We're Jason, Beth, Lee Anna, Sawyer, and Sarah Claire, a family of five living, learning, and laughing lots in Northern Africa.
We hope you can learn a little (and maybe laugh a little too) as you read about our latest adventures.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two Simple Errands

I left home about noon on Tuesday, 8 March, to go on a simple errand: just take four bags to the air freight area at the airport and have them sent to a nearby country. It sounded simple enough, right? Well it took about an hour and a half to get to the airport to start with. As I first arrived a young man asked if I was going to the cargo area and volunteered to ride with me. I wasn't sure at first if he was there to help me or if he just needed a ride to work. But he showed me where to go and arranged things for me. We spent about 2 hours weighing the bags, getting papers stamped and waiting around a lot, but we got it done. The bags were on their way, so I started home. That's when the fun started. Traffic had been pretty heavy all day but after 2 or 3 miles the highway just stopped. We -- we meaning me and 10000 other cars-- crept along for 45 minutes or so making almost no progress. Then cars from the other direction started waving and motioning for us all to turn and go somewhere else. Several even stopped their cars to explain what was ahead.

So I took the first exit to the right and made really good time for the first 5 minutes while in a tunnel. But when I came out of the tunnel, I found myself downtown and approaching a very famous square that you probably saw on TV in February. The major protests were over but there were still a few hundred camping out and waving banners. And selling t-shirts. Lots of t-shirts and bumper stickers and other revolution souvenirs. Traffic was understandably slow. When I finally got around the square I passed by the street to the American embassy. There were six big tanks guarding the entrance to that. I finally got out to the highway by the river and on home. Almost three hours after leaving the airport. I found out later that by turning I avoided a major riot that involved throwing rocks at passing cars.

Then last week I needed to renew my car registration. In the states it seems like we did this by mail. At worst it might take an hour at the courthouse. So I left about 10, dropped the kids off at school and headed out. It took about 2 hours to cover the 8 miles to the traffiic department. Then another 15 minutes to find the right building. But I got in and started the process, paying some fees and such on the third floor. The guy told me to go down to the second floor, so I asked him which window to go to. His reply was classic: "God only knows--ask them down there." When we got downstairs, I went to the first window on the right, and that guy looked at my papers. Then he looked at me and said, “Foreigners can’t do this in this building. You need to go to the new one by the river.” Great. I knew approximately where the new place was—it’s next to a mall I’ve been in. When I got to the road by the river, I was about a half-mile from the mall. But there were big tanks blocking that road because of some government buildings there. So I crossed the river on a bridge, went north a half mile and took the other bridge back over. Well, the exit I wanted was also blocked so I ended up several blocks away before another chance to turn. When I did turn and get headed in the right direction, I found my self stuck in very slow-moving traffic, not all that close to the river. I got to the area where the traffic office is at about 2:30. But they told us it closed at 2:00. So I decided I'd try again on Monday. The GPS on Sunday said we had travelled 6 hours and averaged 8 MPH. 11 MPH if it only counted the time we were moving. Wow. Over an hour was “sitting still in traffic.”

Monday morning, I left pretty early by our standards—7:30 a.m.! I thought I’d drive through the only McDonald’s drive through in town and grab some coffee and a McMuffin. They serve breakfast now, but they don’t start until 8:30!! So I stopped in a little grocery store and got some really bad muffins and a Coke. It only took an hour and a half to get there this time, and I found the place pretty easily. I got my papers turned in—after visiting several windows on two different floors—and the guy told me to have a seat, it would be ready in a few minutes. That was at about 10:30. At 11:30, he told me the computer system was “down,” and it might be a few more minutes.

At noon on Monday, he gave me his mobile number and told me to call him on Tuesday and see if it was working yet. Nice. So I headed back home, still with no new tags. I actually had to screw the old tags back on the car, since I had taken them off and turned them in already. On Tuesday, I called and indeed the system was back up. So I told him I’d see him Wednesday morning. By Wednesday the tanks were cleared from the highway I wanted, so I got there about 8:30. They “open” at 8:00, but at 8:30 only 2 of 12 windows were occupied. When my guy arrived, he gave me one of his little breakfast pizzas. That was nice. By 10:00 it was all finished and the shiny new tags were in place. I got home about 11, ready to start another adventure.

1 comment:

  1. This post made me laugh because we remember days like that :-)