Into the bowels of Ghanain customs shenanigans
After about 20 minutes, I am beginning to get worried, not that she will run off but simply that something is happening that I have no idea about and that I perhaps should know about. I go and look for her but can’t find her and come back to the sitting area. Eventually she comes back after about one hour and says I should wait there as she now has to go to the customs office and give them the forms and so on. OK, I will wait. Another 15-20 minutes go by and she comes out and now says she has to go back to the first office. I should wait here. OK!!
Another 15-20 minutes go by. Now I’m getting restless. What is going on? I go and look for her. Eventually I find her, sitting outside an office, talking to a couple of people and eating something. She jumps up as I come by and I ask her what is happening. She seems guilty. She says the forms are being processed in another office and I ask her – somewhat accusingly – what is really happening. She takes me to the office, a small office, full of people, computers, desks, reggae music. She shows me the person doing our processing, stuck in the corner and I’m asked to sit down and wait, in a chair also cramped into a corner.
So, right now, I’m concerned about any other fees that may be paid. My friend has told me the PUPD form will exempt me from duties, but I will still have to pay a levy, but I couldn’t get from her what the levy was for and how much it could be. There seems to be a certain vagueness in communication when trying to pin anybody down to something, like how much this may cost me. This occurred earlier when I tried to find out how much her fee would be for helping me – yes, another fee! We were in the first office and when she wouldn’t answer me directly one of the uniformed men there chastised her for not being direct and telling me what the fee would be. In the end she said 20 cedis, which is about 13 dollars, a lot it would seem, but which in the end was worth it to me to get out the developing Kafkaesque scenario that wouldn’t seem out of line in a Terry Gilliam movie.
So, I ask in the office what the levy may be for this process. I am told by a ‘very nice man’ that the total will be 97 cedis (about 60 dollars), which includes a government fee of 10 cedis, a 20 cedi charge for something else, 10 cedis for something else and 57 cedis based on the weight of my bag. The thing is, I have already paid one company the handling fee so why should I pay another fee. I told this to the man and he showed me the weight fee and said this was the fee. That was it. I said this was already costing me so much money and perhaps feeling sorry for me, but more likely simply indicating that most of these fees were totally bogus he reduced the fee by 7 cedis. Anyway, by this time I was getting exhausted so I agreed to pay, but of course I don’t have enough money and so we trot off to another office to get some money.
We enter another room, with a lot of people in and I am beckoned to ask one man about changing money. He is apparently just working there but said he would change money for me but then realizes he doesn’t have any cedis. He sends a person off to get cedis. As he is looking through his pockets and drawer, he pulls out a lot of foreign currency, like a lot, so he is obviously quite flush and whatever he is doing there is paying quite nicely. In the end I get my money, at quite a good rate as well, and we head back to the first office where I pay up and begin to wonder whether my friend is my friend or whether she is simply in cahoots with this office, which on reflection, makes total sense, but at this point, I just really want to be done. We are now over 5 hours of moving from one office to another, I have no more money, have not eaten lunch and my humor is failing me.