Last week I started and ended the week at the airport, but alas I went nowhere. I was however treated to the best of government runarounds and boy were they great trips.
My first destination was customs. I had a shipment come in and I had to go get it. We started downstairs and then went upstairs back down a different set of stairs to another location, up stairs again to two different offices and finally back downstairs to collect the shipment and exit from another door. Are you dizzy yet?
The funny thing is even with all the running around we did, I am still unable to define the process or describe it. One reason for that is the help of a wonderful friend and his college whom we met randomly in the customs holding area. After running into him, he took our papers and there we were no longer headless chickens looking for the next step but rather harmless sheep following where we were led. Quite laughable in retrospect. In the end what would have taken three hours was an hour and a half ordeal. What would have been painful became effortless and successful with minimum damage.
Little did I know that later that week I would be back for yet another trip down government lane. This time it was at the ministry of interior and putting the stairs aside, it took me four hours, six signatures, three memos and fax to get nowhere. I did get a case number and armed with that I headed to the airport for my mission which was to get the approval from the ministry to let someone who had been detained overnight into the country. Upon arrival at the airport it took me 30 minutes to find someone to talk to me, over the phone, because you know God forbid you actually see someone and interact with them face to face. After the phone runaround it was evident that the mission was not going to succeed and our dear friend was to be deported on the next plane out back to where he came from!
In both instances I was struck by how unclear, unstreamlined and unfriendly the process is, and this is after all the “improvements” undertaken by the government to help us with the processes. Please don’t get me wrong, there is an improvement, what I did in one day would have taken a week a few years ago, and there is a system, it is not an arbitrary process. However, I was never able to understand what the whole process was, where I was supposed to go when and what the end result is (other than what I desired that is). The next step was always provided at the end of the current one, no one gives you the full picture. Communication with the public and information dissemination is at best dismal. The other observation I had was what a man’s world it is. At customs my friend and I were the only women in the whole area. At the ministry any women I saw were either there to get paperwork done or were stuck in back offices away from the public and behind the scenes.
I can honestly say it was not the best way to start or end a week. The days in between were only slightly better. I am happy that that week is over and a new one is starting. Hopefully I wont have to deal with any bureaucracy then.