Monday, November 22, 2010

Ministry, treks through town, phone numbers and nonsense...

Last Friday our driver had the day off. So, one of my colleagues (bravely) said he would drive. However, plans changed a bit. An 8 am meeting on the west side of town lasted till about 1030 am. At the same time I was summoned to the Ministry to get a document signed for the release of a container. My colleague who was scheduled to fly back to the UK that evening decided not to go across town to the hospital but stay on the west side and meet up with the specialist-in-charge there. So, I said he could drop me off at the Ministry and I'd take transport from there.

I went up to the 4th floor and met a lady from the company in charge of getting the container released. Seeing as the container has been in port since September and they still had not managed to get clearance, I was not impressed by this company. Anyway, the lady was not very professional and the mere fact that I was requested to come to the Ministry by this company to get their documents signed seemed a bit crazy. However, if that is what it would take to get the container out of the port, well, then that is what I'll do.

Unfortunately the Deputy Minister of Health just stepped out of his office and his secretary was not sure if he went out for a meeting or not. I realized this could mean a long wait. Fortunately about 20 minutes later, the Deputy Minister reappeared, but then disappeared again into his office. At least I knew of his whereabouts. Minutes later a Ministry official walked by who knows me from my Mercy Ships days and greeted me. I mentioned my reason for being at the Ministry and he was quick to move into action. He went into the Deputy's office and came out 5 minutes later saying the documents had been signed. It really is who you know and not what you know. Thanks Y. We were now one step closer to getting the container out of port. Having said that, the container is still at the port!

I then had to find a taxi to take me part of the way to the hospital, knowing that I would be better off walking the last 25 minutes due to heavy traffic on the east side. After about 5 minutes I found a taxi heading to PZ and hopped in. The other customers were very friendly and pleasantly surprised that I had a grasp of the public transport system. And of course, one of the men asked for my phone number. I 'politely' declined.

After a 30 minute (slow) taxi ride I got out and ventured through the downtown streets on foot making my way down Goderich Street, past Eastern Police, along Kissy Road and down Patton Street until I reached the hospital. On my way I bought two 250 ml bags of water. I was walking in the heat of the day and feeling somewhat dehydrated which made me wonder what would happen if I fainted on the street. Would people stop to help? Would my backpack (with laptop) get stolen as I lay there passed out? Would they take me to some dodgy pharmacy or clinic? I quickly guzzled down the bags of water and kept walking, reaching the hospital in a very sweaty state. Phew, I made it.

By this time it was 1 pm on a Friday afternoon and I had a number of things I wanted to get done. I rushed around and did as much as I could knowing I would have to walk back to the center of town and take public transport home. It was 545 pm by the time I left the hospital after sorting out medical records issues and meeting with the lab technicians.

The crazy thing is that on Saturday afternoon I had to go back to the hospital. So I did the whole thing again. Took a taxi from my house to Congo Cross, then a poda poda to Goderich Street and then walked to the hospital. And did the same in reverse order 4 hours later. I must say that 4 such treks in a 28 hour period is a bit much. By the time I reached the poda poda stop Saturday afternoon I was ready to be home, away from the crowd. I almost got pick pocketed, had numerous men ask for my phone number, had to dodge a thousand cars/carts/dogs/people etc. and had to endure a great variety of 'white man' comments. In the end I couldn't be bothered to engage in a conversation so I was short, to the point and basically ignoring the person next to me in the poda poda. That is, until I found out he works at Roy's, a nice restaurant/bar along Lumley beach; a beautiful spot for a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon. Seeing as I would likely see him again at Roy's I thought I better be nice and talk.

During the very next taxi ride, a similar thing happened, except this time one of the guys recognized me - he works at Bliss Bakery. We had a nice chat but him recognizing me still did not warrant a phone number exchange. Later that same evening as I headed to O'Casey's for dinner a guy on the backseat of the taxi (next to me) tried to convince me that we must be friends and he must have my number. I politely declined saying I didn't know him and wouldn't just hand out my number. But, like many men here, the response was 'if I have your number I can call you and get to know you'. No thanks. Funnily enough he then tried to convince me that because we were both on the backseat of the taxi, we were friends and supposed to exchange details. At this point the guy sitting in the passenger seat in the front joined in and also tried to persuade me that I needed to become friends with my backseat companion. Backseat passengers become friends. And front seat people become friends. Sounds logical, right? It was a load of nonsense of course but fairly entertaining. The best part being when the guy in front got out and asked for my number even though he wasn't sharing the backseat with me. My response this time was 'no, sorry, you're not on the backseat'. I was happy to be picked up by Farah, my very reliable taxi driver, later that evening. No nonsense, just normal talk.

Lessons learnt: Don't walk to the hospital and back two days in a row. Make sure you have Le 200 (USD 0.05) for a bag of water at all times. Get connected to people in the Ministry- it's who you know, not what you know. Never trust a company that says they can have a container out of the port in a few days. Always be cordial to fellow passengers (you might see them again). Don't give your phone number to anyone, not even your fellow backseat passenger friend.

1 comment:

Marianne said...

You city traveler... Be wise, be careful be nice ... Mom is reading this at the other side of the ocean.

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~