I recently began a new series on my blog, called Flashback Photo Fridays, where I will share a photo with a story, antidote or explain why the photo is meaningful to me. This will be a great way for me to reflect on past travels, jog my memory to “remember that time” or “Oh man, How did I get through X.” I have so many fun and crazy stories from my adventure in Africa, which many didn’t get written because I didn’t have a laptop with me. So here’s hoping with this new series I can document many a story from the past
However, Today is a flashback to my time crossing the border in Africa from Malawi to Mozambique:
This may not be the prettiest of photos but it certainly documents a time and place of what it was like to cross the border in Africa. My friend and I, whom I met during a 6 week stay in Moshi,Tanzania crossed the border from Malawi to Mozambique. We hoped off a mini bus ride that I barely remember now (thank goodness for some photos to help jog the memory) and walked with a few guys who were on our minibus also crossing the border. Our minibus had stopped many times to pick up passengers and I remember fretting knowing their were hours when the border was open.
One of the guys carried my bag (maroon) and as we passed all the trucks that were waiting to cross, we arrived at the tiny border station where two Mozambicans officials were working (aka, chilling and relaxing). Sweating as we walked at midday as the sun beat down on us, we greeted the officials with a big smile and handed over our passports. We were handed a form and just as I got comfortable inside the tiny room with a fan blaring to cool the officials down, they ordered us outside until they were ready for us. For some unknown reason. It was clear they weren’t doing much but enjoying having power. We knew we had to pay for a visa, the equivalent of $25 But you know what, they told us the fee was $28 and you can guess,
out of principal, of course.
After several months of being targeted as a person made of money (yes, I know I’m wealthy in so many ways, in comparison to the average African and the fact that I CAN travel means I’m wealthy in their eyes.) However, I encountered many folks who are accustomed to bribing and I didn’t care for this game. I made it a habit to joke with folks that money didn’t come out of my elbows when they tried to charge me more. Thankfully, it always gave them a laugh…
I inquired about the fee and realized how comfortable I felt talking with them, more than I do in my own country at border control. Why is this, I wondered? I felt this way at many African borders- a feeling of power, a feeling that I could stand-up for myself without any issue. Thankfully, it never got me into any trouble but man, sometimes, I wonder… I got some balls when maybe I shouldn’t… or maybe it’s helped me in more ways than I’ll ever know.
I relented and paid the darn extra dollars after waiting outside for 30 minutes, realizing they held all the power and were going to use the extra funds for cans of beer.
So be it.
I have better things to do than chill at the border.
I recently meet a guy from Cape town, South Africa, who’d been traveling for months across Africa from Cape town to Morocco into Spain in his land rover at Nowhere. You can bet your boots, he dealt with his fare share of bribes but like me, can’t stand it either. Man, did he have funny stories to tell. When he refused to pay the bribes to cross the border to receive a stamp in his passport, he camped out in his landrover until border officials got tired of seeing him naked when he bathed and just doing what ever the heck he pleased. Essentially, making them uncomfortable until they couldn’t stand it anymore. Now, this guy has got some balls. I don’t know how comfortable I would have been naked in front of officials and clearly as a woman, doesn’t command the same effect. Sometimes it’s all about knowing what makes people tick to get what you want. He said at some borders they’d get fed up with him after 2 days, other times it took a week but he almost always avoided a bribe.
What do you think about his tactics?
Have you ever walked across a border? Dealt with bribes?