If you’re from California, I know how most of you feel about the DMV. I’m betting it’s similar in other states as well. Since Wilson’s driver’s license was stolen, today we had the pleasure of experiencing “The Haitian DMV…dun, dun, dun!”
The office is in Port Au Prince and since we are living on a tight budget, Wilson and I left COTP at 5:45 this morning to catch the bus that would take us the 90 miles south of home. We did splurge on the nice bus, which has air conditioning, instead of the rickety school buses that usually make the trek. Six hours later, yes 6, we arrived at the bus station in Port Au Prince. Those six hours were full of Haitian church music, Celine Dion, incessant honking, and a brief sighting of some kind of voodoo ceremony where hundreds of people were carrying a little tree from Port Au Prince to northern Haiti. I wonder if they made it quicker than we did.
Once in PAP, we negotiated fare for a motorcycle taxi that would take us to the Circulation Office. I snuck in a quick picture so you could see what it’s like. Staffed by police officers, we were in a small room between the staff break room and the main reception area. I quickly averted my eyes from the break room where one of the officers was laying shirtless on a bunk bed with no mattress. He was smoking a cigarette and stroking… Okay enough of that. Suffice it to say that before we left he didn’t have pants on either. In the reception area, behind the guy standing up, you will see a doorway. It is the doorway to a jail cell, which held what seemed to be a pretty content prisoner.
We quickly discovered that the officers were not satisfied with the paperwork we had and that they also needed a new license photo for Wilson. So they ushered us into another room…no, wait, that would’ve been too easy. They sent us on another moto taxi about 15 minutes away where we were greeted by a very eager man ready to take our paperwork and our money. He wanted extra money for expediting the process for us. Once inside we realized that you don’t actually pay at this office and the guy with our money was just a thief. Awesome. Once the photo was taken and in the computer system, they sent us back to the original office.
Because it is apparently not the right day to be renewing a license, we were required to pay an extra “fee” to the guy processing it for us. He returned with Wilson’s license number attached to another person’s identity. I am still a bit fuzzy on the details of how that happened, but what it meant was that Wilson could not renew his license but needed to apply for a new one. This would require coming back another day for the driving test, another day for the written exam, and another day to pick up the actual license. Each one of those days a 90mile, 6 hour drive away. After much discussion, we were required to pay another “fee” to waive these additional requirements. We still don’t have the license in hand, but we have the promise that it will be ready for a friend of ours in Port to pick up soon. Hopefully.
Just to give you a little perspective, the total for the day, not including any transportation to or in Port Au Prince, is 94% of Wilson’s monthly salary.
Why does he do it? Why did he go through all this trouble to get his license so he can continue driving for COTP? I asked him that a moment ago and here’s what he said, “I like the kids so much. I love COTP. I don’t work especially for the money but because I like helping the children.”