Brush with the Law

I have had all good intentions when it comes to blogging these past three weeks but some how a blog never materialized in cyberspace. I have had many things to blog about so I’ll just start rapid fire of ideas:
-Traveling back from NDJ without the Student Missionaries
-Straight up food poisoning from pizza (just like in developed countries)
-Reflections on the work of Dambisa Moyo, “Dead Aid,” and how it applies to here
-To extend my time here or not, that is the question

Now all of these are of some large interest to me but as another volunteer said, it sometimes is better to show the comical yet real side of what happens here. So here’s to Saturday morning activities that just happen to involve the police of one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

It started off innocent enough. My alarm beeped on Friday, 25 April, that I had to pay my student loan bill and since that is a big reason to why I am here, I try to make it a priority. We just had a big storm and the network was acting up so I figured I would do it later.

I tried it later.
I stared at my screen forever.
It never worked again.

Look at that, I made a haiku. But yes, text and phone calls wouldn’t even work so I gave up and went to bed.

The following morning I awoke with a start, realizing that I still had to pay it since it was due on the the 26th. We recently got our motorcycle completely registered (sans plate but maybe I’ll get it tomorrow) so I decided to zip over to Lai for a quick use of Tigo E (think of it like Verizon Edge or just fast cellular data). I left the hospital before 7 am but promptly got behind a dirt hauling truck and was sand blasted 80% of the 17 km to Lai.

Once there, I road around looking for a coffee or tea spot but none were open yet so I pulled around to the public meeting grounds to do my internet business. I pull out my phone and start going to the loan website when this guy comes up to me yelling, takes my phone, and proceeds to head to the police station. This police station is already a joke as they are to man the only stop sign for 60 km in any direction. It is in the middle of nowhere and they are looking for terrorists and illegal immigrants.

Whatever, so we head there and I hear him going on about internet usage and I finally figure out that I had parked near a private satellite internet tower and he was being a good citizen and reporting me. So I go on about how I was under the impression that Tigo (our cellular carrier) is available for anyone who wants to use it. The police start to laugh as I am getting very serious while this lunatic has my Iphone. He gives it back after he realizes his mistake and I after I explain it to every police officer I pass because they want to be the one to rescue the nassara, I drive across the street to sit by the hospital.

Maybe I look too nerdy with my glasses but contacts don’t do well with dust and high-speed winds. Maybe all white males are computer hackers (**cough cough** Temidayo). Maybe he was hoping for a payoff or a new phone. Whatever. I just needed to pay my loan bill.

I pull across the street by the hospital and proceed to complete what I needed to do plus a little more. I watch as every person who ran that stop sign was pulled over. There are not a lot of regular foreigners in Lai even though it is bigger than Bere so every drunk and every child thought it was there prerogative to welcome me to their city. Needless to say, Lai’s not a bad place except any normal surgical case is sent to Dr. Danae in Bere.

I finish, wave bye-bye to the police and head home, hoping to get back in time to go to the village branch of church before the regular service starts. Going, I am passing Fulani people on donkeys, women piled high with wares to sell on their heads, men guiding heavy laden ox carts, and anyone else walking or riding a bike to Bere for market day. I’m clipping a long and it feels great to be alive. I skirted one police situation and was ready to eat some breakfast.

As I pull into the town of Nangere, 7 km before Bere, I see a police stop. They flag me down (but not most other people) and ask for my papers. I ask which papers, mine or the moto’s hoping for mine, and he says the moto’s. I pull out everything and he looks it over and asks for something. I am unfamiliar with the name but he insists I don’t have it. Valery, my “father,” is the one who has been registering our motos so I call him up. I explain and finally just hand over the phone to the police. We have 30 days to get the tax taken care of but this policeman decides that we don’t. He says I can pay the 5000 CFA then and there. The only problem is that I did not have 5000 CFA, about $10 USD. Charis was bringing back money for me so I had all of 3000 CFA and change.

Valery said he could come take care of it so I told him to get the other moto’s key from Olen at the hospital. I call Olen and explain. He laughs and says its not a problem. While waiting, the police are doing a good-cop/bad-cop routine. One is being super hard about it while the other is trying to convince him that I’m a good guy, work at the hospital, and just made an honest mistake. Finally they compromise and we can take care of the paper work in Bere. We get going but as soon as we are on the main road, we see Valery. He’s getting it straightened out and Olen calls.

“Where are you guys?”
“uh by the side of the road.”
“How far from Nangere?”
“Less than a km, what’s up?”
“You wanna do church there?”

So Valery and I ended up asking around, “Where do the nassara sing on Saturdays?” and eventually we found a well with kids waiting for our arrival. We mumble through the kids songs as I don’t know them in French or Nangere and Valery doesn’t them period. I hum a little and then the kids know it so we just roll with it. Olen said to tell the story of Jericho and Valery and I give an impresive account of what happened.

Finally we arrive back at Bere in time for Valery to make it to regular Sabbath school and for me to go take a shower.

After church, we had to take some people back to Nangere since they hitched a ride to church with us. On our way back we can pick up our new tax sticker. He said it would be 5000CFA for each bike. I rounded up 20,000CFA just incase. I figure double should be enough but it was not. He wanted 12,500 CFA for each so I have to head back to hospital and back to the police station one more time.

All in all, there was no arrest, no beatings, and not too bad of a bribe. I just was happy I made lunch before I headed out on this adventure so that they rest of those here were not waiting on me for potluck.

Its always an adventure here and I’ll continue to enjoy it while I can. I don’t have an issue with working with the people here and I like seeing their ah-ha moments. We continue to fight for healthy lives which include good nutrition, education, coming to the hospital on time, and not giving a baby water. There are only so many hours in a day but some how, we keep moving forward.

Zachary Gatelyzchgtly
+235 91122492

L’Hopital Adventiste de Béré
ATTN: Zachary Gately
52 Boîte Postal
Kelo, Tchad

1 thought on “Brush with the Law

  1. Gately! What did we tell you about bribes?
    Sounds like the you’re fully integrated now. But feel free to hurry back.

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