Transferring Vehicle Ownership

 

Wes writes: One of our last tasks was selling our car. I decided to check out the process.

Day 1: I drive with the buyer to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle License Authority). The nearest office is in downtown Accra, an hour’s drive through heavy traffic.

  • The DVLA is a compound with multiple buildings. They are named for letters of the alphabet and not function, so first we need to find out which building we need to go to. After being directed to the correct building, we need to find the correct door. We are sent to the door labeled Banking Centre.
  • The Banking Center offices have about a dozen people waiting behind glass. Most of the windows are not labeled, but there’s one named “Transfers” so we head there. 
  • Fortunately the person who is buying my car has grey hair, so he simply moves confidently to the front of any “line”, or gathering of people wanting services. No one objects to this.
  • Now we find out what kind of letter of request we need. Many things in Ghana require official letters of request. Everyone simply assumes this and everyone (but me) knows how to write one. I am led to the many stalls outside the compound who cater to those unprepared. We find a woman who is sitting at a manual typewriter, give her our information, and she types an official-looking letter. We pay her 2 cedis (roughly 50 cents).
  • We go back to the Transfer window. After some discussion and waiting, we are directed to take the car to the inspection station, which is also on the compound. It is now 2 o’clock and the inspection station has closed, so we drive back home.

Day 2: We return (another hour of fighting traffic).

  • We go through the inspection, which consists of an official writing down the serial number of the car (presumably to make sure that it matches the documents, although I never saw anyone actually check).
  • Back at the Transfer window, we are told we need a photocopy of my resident identification card, so it’s back outside the compound to another business that has a photocopier.
  • And – back at the Transfer window, we are told that there will be a short delay so they can get the records for the car. The DVLA is in the process of computerization, but it is not yet finished.
  • After some waiting, we go back to the window where a helpful person admits that document retrieval is unlikely to happen before the office closes. So we drive home.

Day 3: After the weekend, we drive back to the DVLA. Monday morning traffic is worse.

  • Back at the Transfer window, we again use elder privilege to get past the 6 or more people crowded around. We are told to go across the compound to the office that provides the bill for our transfer. There is not a single standard fee, so each vehicle gets its own bill. There is further waiting, but it’s shortened for grey hair.
  • Once we get the bill, we pay at the Banking window in the banking center.
  • Back at the Transfer window, we finally get the official forms for transfer of ownership. These need to be typed, so we go back outside the compound to the woman with the typewriter and she types both forms. We also submit two passport-style pictures for each of us. This time the fee is 4 cedis ($1).
  • Back inside the compound, we need to get this document stamped at the inspection station.
  • Back at the Transfer window, we are asked to wait our turn for the documents that have been retrieved.
  • After a brief wait, the documents arrive and are stapled, signed, recorded, etc.
  • We move down a few windows to the final place, where a new inspection sticker is issued. Every car in Ghana has a sticker on the window with an inspection certificate with QR code, plus a certificate of insurance.
  • Drive home.

When I purchased the car at a used car lot, I simply gave the salesman 200 cedis and two passport pictures and he took care of all this. That would have been much simpler.

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Monday morning

Wes writes:

8:07 am Monday morning.

Waiting for my 8:00 Pentateuch class to show up. Also waiting for the key for the classroom.

IMG_20151207_081524_360Standing outside on the balcony of the classroom building. Another warm, calm day. Probably sunny, but the harmattan obliterates the sky. Sky looks grey, almost feels like rain, but it’s just the humidity and the dust.

IMG_20151207_081510_902Trees are green, ground is reddish-brown. Mangoes are ripening slowly.

Mary is singing as she cleans the first year classroom. I don’t recognize the song or even the language it is in. Classes need cleaning every morning because of the dust.

IMG_20151207_081536_048Power is out (light off). The classroom building has solar/wind/battery backup, but it really doesn’t matter because the windows are large and the day is relatively cool (I’m still sweating). Internet is down because power is out and solar does not extend to library.

IMG_20151207_081558_254One student here. Waiting for 3 more. Linda is here but is not feeling well. Usually Lydia is the first one here, but she isn’t here yet. Hopefully someone will let me know where she is. The other two (Portia and Aziz) live off campus and so don’t usually show up until 8:30.

Final class for this course.  Too many emotions to name.

Being a kid in Ghana, part 1

Wes writes:

These are my impressions of what it is like being a kid in Ghana.  This is not an in-depth study, but observations from what I see and how it was different from the lives of my children and my own (fuzzy) memories.

First, there are lots of kids around.  They are everywhere.  People have and want big families and families live close together.  Kids have many brothers and sisters and many neighbours with many kids.

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Proud dad with his girls at church

You don’t need to get in the car to find other kids to play with. You probably don’t need to leave your bedroom to find kids to play with.

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Boys playing outside church

Second, you are on your own (without direct adult supervision) much of the time.  Your parents don’t run around looking after you.  You do a lot of things for yourself, with only occasional contact with your parents, but constant supervision from other adults.

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Kenneth and Theophilus Adjei

On the other hand, every adult is your “parent.”  Every adult in the neighbourhood is willing and able to discipline or correct you.  You are expected to obey every adult and to receive correction from all of them.  So just because your parents aren’t around doesn’t mean you can get away with stuff.

Being on your own also means that your parents don’t find things for you to do.  No one organises activities for you, or takes you to music lessons or sports practice or play dates.  Also most kids around here don’t have toys or books  (and if you have books they are written in a language you don’t understand well and about kids who are very different from you).  Kids here have to make their own toys and find their own things to do.

Praying in Nigeria

IMG_20151108_091443_942Deb writes: Nigerians’ suffering is often in the news, overshadowing their successes in art, literature, business and development. I (Deb) and my teammates provided ten days of trainings and counseling in the Plateau State, known for its large rock formations as pictured above.

We were in the city of Jos, a key location because of historical roots and current crises. It’s in the middle of this large and very diverse country, not too far and not too close to the national capital. With a more moderate climate than most of our region, it was a good place to set up conference centers and a school for missionary kids in the early 20th century. Though mission forms changed, these core functions remain.

Christianity was never wide-spread in the north, but their gatherings, as well as moderate Muslims, have recently been targets of the gangs armed by Middle Eastern oil economies. As the Boko Haram phenomenon grew, waves of survivors moved south. The church yards and valleys of Jos have absorbed thousands of those fleeing violence.

Interacting with cross-cultural workers in Jos showed us more of the gradations of terror in chronic conflict. Jos’ current “safety” is the calm of having months between major bombings. Nearly airport-level security for any gathering has limited the effects of attempted bombings every week or two. Students and teachers work around sudden closings for high-risk events, epidemics and the frequent funerals resulting from random violence and every tropical health challenge imaginable. Sometimes ongterm relationships cannot survive the intense environment, and the “ripple” disruptions in a small community can be more like a tidal wave.

To be alert in Jos now requires knowledge of community’s greater fear and chaos two years ago (hundreds of neighbors climbing the wall into a safer place, suicide bombers’ effects noted when the shock waves rocked furniture miles away). Though that was still less traumatic than several years earlier, when most mission workers had experience documenting massacres for external aid agencies. Kidnappings and brutal armed robberies have also become less frequent over the last decade. Workers barely sampled their near-death experiences as they attempted to give histories.

We made spaces for people to pause and hear themselves and each other. We did workshops in peer groupings: teens, mission leaders, school staff, local counsellors. We provided more than 40 hours of individual and couple therapy sessions. We held small children and we sang together. Life goes on, from births to retirement, and we brought perspective on options beyond the immediate tasks of survival. We wept and prayed a lot. In every way possible we bore witness to the love larger than fear. It’s an intricate dance, this calling to a deep joy within and between us.

At the end, I received the gift pictured above. I share the blessing with you.

Amazing Grace and my Ghanaian sister

Grace makes it possible for me to see beyond the sweat flowing down my face and to dress in clean garments. Before Grace came into my life I spent half my time scrubbing laundry by hand and fighting the unending drifts of dust.

IMG_20150515_094900_357#1-001Grace is a local woman who learned western housekeeping while supporting her husband’s studies in schools for the blind in England. After they returned to Ghana he kicked her out of his home. Now she supports the youngest of their 3 children in secondary school, and the middle child in college.

My Ghanaian sister Jemima provides the social hub of the campus in the shop between our house and hers. When we talk about the lives of women, she shakes her head and says,”It is not easy, no, life is not easy”.

IMG_20141012_123136_909-001She grew up helping her mother run a stall in Ghana’s largest market. She and Thomas started their family in the midst of the Ghana’s worst famine and political instability. She knew marrying a pastor meant financially supporting the family (the pastor’s time and resources are devoted to the church). Of their 5 children, one is married with small children in England, and one is getting married soon in the U.S. She has not seen them for years.

Like Grace, Jemima’s English is a result of her husband’s study abroad. (Thomas was preparing to become president of Good News Seminary.) He continues to travel internationally as an advocate for indigenous Christian education; Jemima stays home to provide the community access to daily bread, water, soap and clothing. Their reunions are sweet as they appreciate each other so much.

Jemima knows the loneliness of being far from the familiar. She keeps her chocolate supply stocked for us and welcomes us into Ghanaian life, even when it is the heavy responsibility of her brother’s funeral preparation and follow-up.

“It is not easy” for these dear women. Their bodies show the toll of hard work, inadequate health care, and the simple diet that fills empty stomachs. Their retirement care will be up to their children, the children who they supported through advanced education and into a different world. In a few months I will return to the land of electric appliances and intellectual religion, of conversations about healthy exercise and eating, and too often the fear of strangers. I will pray for my sister and the amazing Grace who saved me.

Fetching and Carrying

I just returned from a quick walk to the library.  It is about 100 meters from my house to the library, and I was returning a stack of books.  Half way there, I was intercepted by one of my women students, who simply took the books out of my hands and asked me where she should take them.

So here we were, myself, one of my young, strong male students and my young, small female student, walking toward the library.  We two men were mostly empty-handed, and the woman was carrying my large stack of books.  I mentioned that I would never get used to this- women carrying my books for me.  I said that in America, I would be embarrassed to be seen like this, especially because they were my books.

The young woman replied, “In Africa, women are slaves.”  Before I could comment, she added, “We like it that way.  We like to serve.”

I’m still not sure what I think about this.

Emoting

All things are wearisome;

more than one can express;

the eye is not satisfied with seeing,

or the ear filled with hearing.

What has been is what will be,

and what has been done is what will be done;

there is nothing new under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 1:8, 9

Wes writes:

Yesterday in class we studied Ecclesiastes.  It’s a great book to study because it causes such intense reactions.  Some people experience it as beautiful and uplifting.  Others think it is depressing and hopeless.

800px-The_Thinker,_RodinI asked the class how the verses above made them feel.  Instead, they told me what they thought about the verses.

There are only three students in class and they are very thoughtful men.  Like many thoughtful people, they have difficulty saying what they feel.

p35-smileyLast year in one class I finally handed out a sheet of emoticons with “emotion words” so that some of the students could at least choose from a list of possible emotions.

Often in class we find ourselves caught in this bind.  We read these deeply emotional passages and think about them.  As a scholar, that is what I was trained to do.  I used to include phrases like “I feel” in my papers, but professors would put red lines through them and tell me that my feelings were irrelevant.

preacherThis is one reason I am looking forward to being a pastor when we go back to North America.  Pastors are allowed to feel.  Pastors need to feel (and think).  Professors are usually stuck just thinking.

Some of you might want to argue that the thinking/feeling dichotomy is not as simple as I am portraying it, which of course gets us back to analysing and thinking as the best way to respond.  And so it goes, round and round, like my feelings about Ecclesiastes. So I will continue to eat, drink and find joy in my toil, in what God has called me to do under the (hot African) sun. Life could be so much worse than that.