Phew! I do wonder when things will calm down sometimes!
Aubrey went up to Accra on Wednesday to submit his work visa. We have to do this yearly. This then has to come back and we can all then apply for a residency visa. As with most things official this can take a while.
He went up at around 5am with Barnaby. At midday I got a call from him to say that they had processed it and we could submit our passports for our residency visas. Wow! Fast fast, as they say in Ghana.
So….how to proceed? Would we go up another day, would A stay up in Accra, would we send our passports up with someone, would we (me and the other three kids) go ourselves and join them, and when would we go, that afternoon or in the morning? Mix into that the fact that we had to get some passport photos done and it all became a bit busy. There was even talk of getting it all sorted and sent up to get there by 3pm. It takes two and a half to three hours to get to Accra!
Just getting the photos sorted took me most of the afternoon. I decided to try and ‘do’ them ourselves, with the help of Dom. Wrong plan, apart from the fact Isambard refused to look at the camera, Aubrey and I weren’t 100% confident that they would accept them as we didn’t have any photographic paper, although it had worked for Dom and family when they extended their visas. Depends on the person you get but someone wanting to pick at it would find it an issue. So next plan was to throw the three of them in a car (car seats were with Aubrey in our car in Accra) and head to Elmina to ‘Try Jesus’.
Thankfully was offered a driver so I could confidently hold onto at least a couple of limbs of one or two children. To my relief Isambard decided she would reluctantly look at the camera but it will forever show she was not happy about it. So that only took us an hour. All this rushing around of course was done in 32 degree heat, and don’t forget we still have the ‘me get naked’ thing going on with two of them, so I lose a few pounds in sweat just trying to catch them and get them into their clothes.
Once back we decided that it would be easier for me and the kids to travel up early and head off to the immigration offices first thing. Our car and a driver came back to Elmina with the car seats, thank goodness, and we changed them to the bus which the driver came and picked us up in at 430am.
All very good. And in fact the next morning ran amazingly smoothly. At the immigration offices all I had to do was entertain the kids in a waiting area with a very slippery floor. This was much more interesting than me despite trying to make ‘mum fun’, in order not to raise my voice to tell them not to slide everywhere. This only lasted for about 15 minutes and all was submitted, passports left and off we went to look at other buses, as you do!
It was on our way to the bus viewing that things got interesting. Well not interesting just plain frustrating.
On our way to the bus in a place called Tema (East of Accra and a major port) we travelled by the only motorway in Ghana. At the end the traffic was backed up and the police were out in force. William, our driver, who is lovely and works for Sabre, had stupidly/absentmindedly undertaken all the backed up traffic in what you would describe as the hard shoulder. He didn’t know the road well and was probably not registering it at all. Anyway he realised what he had done was wrong when he saw the police and decided to pretend to stop as if something was wrong with the vehicle, to hopefully avoid interest. Too late! We were suddenly surrounded by about seven or more burly looking policemen and women talking fast and indicating they wanted to check inside the vehicle.
He opened the door and one of them got in and sat down next to Inny. We; myself, Aubs and the kids, were silent and just looked on as we couldn’t really understand much of the conversation apart from ‘drive, office’. The only thing Aubrey said to the policeman was ‘please you need to fasten your seatbelt!’. Which, bless him, he did.
William chatted away to the policeman and tried to do the usual to get out of it and pay him. This has been happening more often over the years – the police sit on the road side pulling over vehicles and elicite bribes from them for anything from speeding to wearing the wrong kind of shoes.
It’s a pain to say the least. We were unsure of the police’s motive with us. Did he feel he could get a bigger bribe from William as we were white (racist you could say, but although understandable it annoyingly happens all the time, the ‘price’ is hiked up for us Obruni’s) or was he just grumpy with William or did he have a target to take a number of people back to the station, or was he just having a bad day? Who knows but the other words we understood were ‘arrested, vehicle, confiscated, tomorrow’. Great! Stranded with four kids in the baking heat of Tema, I didn’t dare contemplate it.
By then we were still in crawling traffic so Aubrey decided that we would all get out so William could sort it on his own and hopefully the lure of extra money was eliminated. We were dropped somewhere we could eat, thankfully, and ended up staying for over an hour having chicken and chips at 1030am whilst watching classic James Bond. We then jumped into a cab and headed for the police station to see what was going on.
On arrival, I’d say not much other than a lot of other drivers and their ‘impounded’ cars waiting for their fate. After another half an hour or so there in the heat of the day it was suddenly all over and William was rounding us up to jump back in the bus.
I asked William how he’d got the keys back and not been arrested (all the other drivers we saw there had been). He said through telling them he worked for a charity building schools and a brighter future for the children in Ghana as well as saying we were from Elmina, didn’t know the area etc. How much did he have to pay for all this? Thirty cedis, which is £10. What a mamouth waste of time.
We still managed to see that other bus and by then had had enough so headed home, thank goodness.
On thursday this is the tree from which a police woman shouted to the boys ‘get down you will fall’.