So, say you move to Zambia and you realize that driving your own vehicle is a safer, more convenient, time-saving, and (did I mention?) SAFER idea than taking public transportation. It’s really quite simple. All you need to do is import a vehicle from Japan, get your white book, insurance, license plates, vehicle fitness, road tax, and driver’s license. Each of these are a process involving multiple-day to week-long steps. But for now, we will just focus on the driver’s license part, since that is the only step remaining for us.
One of our teammates outlined in a blog a while ago about all the steps involved in getting a driver’s license here in Zambia. Unfortunately, Kristin and I are at the beginning of all of those steps.
I finally bit the bullet and decided to go get my driving physical done at a government clinic (which is mandatory, by the way – no private clinics perform these physicals). Yes, that’s right. To get your license here, you first have to get a physical to see if you are worthy to take to the road and operate a deadly machine. (Since Kristin has her expired license from when we were in Zambia before, she doesn’t have to do this part, mercifully.) The driver’s physical involves (this is directly taken off the Medical Certificate…word. for. word.):
A. Apparent age. B. Vision. C. Colour perception. D. Hearing. E. Limbs (state whether unrestricted use of all limbs or otherwise). F. Is he free from suspicions of being intemperate or addicted to drugs? G. General health (state whether reactions normal, and whether free of any disease, temporary or otherwise).
I arrived at 10am on Monday at the clinic, which was a mistake. It was packed with people who had gotten sick over the weekend (the clinic isn’t open on the weekend), and tempers were already starting to flare as the doctor still had not come in for the day yet. It was 10am. So, I decided to get there bright and early the next morning – by 7:45 – fifteen minutes before opening. When I got there, the clinic was already packed with people waiting in line. So, I parked myself in front of the door that would soon open into the narrow hallway, moments away from being crammed with people. By 8:15, a man with unkept hair, shirt half unbuttoned, stumbling down the uneven, washed-out, rocky path with a stethoscope in hand opened the door and walked in. Yes, that was the doctor. At once, all the people around me bolted for the door and a spot in line. We (okay, so I was part of the bolting crowd) all ran down the hallway to get in line. It kind of felt like the day after Thanksgiving sales when the doors open at Walmart and everyone is running to get those cheap TV’s. Only this was for healthcare. After scrambling to get in line (7th – YES!), I soon discovered a little old lady who was elbowing me in my stomach to move. I informed her that I was waiting in line. 7th don’t you know. But she would not back down and insisted that she was the 7th person in line, and I was now the 8th. I let her stay there where she then promptly sat down on the ground in front of me. I now have a little old lady sitting on the ground in front of me and a mob of people behind me all pressing to get closer to the doctor’s door. Wonderful.
The nurse got nine people’s paperwork, mine included, and brought them to the doctor in his office. The reason she only got nine was because the doctor goes for tea at 10, and that is all he could take before then. I was just texting Kristin that I was now 8th in line and that this might actually not take such a long time when, all of the sudden, in came 30 prisoners from the the prison down the street with one unarmed guard to watch them in the already crammed, narrow hallway. As you can imagine, despair was setting in by this point. No, not fear about 30 prisoners mingling with the general public, but despair that I might have to wait in line all day now. But, thankfully, the clinic called in a bunch of nurses. They moved a bunch of couches out into the hallway to make room for the prisoners to move into another examining room. And even another doctor was called in to do the driver’s physicals.
Miraculously, my name was called 3rd and not 8th for some reason! I went into the doctor’s office, and the new doctor informed me that she did not have any of the equipment to do the driver’s physical since we were now in another examining room and that she would simply assume that I was fit to drive and sign off on my form. Wow.
So, there you have it. I guess I am now fit to drive! Apparently, to be fit to drive, you just have to be able to get through the gauntlet of government clinics, stand in line with little old ladies and prisoners, and you pass the test! Now, this upcoming week, we get to go to the dreaded Zambian version of the DMV. Never a dull moment.