Friday, September 29, 2006

Rough Day

Today has been a tough day. I had some things I was trying to find out, and it ended up being the worst of the possible scenarios that I had in mind. So today was a day of bad news.

I came to Kisumu this afternoon with my 2 research assistants. We were going to be about halfway to Kisumu anyway for some business, so we planned to just come to Kisumu when we finished so we could continue working and charge the computer at the same time. Right now we’re doing a lot of focus groups, which are kind of like group interviews or group discussions and we’re recording and then typing them, which uses a lot of battery and takes a long time. So we thought we could take this evening and tomorrow and spend a good amount of time transcribing them and also go home with a charged computer. We’re staying in a guest house in town tonight, which is pretty nice for as cheap as it is (we’re all sleeping here comfortably for about $7).

So on the way to Kisumu, after everything else that had already happened, the conductor tried to overcharge us (like often happens). I didn’t have exact change, so I gave him a bill and expected change. He had taken 40 shillings each instead of 30, and I asked for the correct price, asked if he raised it because I was a mzungu and then burst into tears, almost hysterically (I could hardly breathe), until I’m sure the entire matatu thought I was crazy. I explained that today had already been a very bad day and that this was just the last thing. They seemed to be very understanding and the conductor returned 20 or the 30 shillings he had overcharged.

Then when we got to Kisumu and I went to the customs office to negotiate the taxes they wanted me to pay on the package Dave’s mom sent. At first I thought the taxes were so high because they thought I wanted to sell the things, but he explained the way the taxes are calculated. They take the declared value of the items and charge a 25% import duty. Then, after adding the import duty, they charge a 16% value added tax. I said that it was ridiculous, especially since I was paying tax on the tax. He agreed, but said that it is the law of Kenya. The tax on the form was about 45% of the value of the package! So, as soon as he said that it didn’t matter if the items were for sale or for personal use, I burst into tears again and explained again how it had been such a hard day already and that this was just the last thing. It probably didn’t help either that it was the end of a long day and we hadn’t had a chance even to eat lunch. I told him that I didn’t know how I would pay it because I’m just a student here and he said that he himself couldn’t cancel the taxes, but that his supervisor could authorize him to reduce it and write a new bill. It was too late in the day to do today, so I have to come back Monday and we’ll take care of it. So, instead of the $52 they wanted, I think I’ll end up paying about $7 (so Cheryl, you don’t have to worry. The package has come and I won’t have to pay and arm and a leg to get it). Whew. So at least one thing will be okay.

So we came and found the guest house (thank you Lonely Planet!) and chilled out a little bit before going to find some dinner. For dinner I had a chapati, beans and yummy mixed vegetables, all things that made me very happy. I’m having fun with my girls. Before going to bed, Joyce was commenting on her big stomacn (which is completely non-existant) and we started comparing our stomachs in the mirror. It was fun. We also saw some beautiful scenery as we were out and about today. I wished I had taken my camera.

Well, if I want to do better tomorrow, I’d really better go to sleep now. Please pray for me in the next few days as I deal with the issues that I discovered today. Pray for grace, wisdom and understanding. Thanks.


Senor Bozo said...

I can certainly sympathize with your distress and will be praying for you - even travelling/working in European countries can be very stressful. Eventually, anyone in such circumstances 'hits a wall' when it becomes more than you can do to deal with one more thing, especially when you're being taken advantage of.

Mark and Courtney said...

Praying for you, Sarah!

Courtney (Olmsted)