Kafka, Terry Gilliam and Ghana: Part Two

on Monday, 04 November 2013. Posted in Africa Travels


Get ready: This is just the beginning!!

The next day, it is 9.30am and I arrive at the airport in a little better frame of mind after a good sleep. First of all I go to the ATM to try and get some money. A bad idea. The machine takes my card and then doesn’t do anything for about 2 minutes. The screen goes blank and the card doesn’t come out. So, when eventually my card pops out I give up and go next door to the exchange counter, which says it is closed although a woman is working there. A man ahead of me said he has already been there 30 minutes, so after waiting a few minutes, I realize it could take a while and so decide to do it later. I hope it is not an omen for the day.

I walk over to the custom office and decide that I am not going to use my previous friend’s services if she happens to be there. Ahh, she is there, and so I tell her what I’ve decided but she follows me in anyway. The customs official is not there and so I am told that I have to wait until he comes back. I am told that I have to use my friend’s services as it will not be possible to do it myself. I am also told by a woman customs officer sitting at another desk in the room that I need to get a ‘PUPD form’ to be exempt from duty. I should have filled this form in on arrival apparently, so I would now have to apply for the form and pay a penalty for not having done so. Oh, here we go. She said I would have to wait here in the office until the other officer comes back and apply for the form. He is at a meeting apparently but should be back. My friend tells me quietly that this man is rather difficult. Great, that is all I need.

Forty five minutes later and still no sight. The woman customs person is simply sitting behind a desk piled with old files, but she is doing nothing I can perceive. Another man is sitting behind the counter desk, and then joined by one other man, again doing nothing. We are sitting quietly, and it is quite cool and comfortable so I am cultivating patience.

Sixty minutes pass and the woman at the counter then says we should go to another office at the airport. She tells me to write a brief note saying that I was not told that I had to fill in a PUPD form and that I want to apply for another. I write this out and my friend and I walk toward the office. She seems to know where she is going but as we enter a building we are stopped by three men and asked where we are going. On trying to explain to them, she is told that we have to go to another place to do what we need to do. A five minute conversation then occurs, with insistence on both sides about what needs to happen. Then suddenly, we are told we can go in. My friend looked at me and basically implied they had no idea what they were talking about, although they seemed sure enough to me.

We head to the desk of another customs office with a customs duty counter next door. We tell the officer why we are there and again he asks me why I didn’t sign the PUPD form. Another officer joins us while we are discussing this. We show him the note I had written at the other office. He said this wouldn’t do. We couldn’t apply for the form with this note. A letter needs to be written and typed out, to make it look “nice” and the letter should somehow be notified by somebody. I am trying to tell him what I’m doing here in Ghana, that I’m working with a medical organization, volunteering my time here. He, however, seems to be particularly difficult. However, after talking to the other officer as well, he agrees to write out the letter for us and so we go with him to another room, write out the letter and take it back to the first man.

He takes the letter and reads it quietly and very slowly. Eventually, in what seems to take about twenty minutes, he picks up a pen and begins to sign it, but seems to pause, just in case he is making a big mistake. He then stamps the letter as well and we are told to go to the next counter. We wait there as no one is there and then another custom man comes up, cell phone in ear, and reads the letter. He is in a much better frame of mind and quite quickly signs and stamps the letter as well. We then go to the next counter and pay the penalty fee for not having filled the form out initially. We are told we now have to go back to the cargo area we were at yesterday and they will have the actual PUPD form there to fill in. OK! So this is the process just to get the form, but hey, at least I’m on the way, I hope.

So, it’s back in a taxi and to the cargo area again. Remember, we still don’t even have the form yet. We arrive and go to the custom’s office there and give them our letter and forms. The main officer there asked us who had signed the forms and why we were told to come here. My friend explains and he says that they should have given us the form and we should go back there to get the form. We try to explain the situation to them some more and I explain why we need the form in the first place. He eventually begins to relent and then tells another officer to get a copy of the form. We fill out the form with him, which takes about 15 minutes, and then all seems to be done. He wishes me a good trip in Ghana and we leave the office. Wow, some progress it seems. I now have the form that I should already have had in the first place. I have traced the forms that show the bag had arrived, and it is only 1pm, 3 and a half hours after arriving in the morning, and five and a half hours if I include yesterday’s antics.

We walk over to another area, outside another customs office where a lot of people are waiting outside. My friend (well, my assistant in this process) tells me to wait there while she goes and does the next process, which is to input the data into a computer. She goes off, taking my passport and forms. She leaves me her bag so I can trust she will come back!