I'm trying to stay positive about it. I was gonna title it "Bureacracy RULES my world", but then thought that was coming from a negative place so I'm gonna think happy, positive thoughts while we mission around, dealing with red tape getting our lives sorted and packed up this side.
Just this morning alone, we went to the Sea Point police station to get a police clearance certificate. To prove we're not gangstas. Police stations are not nice places to be in. Even if you've never committed a crime, somehow it just feels intimidating to be in there.
Now imagine being in a South African Police Station. Yeah... one of the most hardcore police systems in the world coz they've got to deal with pretty hardcore thugs. It was rather frightening and I had a knot in my stomach the whole time. It was probably all in my head coz I didn't see anything out of the ordinary, and the policeman at the Inquiry desk was friendly, but the energy of the place was just kinda angsty.
To begin with, there's a huge police badge on the outside of the station, but the inside of the badge where you usually see the logo or animal mascot of a government institution was missing. Yes, I kid you not. All you saw was the fancy star-shaped frame, but with nothing on the inside!! Kelly refused to let me take a photo of it coz I'd be "inviting trouble". It was pretty classic!
We waited 15 minutes for the lady at the clearance desk to show up. Please excuse the crappy photos today. Forgot to take my camera with, and these are shots from my pooey HTC Touch Dual mobile phone with no auto focus and only 2 megapixels. And the touchscreen is starting to die on me every now and again but that's a different story for a different time.
(The logo on this poster is the same exact badge on the outside of the police station. Now imagine just the star frame, but with nothing in the middle!!)
As you can see, it says "R59" on the poster. The very sweet and kind lady asked us for our money, and when we both gave exactly R60 each, she seemed to perk up just a little bit, with a wider, toothier grin. It struck me as a little strange, but sweet. She then took our documents and money, and disappeared into another room.
Her little office was kind of sad and drab - almost like sitting in a concrete prison cell from the '70s. She didn't even have a computer! We must've waited for only 5 minutes for her, but I was crawling up the walls already, wanting to get out... Her walls were covered with all kinds of quotes from Einstein to passages from the bible, interspersed with police force posters.
She came back a while later, plonked herself on her chair, then said "Oops! I forgot your 2 Rand change." ...then proceeded to fill up the forms with no intention of getting up off her seat again.
I was dying to burst out laughing coz it was so obvious she was intending to pocket the change regardless, but had to bite my lip. As she filled up those forms, I did mental calculations... if she had 10 people a day for 5 working days over a month, that's a pretty decent extra R200 a month she's making! ...poor thing, that probably only barely covers her transport though... so of course we let it slide. She was really very sweet.
She "inked" our fingers - the entire digit all the way down to just before your palm, and used PAINT for this. They don't use ink. They use PAINT. I checked the tube she used coz it was so sticky, and it said "Black Paint". !!!!!! ...and this also explains why right next to her desk was a sink.
She said "you can use the hand gel by the window." ...I looked up, expecting to see... oh, I dunno... a Dettol hand gel pump thing or something (that's what you'd imagine when someone says "hand gel") but instead found this industrial sized tub of green gunk. Remember the Slime gel toy from the '80s when we were growing up? ...yeah, it was kinda sorta like the Slime gel colour, and millions of people before me had already dipped their hands into it coz you could see imprints of fingers in the semi-solid "hand gel". There were also huge smears of black paint in the gel and on the sides of the tub, AND! On top of this, there was about half an inch of (dirty) water floating on top of the green gunky gel.
I almost threw up as I dipped my hands into the gel. I was trapped. I had to use it or I couldn't get the sticky paint OFF! Plus, I was carrying my favourite white bag and couldn't afford to get any bit of dirt on it! EWWWWWWW!!!!
Unfortunately, I couldn't get any photos at all of this ordeal coz my hands were filthy (before AND after washing them).
Next stop: Traffic Department. Kelly just realized his driver's license expires in March, so he couldn't get an international driver's permit. The funniest thing is while the Traffic Department has a huge facility in Green Point, you can't take photos on site. You've got to cross the road into what literally looks like somebody's garage that's been converted into a "photo studio".
(This is a front attachment to a house that sits behind it!)
This is what the inside looks like:
Apologies for the crap quality photo, but I really couldn't find any focal point where this frickin' camera-phone would focus!
He came out looking like a sun-tanned Arab! Pretty good quality photo, even if for a backyard (or is it frontyard) studio.
We spent another couple of hours waiting in line at the Traffic Dept. ARGHHHH!!! At least we had other things to keep us amused. Like the "signboard" for the Enquiry Counter. In the first place, it wasn't even a proper signboard. Someone had printed out huge letters, one letter per A4 page, to make up the "sign" that said "Enquiries Counter". I guess someone else waiting in the queue must've been REALLY bored, coz they took the "O" away from "Counter" and you got this:
Ahhh... the state of these sorry South African goverment departments... I'm sure there'll be more tales to tell in the days to come.