Monday, December 07, 2009

Kizua Mwangola: Part 4: Angolan Again

On our return to Luanda, we found the city to be busier than ever. Perhaps it was the long, empty roads of Huambo that made us adapt to the slow pace of country life. Luanda hits you in the face, overflowing with people, cars, rubble. We were not expecting much of the conservatoria, not quite believing that the express service was actually going to deliver results. To my amazement it did: a brand-spanking cedula and birth-certificate were at the ready, waiting for me.

The next mission was to sort out the ID card. We did the scouting as usual, dropping by during the day and figured out another early start was required. I went solo. I got there for around 05:10 AM, managed to be number 38 after some complications (don't ask), waited for ages and got seen around 09:30. The going was good until around 5 people ahead of me. At this point, a middle-aged white Angolan goes up to the desk - a desk sitting more or less in the centre of the room, in full view of everyone. The chap was talking too softly for me to hear, but our Angolan public servant was not; his loudness was calculated to ensure everyone could participate in the exchange. Proceedings went more or less like this:

- So you're 40-odd years of age, haven't you ever had an ID card before?
- (inaudible mumble by citizen)
- So now you come back with this measly piece of paper (pointing to the birth certificate) and want me to believe this person is in fact you? How do I know?
- (more inaudible mumble by citizen)
- No, no, if it comes from the province you need to go back to the province! You all go when things got though and now want to come back when its sweet, and expect us to just believe your word!! If you want me to accept your documents you need some supporting evidence!!
- (even more inaudible mumble by citizen)
- Back to the province I say!! I'm here to do my job!!

The citizen left the building, but the public servant wasn't quite finished. He kept talking about it while processing the subsequent four cases, getting angrier and angrier as time went by - a full fledged monologue by now, punctuated only by the yesses and hm hms uttered by the customer and a few in the crowd. This went on until it was my turn, at which point he finally stopped talking, but for all the wrong reasons. He could hardly believe his eyes when he looked at my birth certificate, alternating between the paper and me several times with gaping mouth:

- I can't believe this!! Another one!?! What's going on here today?? Where is your old ID card?
- I never had one Sir - I say, starting to despair, but with still one card up my sleeve. Using my politest, nicest, humblest Portuguese I mumble:
- I also have the church's birth certificate, if that helps at all.

Incredibly, the guy changed his tone immediately after seeing the church's document, and suddenly starts displaying me as a model citizen to the crowd, explaining how this is the sort of behaviour he expects, with the neat confirming documents and so on. We all had a chuckle at the expense of these citizens that come round with only one document - me noisily joining the crowd slagging those fools. In the same breath I was thanking God I had remembered the old Portuguese bureaucratic trick of bringing every single legal document you own every time you go to a government agency - this makes it harder for them to send you home for lack of documentation.

The adventure wasn't quite finished after that - there were some other minor problems, but nothing major and the end result was that I _almost_ managed to finish the day with a valid Angolan ID card. Yep, this is the same day in which I initiated my request, and I did not do anything different from a regular, average Angolan citizen. The _almost_ bit was due to some mishaps with my file that I don't fully understand - something to do with stamps; my lovely number 38 ended up being processed at number 72 or so, meaning I was at the very back of the queue by the end of the working day (around 14:30). And this is excluding the other minor incident in which the chap calling out people got the files in the wrong order and jumped from 29 to 60 odd, skipping everyone inbetween; it took the queue something like ten names to notice the problem, at which point we were all shouting in unison: TA ERRADO CHEFE!!! TROCOU A ORDEM!!! (its all wrong boss, you flipped the order!!).

Anyway. Next day I returned at the late hour of 08:00 AM and it took me the whole of 20 mins to obtain my brand-spanking new Angolan ID card.

1 comment:

Jójó said...

EXAMPLARY CITIZEN, EXAMPLARY CITIZEN!!! :-D