Bribery, Extortion and or just pain ignorance. I’ve gone through all of the possibilities and finally landed on ignorance. The shipping company is just a shipping company and is certainly trying to get as much as possible for their work. The problem as I’m finding out is with the Customs subcontractor – I’m fairly certain they’ve never dealt with this type of cargo before and don’t know what to do. Citizenship, tax id, personal identification number; it’s all an attempt to cover their ass should they make an error. As I finally found out today, they have classified the cargo as hazardous material and have increased their rate to store and process the shipment.
We started again at 8 am going through the same process as all of the other days. One room to the next getting signatures on the same pieces of paper that we already have signatures on. There always seems to be the same questions and same confusion with my shipping agent and the customs officials yelling back and forth to each other. At some point in the verbal melee, a loud crash from upstairs dominates the yelling. Another loud crash, clank, bang, etc. – the room goes silent as we listen to what sounded like the building was falling down. Some people run for the door, a couple people ran up the stairs (hero types) and others just stand and listen. I’ll looking for the easiest route out as I fear gunshots are about to be fired – maybe a disgruntled worker? After what felt like 10 minutes of ruckus, security guards bring down two men who have apparently gotten in a fight. What a crazy think. 1 min later its business as usual and the yelling starts up again between the customs agents and shipping contractors.
Finally, my agent does the wash of the hands gesture and its over; they’re going to bring out my bike. We get it placed on the loading dock, start breaking the crate apart with a hammer (no drill) and unpack the bike. With about 10 people standing around, I they pay off the agent with $3,000 in cash ($2100 of which goes to the customs office) as everyone looks on. I pull out my empty pockets after the deal hoping to signify that I’m broke – no more money. As he scurries off with his cash in pocket, I work on getting the bike set up and head out.
Finally, I’m off. I cannot wait to get out of the city. I’ll head up north toward the coast and with any luck get away from the hordes of slick carpet salesmen and sunburned tourists. If it feels like the adventure is about to begin, I’m not sure where that leaves me with what I’ve just experienced.
I stocked up on a few staples at a local market and I’ll push off in the am. I few photos from the day.