Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Typical Days in TZ

Went to language school this morning at 9:00 for our hour tutoring session. Waited 1/2 hour for the teacher to show up. She had had a crazy morning and forgot we had a session today so we just decided to reschedule. That's understandable, I guess since we've been off for 2 weeks.

Next, go to the ATM. First ATM not working. Wait in line for the second one and for whatever reason it's only giving out 1/2 of the normal maximum withdrawal allowance*. I didn't feel like going to another ATM so I take out the smaller amount, which it gives me in 5's instead of 10's. Hey, at least I'll have change when I need it.

From there I go to the Post Office. Oooh, I have a package! But I have to go to the main post office to pick it up, which is a pain but not unusual. I drive down there. It takes about 5 minutes for me to flag down a person to go to the back to get my box. After being gone a few minutes, the guy comes back out and tells me the woman who gives out the boxes isn't there right now. Can I wait 10 minutes? I tell him I'm already late for work but that I can wait 10 minutes. After 10 minutes I will leave (I wanted to be clear with him because 10 minutes can often mean 20 minutes here). Exactly 10 minutes passes and much to my astonishment, the woman actually arrives. She goes to the back, brings out my box and gets on her cell. I know this is a bad sign. Turns out I have to pay a customs fee** but the guy who collects that fee isn't here. Can I wait 20 minutes or do I want to come back tomorrow? The problem with coming back tomorrow is that I could have to wait at that point as well. So, I opt to wait today since I'm already there. I explain again that I will wait but I don't want to wait too long because I'm late for work and I work far away. The woman is very nice and understanding and while I sit and wait she incessantly calls the guy's phone, all the while making clucking sounds (I guess sympathizing with me). I wait 25 minutes, meanwhile another westerner come in and gets his package no problem. I go back up and ask why he could get his package but I can't. She explains that because there's a declared value on the customs form, I have to pay a fee. Can't I pay you, I ask her. No, she says, you have to pay the customs agent. Is he coming, I ask. Yes, he says he's on his way. We chat another minute or two about how hard it is to wait when you have to go somewhere. Finally, she calls him one more time, gets off the phone and says I can just pay her as long as I don't need a receipt.*** I say it doesn't matter to me, pay her, get my box and I'm on my way. (1 hour total in post office.)

While I'd been waiting in the PO, I texted my boss to say that I was going to be later than normal. By the time I get out, I've gotten a text from him that says he's the only one in the office today and he's leaving for a meeting, so I might as well just go home and he'll see me tomorrow.

I guess I could say I accomplished something today since I did, in fact get money and my mail. But somehow it just feels like a total waste of a day.

*This is a cash economy, so we go to the ATM a few times a month to get out the maximum amount with which we pay all of our bills.

**The lesson of this is if you declare a value on the outside of the box, we have to pay a fee of approximately 45% of the declared value!

***I would've thought she was bribing me except that she used the correct calculation and she put the money into the receipt book, which I'm assuming she'll store for later until the customs agent comes back. I may be naive on this assumption, but usually people are a little more obvious about wanting a bribe and they put it in their pocket so I'm hopefully on that one.

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