["The immigration officials said that since I didn't have any money on me on Saturday, that I had tried to bribe a customs official with a stinking piece of Camembert cheese and some chocolate."]
Monday October 4th
Well it was a really tough day and a bit of a bad start to my mission, but it
can only get better. I got up early since I was still Jet-lagged, had
breakfast early on the balcony and watched the sunrise over the mountains. The
residence is right on the bay in Freetown and a really beautiful spot. The city
stretches to the south along the coast and some fishing boats were coming into
the bay and some others had finished off-loading and were tying up just below
me. I guess I started to finally realize that I am in Africa, something I had
dreamed of ever since I was a kid and saw the movie Ghandi. I
met the Financial Administrator, Anne before she left to work she seemed pretty
nice. She's the only other person in this house at the moment.
Head of Mission Laurent De Loop picked me up at 10:00am and was really in a bad
mood and said to me that Immigration had rung him up asking where I was. The
immigration officials said that since I didn't have any money on me on Saturday,
that I had tried to
bribe a customs official with a stinking piece of Camembert cheese and some
chocolate. I said that I wasn't trying to
bribe them, I was just explaining what I had in my bag and then the conversation
got a bit out of hand when I mentioned the issue of humanitarian access for
essential relief items. They got pretty angry over this comment and called me an
idiot. Laurent had this kind of amazed look on his face at this point and turned
the radio up and so I thought the conversation was over.
into the immigration office and Laurent told me not to say anything, the
immigration official was really angry and so was the customs official as well.
They said to Laurent what had happened, which was pretty different to my version
of events. Laurent said he was sorry and that I was deeply sorry. He said that I had
never been to Africa before and that I acted in an immature way. This completely
untrue, I had been to South Africa with some mates from Uni in 1995 for the
rugby world cup. They also said that Hope wasn't a registered non-governmental organization
in the country, and although the government had not charged duty on
our imports before it would be from now on. Laurent said if they did it
would cost hundreds of thousands dollars more to run our operations. They said
if we wanted the boxes from customs that we had to pay $3,000 USD to get them
out charging 100% customs duty on the goods. Laurent was getting pretty angry
but thanked the officials for some reason anyway.
and Laurent said he had been working on the registration for the NGO for 9
months and he expected it in a few weeks so it shouldn't cause to many problems.
However we would have to pay the $3,000 for the boxes. So we went back to the office and then I spoke
the Logistic Co-ordinator he's from Belgium and we had a good talk and he
explained heaps of things to me in a general kind of way, since we didn't have
time to get into specifics. I said I knew what its like, working as a sales
Engineer I always found it hard to explain things in detail. Then he asked
did the satellite phone and the HF radio come with me. Then I explained what
happened. He got a bit upset and said he couldn't believe that I had got in such
a mess and seemed a bit pissed off. He said he had called the Paris office
constantly for a few weeks trying to get them here. They are vital for security
and now they are going to take a few week of negotiations to get them out of customs and that his
communications budget has been blown for the year. Well it sounded like pretty poor
planning on Christians part if his budget was already blown.
had a briefing with Anne the financial Administrator, we had a good talk about
how to run the bookkeeping, but didn't have time to go into specifics. I think I
good general picture I think. Then she asked did I have any receipts and I
showed her the receipt for excess baggage and she really flipped. She said how
could you let yourself pay such a bill of €523 Euros.
She sort had this stunned look. Well I would have liked to have seen what she
would have done in my position.
get to meet the health Advisor or the Food Security officer since they were in
the field I think.
had dinner this evening and it was pretty relaxed and when we were having
coffee, Christian with a bit of a smile asked me if I brought anything from
Paris. Then Laurent asked where is the piece of Camembert you tried to bribe the customs
official with. That comment relieved the tension a bit and everyone laughed. Then I explained what had happened to the chocolates, cheese and wine etc. They
seemed a bit disappointed and they were a bit quiet. I suppose they would have liked a treat. We went to a
nice local bar, the Concorde. Christian is pretty popular with lots of the local
girls, everyone seemed to know him. I think Anne likes Christian a bit or there
had been something between them, she seemed a bit jealous when Christian was talking to his female friends.
Christian is sort of an unusual guy to be surrounded by beautiful women, he's
pushing 40 a bit overweight and has that ruddy complexion from someone who likes
a drink. Hey but good luck to him.
Christian is sort of an unusual guy to be surrounded by beautiful women, he's pushing 40 a bit overweight and has that ruddy complexion from someone who likes a drink. Hey but good luck to him.
back with Anne to the house a little while ago, so I think I'll climb into bed.
I guess I have learnt a lot over the last few days. How to deal with officials
in these type of countries, learning about the struggles of the people. Well
this is all part of being a Humanitarian and Wow!
what a roller coaster.
I came back with Anne to the house a little while ago, so I think I'll climb into bed. I guess I have learnt a lot over the last few days. How to deal with officials in these type of countries, learning about the struggles of the people. Well this is all part of being a Humanitarian and Wow! what a roller coaster.
Dave (me) Claudia