Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Union of Church and Port

       What does the port of Bissau and the Evangelical Church have in common? Surprisingly, they have a lot of things in common, but at this particular moment the correct answer is my step dad and I.  Things have been so crazy with getting our truck out if the Port of Bissau and that we ran to the closest church we could find to get spiritual guidance!
            Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but the connection between port and church is real and I’ll explain why.
            After 2 and a half months of waiting, the 22ft long, school bus yellow truck my mom and step-dad shipped has finally arrived! Unfortunately, we weren’t even expecting it. We shipped both a container, which left from the port of Oakland November 19th and a truck which left the 13th of December from the Port of LA ( getting the truck to LA was an adventure in-and-of its self!). Given the shipping dates we were expecting the container to come first, but some how the truck beat it here. Now the container it’s not expected to arrive until the 15th of March because it is waiting at a port in Spain.
This is the beast of a truck we sent to Bissau.
            Anyways, the truck arrived this past Sunday, and my step has been madly trying to get everything together to get it out. The longer your things sit in the port, the more expensive it is to take it out. On average your paying 10euros a day (why its in Euro’s I have no idea). But on top of that is the 30% “tax” you pay on the value of the contents in your container. The truck was 18,000 dollars so my stepdad would have to pay 6,000 dollars just to get it out of the port. Fortunately with the corruption comes more corruption to counter the corruption. My step-dad’s nephew works at the port and was able to fudge some numbers to make the value of the truck now become 5,000 dollars, so now my step-dad is looking at paying just over a grand instead. Additionally, because half of the items in the container are for a non-profit called WAVS, they offered to put the container under their name, which will also reduce the amount we (meaning my step-dad) has to pay.
            This is where the church comes in. Carlos Pinto is the Minister of Finance and thus has lots of political leverage. Chris, an American from Fresno, is the Director of WAVS, a non-profit vocational school based in Canchungo, and he and Carlos have become close friends because they attend the same church here in Bissau. Chris told Carlos about the truck and container and Carlos offered to help with getting things out. This church has a non-profit called Centro Social and he is a member on the board. This NGO receives container shipments from Portugal once a month, so they are constantly working with the port. Fortunately for us, we now have people from Centro Social working on getting our truck and container out of the port.
            If you couldn’t tell, if you want something done in Bissau it all depends on who you know.  And in this case, we need to know the folks from this church. As such, my step dad and I have been attending this church every Sunday. I have been to church more in the past 2 months then I have in the last 8 years of my life!  
            In the process of getting paperwork ready for the truck we ran across a stumbling block that put us a couple days behind. Timing is everything and we missed our window of opportunity because now the port (along with the schools) is on strike. Now all the paperwork is ready, wer’e just waiting for people to go back to work and no one is sure when that will be. I just hope the 10euro a day fee doesn’t apply anymore!

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