Day 312: Securing Zanzibar Driving Permit Can Be That Easy
Boom! Success. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
I MUST have caught the Land Transportation Office at a bad moment yesterday – lunch time is never a good time to try and get bureaucratic bullshit pushed through.
It's past noon by the time both Mustafa and I are awake. I'd planned to go back and get my driving permit first thing in the morning. Now, I'm shooting for first thing after lunch.
“Dude, you want to go grab lunch?” I ask.
Silence. Mustafa, as per usual, is buried into his phone.
I think about saying something snarky, but hold off. It's a shame because the dude is hilarious and a good travel buddy when he's around, but it seems like he's never around anymore. The ability to leave our home world behind when we're traveling is one of the many things we've lost because of smart phones. Instead, we stay in constant contact with loved ones, as problems from home keep in constant contact with us.
I grab my bag and am about ready to walk down to Kilimanjaro for lunch before wandering the rest of the distance to the Land Transport Office.
“So yeah or nay?” I ask, fully aware he'll have no idea what I'm talking about.
“Want to grab lunch?”
He needs to shower and wait a bit before food. It turns out that a serious chest pain gripped him all night, keeping him awake until 5am.
“I thought I might be having a heart attack,” he explains. “If it doesn't get better, I'll go to the hospital later.”
“Okay, I'm off for lunch.”
Only a few men are lingering in front of the first set of mesh-wire office windows. The woman with the fat face gives me a nod and a half smile in recognition of my glowing smile – a shit-eating smile is the best reminder for officers that you aren't there to be a pain in the ass, but probably will be.
“Mombo,” says a stocky gentleman standing in the doorway to Room 11.
“Mombo,” I say, shaking his hand. “Driving permit?”
Things were so much more chill today. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
He gets the attention of one of the women behind the gated door of Room 12. Instead of the antics following yesterday's lunch, only a handful of men are standing in the area. They are leaning against a back wall and relaxing in the shade rather than clinging to the metal bars.
The woman takes the bank receipt, then returns it. I need a different receipt from the front office.
A woman in a fuchsia hijab takes my paperwork and gives me the receipt I need.
Things are moving along impossibly smooth.
Room 13 is open. It's a large, shabby room with water spots on the foam ceiling tiles. There are three mismatched desks and one wooden table, each covered with piles of forms with passport-size photographs stapled to them. Big fans move in lazy circles on the high ceiling.
A bald man with dry skin and glasses takes my receipt after he finishes helping two men in front of me.
The top of the form reads: The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar. Every time I see the word “revolutionary”, it makes me smile in this context. However, the history is no laughing matter.
On 10 December 1963, Zanzibar received its independence from the United Kingdom as a constitutional monarchy under the Sultan. That lasted about a month, until John Okello, a Ugandan citizen, organized and led Zanzibar Revolution. Several thousand ethnic Arab and Indian civilians were murdered and thousands more detained or expelled, either their property confiscated or destroyed.
A Revolutionary Council was established by the to act as an interim government, with Abeid Amani Karume heading the Council as President. In April 1964, Karume succeeded in negotiating a merger of Zanzibar with Tanganyika to form the new nation of Tanzania. For better or worse, the revolution ended 200 years of Arab dominance in Zanzibar.
“How long?” the officer asks, looking up.
My heart skips a beat. My poor heart skips every time an officer asks a question or hesitates after hearing my answer.
I scan my beaten-up international license to find the issue date: April 2016.
Then comes the heavy sound of his double stamp of approval.
Signed off on and approved. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
That's it. It's that easy.
Bounce out of the office and grab a dalla-dalla into Stone Town, pausing at a sugar cane juice stand for a cold glass of freshly crushed cane before settling in for a Turkish pot of coffee at Stone Town Cafe.
It's hard to beat a pot of coffee for 3,000 Shilling in a location with fans and Wi-Fi.