Sunday, September 11, 2005

Ghana DMV!

Ted and I both have our Ghanaian driver's licenses, (although I haven't driven a car since I took the Trooper to CarMax on June 11 and sold it!). We got international driver's licenses because they are valid in all the countries we plan to visit, including Ghana, but apparently if we get pulled over here and don't have a local license, it can be an excuse to hassle us.

Our driver, Duke, who has been so incredibly helpful in so many ways helping us assimilate in our new home took Ted in to the Accra license bureau first, then took me in the next week. The place is mostly open air- offices that open directly onto outside corridors, payment windows with jalousies opening onto the same type corridors, tons of people, and much confusion.

I arrived armed with a copy of my passport, a copy of my driver's license from the U.S. - front and back all on one page, four passport sized pictures, and ¢62,000 (about $6.75). Since I have a valid license, I didn't need to take a test, just pay a fee, so Duke and I started in an office where a man perused my documents, and gave us a form. We moved to an open area where people were waiting to take the written test and I filled out the form (pretty standard name address etc.). Then we took that form to a payment window and a woman stamped it and took a passport photo to attach to it and took ¢2000. Then we went to a different, but identical office and a different but identical bureaucrat looked at my form and crossed out information I had filled in that he didn't need, got out a book of forms and instructed the air around his head to sign here (point), here (point), here (point) and here (point), and then handed it to Duke, who handed it to me (although I had been sitting directly next to the man the entire time) and I signed, here, here, here and here.

I gave the man back his book and he produced more paper, instructing the air where to sign, handing it to Duke, who handed it to me, and I signed.

Then he stamped and validated and verified, then nailed another of my photos to a smaller form and took ¢60000 and explained to Duke about the mechanics of this, my temporary license, and how long it would take for my permanent to arrive. Duke checked with a look to make sure I was clear, then we left.

On a funnier note- one of the expats was having trouble getting a license here and Duke volunteered to go with her the next day- the official, having seen Duke three times with expats, got very angry and yelled at Duke, telling him not to come back, EVER, and quit helping the Obroni (local word for 'foreigner') through the process because it was damaging his side income (this third expat had been told the previous day that her fee would be ten times the norm). Duke remained calm, gave the man ¢5000 (about 60 cents) and the man immediately became friendly and revoked Duke's ban from the license bureau. Snort.

So I can drive, if I develop a desire to engage in the demolition derby that is Accra traffic. We'll see. ;-)