Sorry about the length of this post, but to fully appreciate this story, all the details are necessary. Enjoy walking through today's "adventure" with me....
There are some things about living in Botswana that I really love: amazing animals, beautiful children, friendly people, slower-paced living, to name a few.
And there are things that I really dislike. For instance: trying to obtain a Botswana driver's license.
This morning was my first attempt at obtaining my official Botswana driver's license, a task I've been procrastinating about for a little while. Now you may wonder why I am only beginning this process now, after having lived here for eighteen months and only having five more to go. Well, that's because when I first arrived here in Botswana, I was told by a few people that it wasn't really necessary to get a new driver's license, so I trusted that. This was probably true, of course, until we elected a new president who is working to tighten up on some of the laws here. One of the results of this: sky-high fines for driving without a proper driver's license. (I've heard reports of 5,000 pula...about $800. Not a number worth playing around with.)
A couple months ago, Matt and Kelly went through this process of getting a license and helped to fill me in on what I'd need. Julie, who's been here for a little while, also gave me some pointers. On the list of needed items: certified copies of my resident's permit, work permit, passport, Texas driver's license, and a letter from the US Embassy stating that my license was valid. Now, the other three told me that they did not have to have the Embassy letter, so I crossed that off the list. I took the rest of the documents to the police station to get certified and was pleased that this was a fairly easy process.
Next up, going to the transport office to get the license. The office opens at 7:30 am. Not too bad. The only thing is, there is already a line of around 50 people at that time, as I found out this morning. I was feeling good with leaving the mission at 7:10am, all bundled up (remember it's winter now), thinking that because I'd be getting there early, I wouldn't have to wait outside in the 30-40 something degree weather very long. I was wrong.
The transport office is a tiny, tiny office that only accomodates about eight people at a time. Therefore, the rest of the line must wait outside, standing because there aren't any seats. You sign your name on a paper and someone calls the people eight at a time to come into the office. I arrived at 7:20 and signed up, shocked to find I'd be number 45 on the list. When I said, "Forty-five?? Already??" one of the men said, "Oh, that's a low number. On Tuesday I was number 198."
Suddenly thankful for my 45th place in line, I walked over to another young woman outside and began striking up a conversation with her. I tried not to be too jealous when she said she was number 3 on the list. It was easier after she told me she'd come on Tuesday at 1:00 pm, waited in line for four hours, and then was told (along with 100 others) to go home and come back Thursday. Then, I was happy for her to be one of the first to go in.
Unfortunately for me, being number 45 on the list translated to two hours of standing in the cold, hands turning to ice cubes, with a sore back and stiff legs. But at least I wasn't number 200 on the list, the number it had gotten to at 9:30 when I was let in.
When the woman came outside and began calling people who were in the 40's on the list, I began making my way up to the door. I was stunned when she for some reason skipped over my name, called numbers 46 and 47, and closed and locked the door before I could say anything. When I knocked and she didn't answer, I just had to stand at the door and wait until she came out again or someone came out the door (luckily just a few minutes later).
How wonderful to finally get inside that tiny office! My joy quickly turned to sorrow, though, when the woman working told me that the only person who could help me with getting my license converted was gone until Monday. I could have screamed when she casually said to me, "You'll have to come back Monday." Excuse me, what???? When I begged and pleaded, she told me to go ahead and get my eye test and I could try pleading my case to the other man working.
Feeling a little bit more encouraged, I left and went to the eye-testing area. After a few minutes of filling in a form for me, he looks at me and asks, "Do you have a letter from your embassy, stating that this license is valid?" I explained to him that others who'd recently come in had not needed this document. We went back and forth for a bit, but the conversation ended with him putting my form away and telling me to come back when I have a letter from the embassy.
I therefore left the transport office at 10:00 am being no better off than when I got in line at 7:20, and now just on the brink of either bursting into tears or shouting at anyone in my path, including the 150 people waiting outside the transport office. I decided the only thing to do at a time like this was to go to one of my favorite restaurants, Hilary's, and eat a yummy breakfast and drink some really strong coffee.
Next on my "to-do" list is to make a trip to the local US Embassy and then find another morning when I can get to the transport office... this time before 7:00 am.
To be continued....
(Update: Haha! I found out today that the only US Embassy is in Gaborone, a ten-hour drive from here. This story might be dragged out for a lot longer than expected!)