Thursday, November 3, 2016

“The atmosphere of officialdom would kill anything that breathes the air of human endeavour, would extinguish hope and fear alike in the supremacy of paper and ink.” ― Joseph Conrad

I have a friend who lives in Normandy, France, and we argue occasionally about our respective countries: France and Tanzania.  He acknowledges that we have the best animals and the best weather, and I acknowledge that he has the coolest language, food, and the best museum.  So, what do we argue about?  Which country has the absolute worst red tape and frustrating civil servants.  He makes some pretty good claims and is insistent that France is the worst when it comes to bureaucracies and headaches.  Some of his stories make mine of the DMV in Arkansas just pale in comparison, but lately I think I’ve got him.  We live here courtesy of two-year residence permits and are now on our sixth.  There has not been a single renewal where the rules that applied for the last permit remained the same.  The prices have risen from $200 to $500 and are now at $250.  The color of the background for the six pictures of yourself required has changed three times, and we have never known in advance what color to use.  You can see by the picture at the right that I now have a current permit.  My last one expired last May and I turned in all the paperwork in early April.  I got the certificate yesterday, eight months later.  Oh, and the price?  Yes, it says $250 right on the permit but it doesn’t say it has to be paid in American currency, but it does.  Even our Australian friends have to pay for their permits with American money.  It also doesn’t say that this year, the law changed such that every missionary also needed a labor permit that costs $500 (again in American currency).  When we asked for our passport stamp, we were told we also needed (for the first time) a multiple-reentry stamp in addition which would cost another $50 American.  Having lived here for over eleven years, we don’t have or keep any American currency, so we have to get it from the bank at an exorbitant exchange rate.  It costs us $750 in Tanzanian money to get $500 in American.  The total cash outlay to the government came to $800 but it cost us over $1,000 to come up with that amount.  Last year, we paid $250 total for our permits, but this year it was over $1,000.  It also took seven trips to Musoma, two trips to Mwanza, and two trips to Dar Es Salaam (the labor permit had to be picked up in person).  Travel costs were almost $1,000, but we were able to double up for John and myself so just $500 each.  Our costs now come to $1,500 each.  Karen’s doesn’t expire until July of next year, but we will begin the process in January.  We also had to have the photographer come to our house twice with different colored backgrounds just to make sure.  The paperwork package consisted of twenty-two pages of forms, letters, copies of college diplomas, and other stuff I cannot imagine them wanting, but they did.  I would trade it all for a single day trip to the DMV even if I didn’t have all the right paperwork.  Eight months, eleven trips, over $3,000 for John and me, and tons of paperwork with six photos of each of us.  Take that, Frenchy!

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