as I had thanked him for the bit of paper, Juma and I got out of there as fast as we could.

Well what random facts did I learn on Tuesday? I don’t mind queues - I hate people who duke (jump the queue). I can actually understand more in Chichewa than I thought!!  Juma’s actual name is Peter. Malawian’s have difficulty in pronouncing my name – they get “L” and “R” mixed up!!  Comparatively I seem to spend less time in Immigration and Road Traffic combined than most people just spend with the Road Traffic Directorate alone!  

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Blogging for Breakfast...

I may have had some French toast (with Maple syrup) for breakfast but I am sitting watching Blantyre come to life this morning as I update the blog. This is probably my favourite part of the day, listening to the hustle and bustle as people go about their daily business. Sun rises about 5.30am which is when the city starts to spring to life for another day. Luckily I'm not normally up-and-about until about 7.30am. -that is unless I go to 6am mass.

I’ve been here more than a week already.  I have spent the last two days in the immigration office. Yesterday I completed the forms and submitted them to the immigration office for the attention of the Chief Immigration Officer. On returning today I was told my application has been accepted, I pad for the processing and now I‘ve to go back next Friday to collect the actual piece of paper. My challenge once I have got my temporary residency sorted is to get a Malawian driver’s license – no test involved (thankfully) but everyone tells me there are lots of doors and that it’s a bit of a nightmare. I’m glad I have plenty of books I can read.

Whilst I’ve been filing in forms, trying to get car hire sorted and reminding myself of how to get around Blantyre, I’ve been visiting Open Arms to lend a hand (mainly at lunch/dinner time). On Wednesday, I had a little boy decide to use me as crutch as he toddled around the playroom. He’s just starting to walk. I’ve so far managed to feed multiple small children without being covered in porridge although I’ve had nsmina thrown at me! (it’s texture is similar to mashed potato).  I also learned it generally a bad idea to sit on the floor unless you want all the toddlers using you a climbing frame – for some reason pulling my nose seems to be a popular pass time).

Well as Axchelle tells me she has been reading my blog, I am going to give her and Maky a well-deserved mention. Along with their cohort of staff, they run Chez Maky where I’m staying. With such good service, amazing food and a laugh-a-minute atmosphere there is always something happening.  There is such a happy buzz about the place and I would certainly recommend Chez Maky to anyone coming to Malawi!