Having experienced the extremes of Canadian and Mozambican government offices in the last two months, I still do not know which is more efficient. Is it the one with the number system, absolute silence, and lingering feeling that you are about to be scolded for not bringing the correct document? Or is it the one where the directions for finding the office include the “place where there are too many people waiting”, where you walk into a horde of people pushing towards the front desk, and hand over your passport photocopy in random order with the hope that the floating hand grabbing it and your money knows what you want?
Riaz, Ashlea, and I finally organized notarized copies of our passports and visas as the Mozambican police force is notorious for detaining you to see documentation and cushion their salaries. In our first direct experience with the Mozambican bureaucracy, we were polite Canadians looking for the end of the line to stand in. But we relented to the jostling crowd and tried to find some logic in the mayhem, a frequent activity here. We watched the photocopies make their way from one woman who took the money, to another woman who stapled the papers together, to another desk where it was given a stamp, finally to a man who signed it, and then put in one of the many stacks of paper leaning haphazardly on the counter. At that stage, you wait for your name to be called and then grab your stamped paper. You better hope you are paying attention and do not miss your name being called. At one point, three staff members were calling out names but luckily Elisabeth Hamilton is easy to pick out of the Ricardinhas, Bernardos, Fatimas, Manuelas, and Fernandos.
At the end of our visit, I think it actually might have been quicker than the Canadian government system, although because of my height, there was a lot more of my head in people’s armpits-not the most pleasant after waiting in a crowded non air-conditioned office for 30 minutes in tropical mid-day heat. But like many other things that do not seem to make sense initially, there was a system and we ended up with what we needed which will hopefully avoid any run-ins with the police and a blog post about the inefficiency of the Mozambican prison system.