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My dear friend, Jenny, works for New Balance shoes in Illinois. She was generous enough to arrange for a shipment of 100 pairs of kids shoes for our orphan program in the Lamego community.
Seems simple enough that Jenny would ship the shoes and I would just go and pick them up. Nothing is so simple in Mozambique!
We got word that the shoes had arrived at the post office in record time, just a month after they were shipped. Emilio, the director of the Child Aid Project and the Vocational School, insisted that I go, personally, to pick them up. That meant that I missed an entire day of work to make the 4-hour, round-trip journey to the city. Emilio's request was not unrealistic, though. See, I have developed a bit of a reputation for being "The One" who can get packages at the post office without paying any customs taxes! Quite a claim to fame, huh? To be "The One" is not entirely difficult. I have to admit that a bit of flirting did factor into it—a fact of which I am not proud. And, I have to admit that sharing of the chocolates contained in my packages played a significant part in my claim to fame. There are other theories floating around as to how I get my packages, but they are just NOT true! Trust me and don't listen to the others.
Regardless, I headed into the city with visions of the kids in Lamego outfitted in their brand-spankin' new shoes!
I arrived at the post office with little difficulty. However, the Customs Official was not there. His assistant told me that the Customs Official was not in a particularly pleasant mood that day and that I should expect to pay quite a sum to receive my packages. I waited, and waited, and waited a little bit more.
Finally the Customs Official returned and was, indeed, in a foul mood.
He took one look at the two boxes FILLED with shoes and told me that I was actually making an IMPORT! He went on to tell me that I had to register with the Ministry of Trade and Finance, a process that could take 3 months at least. I, oh-so-politely, explained to him that I simply did not have that amount of time as I was leaving Mozambique that week. He was willing, begrudgingly, to find a solution with me. He grandly took out his calculator, a pen, and a piece of paper. He did a series of ridiculous math problems and told me that I should pay him about $500!!! I welled up in tears. Just a note: I am normally a fairly emotionally stable person, however, during my last days in Mozambique just about anything could make me cry. I explained to him for the millionth time that the shoes would not be sold, that they were a donation, that they were for orphaned children, and that I was a lowly, low-paid volunteer. He, oh-so-politely, reminded me that he was doing me a favor by illegally arranging this transaction. But, he DID do yet another series of math problems. This time the $120 result did not seem so bad. Really, it is about a dollar a child or a nice night out on the town in the US (rarely it helps to think in US terms, but this was one of those rarities!)
I paid the money and negotiated the 2 large boxes through the city streets and onto the bus. And, when I arrived home, to my delight and pleasant surprise, I was congratulated for, yet again, getting a bargain from the Customs Official!
I actually started writing this to just thank Jenny! But, you all get a humorous little story, too! While corruption is an awful reality, it does offer some good stories!
So, THANK YOU, Jenny! Thank you, from me personally. Thank you for being aware of what I am up to and thank you for finding a way that you could help. And, Thank you from the kids in Lamego! They are some cool kids with their new shoes! Thank you for your generosity and thank you for making a difference! You have no idea of the pride the kids have in their new look!
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