Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bye Bye Boris

Some of you have met Boris.  Some of you may have had the privilege of riding in Boris when you were here, and a few select people have actually got to experience a breakdown with me in Boris.  Oh Boris. I'm very thankful for the time that I've had with Boris.  However, in the last few months I've had some...not so fun experiences and adventures with Boris.  Even though the Toyota 4Runner is a tough's just not quite tough enough for the roads that I have to travel on.  Hence the need for an upgrade.
Boris....not one of his better days....
A couple weeks ago my friend saw an ad for a Land Rover Defender on Freetown Announce, which is Sierra Leone's Craigslist.  It was being sold by a guy that works for IMATT (the British Military presence in Sierra Leone.)  All of their vehicles are Land Rovers and they our T.O.U.G.H.  We took it for a test drive and I was sitting higher than everyone and felt like I could smash all the other cars (not to mention the huge boulders in the middle of the "roads" that I drive on all the time).  Needless to say I was sold.  It was also a smokin' deal which was awesome since my my plan to marry a really rich surgeon who loves Jesus, wants to live in Sierra Leone and do all my C-sections for me, has all his loans paid off and has a personality that doesn't drive me crazy....hasn't rally panned out.  I put a down payment on it and planned on picking it up while my mom and sister were here.

Buying my new car. Doesn't he look tough?
My mom and I went into Freetown the day after we got back from my village.  We went and picked it up in the morning and then began the adventure to get it registered.  My mechanic has registered multiple vehicles and knew people down at Road Transport so we took he and another guy who works with us so that he could "know people" too and register the cars for us in the future.  Good plan. 
"The Colonel" dominating through the puddles and driving that thing!

I drove my new car (who incidentally is named "The Colonel" because he's really tough and I bought him from a Colonel in the British Military).  Anyway, I drove the Colonel and my co-worker drove Boris and we went down to Road Transport. My co-worker got there before me and by the time I got there he had already started chatting with a guy......we'll call him Eddie.  Eddie doesn't actually work for Road Transport but hangs around and helps people navigate how to get everything done.  

When I arrived with my mechanic we went to see the guy that he knows and he looked at my documents. There were a couple problems that I was afraid would be deal breakers. It was a little confusing because although I bought it from an IMATT military guy, it was still registered to IMATT.  And although I was buying the car, I was buying it through my NGO, Willamette Medical Teams.  Anytime there's ever little problems like that it always  makes me nervous. You just never know how things will go.  Praise God we worked out the kinks (which involved me scratching out a few things and adding in a couple words).  As we left the building Eddie said, "Now it's just about the payment."  SCORE!!! We were almost home free!

Eddie told me that the price was Le 950,000 (about $218) bucks. I said ok and started to pull the money out.  Until both my mechanic and my co-worker said, "No Eddie, that's too much. You need to come down for us." Wait. What!?!  This is negotiable?  Who ever heard of a registration price being negotiable?  Then I noticed that there weren't really any signs up that had the standard costs for the various types of registrations.  It actually made me miss my DMV!  I pretty much sat back and watched the show as they went back and forth, back and forth.  After about 20 minutes of negotiating and everyone acting highly insulted that the other could possible want that much/that little money, they came back and said it would be Le 850,000 ($195).  Ok fine.

I left my co-worker with the money and my new car to get all the paperwork and got into Boris to drive home.  We were THIS close to getting out of the gate when Eddie came back and said that there was a problem.  Because the "colonel" had been and IMATT vehicle, it had never been officially registered with the government and no duty had been paid on it.  Even though it was being sold to an NGO, I still had to pay duty on it.  Duty on this car would probably be between $1500 and $2000.  Unless I could get one of the  ministries of the government to give me "duty free" status, since I'm working for an NGO.  Stink.  So close.  I talked to several people who all told me the same thing.  Eddie told me that he could do all the paperwork...but he seemed pretty sketchy so I didn't really trust giving him large sums of money.  We were getting ready to leave when my mechanic asked me to wait a minute and went back in to talk to his friend.

After about 30 minutes he came back out with the guy who again explained that the issue was getting it registered and paying the duty.  However, they said that for about $500 bucks they could get all the paperwork done and have me my car by tomorrow.  I knew what this meant.  Bribes. And lots of them.

Bribery is endemic in this country and drives me insane.  I have a pretty strict "no bribes" policy (hence my 5 1/2 hours stint at the police station) but sometimes it can't be avoided. For example, the fact that the registration price was negotiable tells me that somewhere in there, people were being paid off the books.  That kind of thing is hard to combat because I just don't know the system and it's just so common that it's the norm.

But in this case, I knew what needed to happen. I either needed to pay the duty or get duty free. This would most likely take weeks and involve hours of chasing down documents in various government buildings.  Didn't sound like a whole lot of fun. I had a crisis of conscious.  I SO wanted to take my new car up to the village with me when I went after my mom and sister left. The roads are just so bad and I'm not sure how many more trips Boris has in him.  I literally pulled over in the parking lot and sat there.  What should I do? What should I do?  Bribery is the way things are done here! Literally almost everyone does it.  I SO wanted to just pay the money and be done with it.  Don't judge me. :)

But in the end I just couldn't do it.  I thought about all the times here that I've said "someday we will stand before God and give an accounting of our life...." and I knew that aside from the fact that I really do believe that someday I will stand before God and give an accounting of my life....I also knew that if I gave in on this, how could I tell others that it was wrong?  I drove away.  Without my new car registered. Rats.

So now the plan is to try to get duty free status for the ole' Colonel.  I called the guy who would give me a letter attesting that I am in fact working here doing "health stuff" and he wasn't too thrilled. He told me that he had never given a letter to get duty free for a used car before.  Double rats.  Although it doesn't sound too promising, I am hopefully going to have a meeting with him on Tuesday and we'll just see.  If I can't get duty-free then I'll suck it up and pay the duty.  Even if I have to pay the duty, it's still a pretty good deal for the car so....that's nice. :)

Sometimes when Sierra Leone utterly frustrates me I like to look at pictures of cute babies (ok, pictures of one particular cute baby) and she makes me laugh. So here are a couple pictures of some cute babies from my family's visit.  :)

Maybe my favorite picture of Anna--having fun with her Pack N' Play

Anna and Aden chillin' on the couch


  1. your pictures need to be a little bigger :)

    1. Dude. I already made them bigger! I can't go crazy!

  2. PS... You forgot to put that your ideal husband (the surgeon) would do his undergrad in engineering and that he grew up fixing cars and milking goats.