Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Strike Outs!

Drivers' License

After being here several months you are supposed to get a Zambian driver's license.
And yes you have guessed right, it is a lengthy process.
So James has gotten his license but does not have the actual license yet. He went to pick that up at a 3rd location and though it was supposed to be ready a few weeks ago, it was not.

I started the process about a month and a half ago. Here is what is involved.
First Go downtown to RATZA ( pronounced that way though there is not an a after the r.) Named after a rat, it's already not sounding too good.
You need to have the correct form and wait in line to have it signed and take the oral test.
When I went there, I had Grace with me. I walked in to ask the lady at the desk where to go because there are about 20 different windows all doing something different. She asked how I had gotten the form and said because I already had a certain form then to go ahead and walk into the examiners office. I checked to make sure because there was a long line waiting for something, but I guess they didn't have the correct forms. I walked in and sat down immediately at one of two desks in the room. As I did I sat on the edge of my chair because Grace was tied on my back. The man at the desk said,"You are supposed to move them to the front". Which I knew, but was only planning to be in there a few minutes. SO I said, oh yes, thank you and slid her around to my side. Then he asked me questions about, is this your baby…etc. I answered them and while we were talking he just started stamping things and handed me the paper back.

I was thankful that part went smoothly.Maybe the whole thing would go this smoothly?
Then the next window was where they capture your data. I was almost through there when they said I needed to have a copy not only of my passport but also of James's work visa. So at that point, The buzzer rang and I was out. sorry…TRY AGAIN next time.

Another week later I came back with the copy of the visa. That was accepted then on to another office to get the photo taken. Then to another window to pay for it all and set up an appointment to take the driving test.

That was set up, and on the day of my appointment I drove to the place where they do the testing. I waited in the line and handed the appropriate paperwork, which was the provisional license and my current US license and something stating I was to take the test. Well the man looked over the papers and said I needed another copy of James's passport and visa. I explained that I had already given them at the office where all the data is collected and where they gave me this provisional license. No, I still needed to bring them a copy.
Again the buzzer rang and I was OUT!

I was told I could come the next day. The very next day one of the kids got sick and was in the hospital and after that, many visitors and travels. So the license again was put on hold.
But yesterday I had time and had the right papers and arrived in the morning at the Driving Yard.

Everything was accepted and I was told to wait at my vehicle for the driver to come. I waited there an hour, which also happened to be one of the hottest parts of the day, and got sunburn.
Several others were waiting at their vehicles, and right next to where I parked was a driving school vehicle with about 8 younger men waiting for their test. They had been waiting over 2 hours already. A few of them said hello and we talked for a little bit. I noticed that no women were there taking the test, so I asked if not as many women are driving as men in Zambia. One guy said, yes they are because you know, "GENDER". You know how you women are.
i wasn't exactly sure what he meant by it but think I got the gist of it.

As we were waiting, it was a few of their turns. One guy got in the car, the instructor got in and he drove only a few feet and stopped the car and got out. NEXT. Another guy got in. He drove a few more feet, still not even out of the parking lot and he stopped and got out. FAILED.
Wow, I knew they were tough but this was crazy. Ended up the last guy didn't release the parking brake.

Finally it was my turn. A bigger older man called out my name and I said, yes and he walked over to my car. Repeating my name over and over trying to figure out how to pronounce it. He got in and I started to roll the windows up. He didn't like that because he was hot. precisely my point, we could use the air conditioner. But it didn't instantly give out cold air so we sat there a few minutes discussing the windows. At that point, I was not sure whether I had turned the car completely over or not. Was a bit distracted with all the window talk.
So I turned the car off and said well we can just open the windows then. ( That gave me the opportunity to start the car once again and know if it was fully on. ) He said, "You know we have started the test". I said yes and then told him that we have an alarm on the car and I was turning it off. ( You have to partially turn the engine over then press the button then fully turn it on). I didn't want to fail before the car even got in drive!

We started off and the man was very chatty and unfortunately flirty as well. He asked why I was smiling and happy. So I told him because of Jesus. Then he asked a few more questions relating to Jesus and what work I was doing here, etc… more kinds of questions and it was a little distracting. At one point he got a phone call and was laughing and chatting away on the phone and motioning with his arms where I was to turn. Everything was going smoothly and then he started asking me about the Catholic Church and what church I was part of now…

I was stopped at a red light and was in front. The light turned green and I inched up to get ready to make a right hand turn on green ( which you do when you drive on the opposite side of the road) as I was getting ready to go when it was clear, I "stepped on the zebra crossing". So he pointed that out to me and then said, "Megan, Megan Megan. Now I am going to have to Fail you. Do you want me to fail you." "No". I said. Then he said "well I am going to have to. What do you have to say? "
At this point it was a bit awkward and I replied, "umm I am sorry I stepped on the Zebra Crossing????". Then he went on about how there can be no mistakes and he is going to have to fail me right now. Then he waited another moment. Then he said I am going to fail you so I can see your smiling face again tomorrow. How do you like that? ( I can't remember what I said, but what I thought was---no I will not like that and no I will not be smiling then!)

We drove back and he kept talking about the smiling face and stepping on the crossing and mistakes.
I got back to the yard and he got out of the vehicle, saying, "no megan its really not that I want to see your face, but you can't make any mistakes." As I drove away the young guys waiting for their turn gave me a thumbs up, saying "you got it?" to which I gave them a thumbs down. nope.

I then had to go back to the downtown office, wait in line about 30 minutes was the 2nd in line at the end , make another appointment, pay another fee so that I can go back and take the test next tuesday.

AFter I got home I mentioned to Enock that I failed. I then realized as we have often talked of corruption in the government and especially the Driver's License branch that the man was waiting for a bribe from me!
The way Enock described it would be that I would have offered to give him some money for a drink because it was such a hot day or something like that. That is how it is done and that is what was expected.

It explained the awkwardness I was feeling and the confusion of why he kept saying, "so I am now going to have to fail you…"
I was oblivious to that because I was thinking well technically I was on the zebra crossing, so I was figuring him more for a stickler to the traffic rules than a man awaiting a bribe!


  1. do you ever get used to the red tape and hurdles! Praying you get your license as well as continuing to pray Kat gets her FBI clearance without hassle. Zambian time takes on a whole new way of thinking!

  2. :)

    You'll never get use to it ... but you'll begin to understand the system better. I've been falsely accused by the police of minor traffic violations a number of times over the past years. The last time, after more than the usual bit of haggling, he handed me back my license and dismissed me with, "I thought you would buy me a coffee."