So last week I got a notice in the mail that a package had arrived for me and I should collect at the post office.
I've blogged before about how I have a few missing packages from etsy sellers this year (5 so far), so whenever I see that white paper that tells me something has arrived, I jump for joy! I don't care what it is, something arrived!
On Friday afternoon I went to the post office heaquarters. It's a very old building from colonial times, with long wooden counters, completely run down and with bare and stained walls, where the staff moves leisurely as if being there and actually serving the customers is the least relevant thing they could do in this world.
I approach the counter and wait my turn - there's no structure to this, no numbers, so you just have to eye how many people were there already, try to avoid people cutting in line, preparing to elbow someone if needed.
I give my notice to the guy behind the counter, and wait for 20 minutes for him to locate my package - wait to go, man, that was quick, you should be nominated for employee of the month!
After I get my package, he escorts me to the customs department.
The customs officer asks what's inside, I explay they're artisan beads. Note that handicrafts are the one out of two or three things that don't pay a thousand and twelve or four million and nine percent tax - they're actually exempt.
He opens my package and examines the beads and after a few "hmmmmms" he announces I need to pay 250 meticais tax for them (that's about 9 dollars). I tell him as far as I know, artisan components and handicrafts don't pay tax.
He smiles faintly, pulls the package closer to him, looks away and starts talking to the next customer.
Now after 12 years here, I know better than to open my mouth again. So I pull out the 250 mets and put them on the counter. His colleague, in the meanwhile, is filling out my receipt. The officer who asked me for the money rips the receipt out of the book, throws it in the bin, throws 50 meticais in my direction, pushes the beads closer to me, and puts the 200 remaining meticais in his pocket, in full view of everyone there.
Why didn't I complain to his superior, I hear someone say? Because his superior would say "what, he only extorted 200 mets? Hell, I want 400."
You see, it's not about the money, it's the principle. Unfortunately for me, I'm one of those people with a heightened sense of justice and of right and wrong. I remember once getting beat in high school by an older boy because I saw him bully a younger kid and thought I'd tackle him with my mighty 5,1' frame (even less back then).
And here I am, living in a country with one of the highest corruption levels in the world...
Lots of people I know here love it that way. They love to know that whatever they do wrong (double park the car, slap someone, throw trash out of the window), they only need to slip someone some money and it will go away.
Well, it scares the living daylights out of me.
The beads are nice, though...