Friday, May 6, 2016

A Public Encounter of the Government Kind

Today is the second day that I have had to go to a Government Office to Get A Piece of Paper, which is two days too many. If there is one thing nobody likes doing, it is Getting a Piece of Paper from the Government of Tanzania, unless you are the sort who enjoys going on missions to wrestle with The Civil Service. I certainly do not and avoid doing so as much as I can get away with. Unfortunately, the world is all about Pieces of Paper, so.

On the plus side, it has given me a chance to see if Magufulification had yielded some practical improvements in the Government Encounter experience. It has. First of all, I have to tell you that part of the preparation involved a quick consultation with m'ladies who are familiar with these institutions about what to wear. My government has a chronic obsession with 'proper attire' and every so often the condition flares up, usually to the detriment of women more so than men.

This time around the instructions are a little less draconian than in the past. Cover up any jiggly bits, don't wear anything tight enough to emphasize said jiggly bits, below the knee, cleavage covered and no bare shoulders. That's it. It seems pretty innocuous but we all know it isn't, still at least we have moved past the whole 'women can't wear trousers' silliness of yore. But this, friends, was the first hurdle and I admit to wondering idly what they would do if a Hadza maiden came along to claim her passport in traditional garb. Mh.

Anyways, appropriately attired off I went to get my Piece of Paper having filled out the required other Other Pieces of Paper and appended Necessary Pieces of Paper and stuck on Sticky Pieces of Paper. And lo and behold. The service was...welcoming? Downright friendly? There might have been a ticketing system involved. Things moved along at a lively clip and the officers were professional. I kept waiting to wake up in Tanzania again until I looked up from my seat and saw Magufuli's sort-of-smiling official portrait looming 2 meters above my head. Which means I was definitely awake.

Said portrait is the only piece of 'decor' in the public space of this office (which, by the way, was flooded with light and well-ventilated). 

It's not likely that the Bulldozer had all that much to do personally with the design of the building and the amenities. But his Effect was certainly felt in the carefully cordial way in which both clients and service providers treated each other in that space. Apparently we have rights now, and besides, no civil servant wants to give the Bulldozer any cause to visit their place of work especially not complaints from the general public. So...yay discipline?

Better than that, I detected a whiff of something that is fairly rare but might (hopefully) become more common over the next couple of years: a genuine and confident pride in their work on the part of public servants. However, I hope not to find out if this is emerging in other government institutions because I'm going right back to Avoiding Government Interactions until the next Piece of Paper needs renewing.  

Next up: what does it feel like to for an African to ask for a European Visa in their own country. Let's just say I have had mildly interesting but ultimately decent experiences so far but this is 2016 so no assumptions. Stay tuned. 

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