Now. If you’ve never gone through customs for a developing nation, just be prepared. First off, we landed and were generously welcomed by a humid 84 degrees (I’d just left weather of 29 degrees and snow).
Going through customs was fairly easy. . .I walked up to the medical verification booth so that my yellow fever certificate could be verified. Next, I went to the customs official to review my passport. This experience can be more painful than what it was, but for me it was just frustrating.
You see, there are these gentleman that stand along side or in the area of the various customs booths; when they’ve either identified the party they’re waiting for, or someone who will be enlisting their service, you get the thought that there’s an imaginary VIP line somewhere.
The gentleman takes the passport(s) of the party they’ve been waiting for, and slides it to the customs official. Did I happen to mention that this occurs whether there is someone at the window or not? It occurred twice while I was there.
So I’m at the window and the woman asks, “Where do you live?” Now I’m thinking, well, I handed her a passport from the U.S.A., maybe she means my city. Then she asks something in french, and I’m like, “English please.” But what does she do? Asks it in french again. Then the gentleman who’d just handed her some passports, asks me where’s the card I filled out. I’m thinking, Card?
Then I remember from my trip to Montreal we completed a card on the plane to have prepared for passing through customs. As I glanced around at the other passengers in line, I noticed that everyone in the “Foreigners” line was of a lighter hue, and those of a darker one were in the “Nationals” line. So I take it the crew of Air France assumed I was a native, eh?
Anyway, I fill out the card she gave to me, and return to her booth. Now I’ve gotta wait for another passenger to finish, as well as another one of the gentleman ever so “politely” handing her a few passports to stamp.
The official reviews it and says, “What is your friends address?” I say, “address?” “Yes, her box number?” So I tell her that my friend does not have a post box, that she receives her mail via the Peace Corps post box in Yaoundé, but she lives in Foumban. Of course she doesn’t believe me, so I have to say it again, a little firmer.
Next she asks, “What’s her phone number?” Ha. . .here we go again. “Well she doesn’t have a phone number.” She looks at me in disbelief and says, “You must give her phone number.” Then she places my passport aside and makes me wait another ten (10) minutes while she does other passports. She finally picks it up again, and says, “You have to write her phone number or address.” Now being a little irritated, I say, “she doesn’t have a phone number and I already told you that she’s in the Peace Corps and uses the address in Foumban.”
I guess figuring it would be too much of a hassle to make me wait there any longer, she finally looks at me with a “snide” expression, stamps my passport, and waves me on.
Well, not bad. . .I’m thinking, “Gees, I’m glad that’s over.” Then I proceed through the doorway to pick up my luggage.