Saturday, July 17, 2010

Immigration Police

So far, my most "thrilling" adventure in Zambia has been to the office of the Immigration Police. These people got my heart pumping. On our way to one of the bridge stites in the small town of Fupashi, we passed 10- yes 10- police check points. Several of them were just slow down and wave. The 9th one, however, was a little more. I have learned that these are really more to supplement the minimal income that police workers make rather than to keep anyone safe.
So checkpoint 9- the guy asks for Zoe's documents, which she then produces. Then he asks me for my documents. I told him I didn't have my passport with me. He told me to get out of the car. So for the next 20 minutes we are pleading with them to give us a warning because we were just on a day trip, and I didn't know that I needed my passport with me at all times. Nope- they hold Zoe's documents hostage until their bossman comes and leads us to his office, which is a shabby room with a desk and a few old garage-sale-looking chairs- similar to what I would imagine of a prison cell. After another 20 minutes of waiting for him to talk to his people and play on his cell phone and tell us that he thinks we are lying, it is apparent Zoe's magic of persuasion is only testing his patience. Then- light bulb. I took a picture of my Zambia Visa Receipt for accounting purposes!!!! I show him this picture of a receipt with my name that matches my debit card, and much to his chagrin he told us we were okay to leave (without paying a bribe). Then he started asking Zoe what she does for work and which political officials she works with, and one of them happens to be related to him- so now we are all best buddies! The other guy that had been busted at this stop was likely going to be there a while as he was a truck driver from Zimbabwe and driving to the Congo- without a passport. So, I was not the worst they had seen.
This was the adventure last week! The good news was that Zoe chose to stay with me when they offered to trade her documents for me:) Now, I will carry my passport with me at all times.

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