License, Registration, and Scratch Card Please

It’s been a busy last two days…sorry I just couldn’t stay up to write last night.

Thursday started off in Monrovia since the FOTON was not ready for pick up as originally planned on Wednesday. The dealer told me the registration would be ready and the vehicle all set by 11am.  Along the way to the dealer, I stopped at the insurance company to finalize the policy info which took forever!  When that was done, I waited at the dealer for till about 12:30 or so.  This didn’t make me too happy but I could be sympathetic towards the dealership because they told me they spent a good deal of time arguing with the registry about what category my truck fits into (curb weight puts it in the $200 fee structure but for some reason they made them pay for a larger truck category for $300…wonder where that extra $100 went?).  The dealer was kind and didn’t charge me the extra $100 (I did get a registry receipt for $300 so I know it was actually paid).  With registration documents, receipts, and keys I was ready to go back to the insurance agent to give him his copy so the next step in the insurance process could be completed — obtaining an official insurance certificate and sticker for the windshield.  About 2 minutes down the road from the dealership (I’m driving, following Saah in the LCL vehicle so I know where I’m going), we start crossing the bridge by Providence Island and one of the final law enforcement officials on a motorcycle pulls me over.  I’ve been assured 1) I just need the registration copy and 2) as a US citizen I can drive for 90 days in Liberia without a Liberian license.  This officer was not agreeing with either. Option #1–buy him a cellphone scratch card or Option #2–park my vehicle at the police station parking lot which happens to be right beside me and pay a lot more to the commander.  All of this to say, “My bribe is smaller than my commanding officer’s bribe so go with mine.” I gave him $5 (the cost of a scratch ticket) and suddenly I’m clear to drive away.

Loading steel rod at Eagle Electric

Back at the insurance agent, I waited patiently as the chipped and broken teeth in the gears of Liberian business slowly moved into place.  Getting a printout of my insurance cost summary took 25 minutes…from his computer with a printer right beside him. I was brought into the clerk’s office to pay my annual premium and suddenly the agent comes running in and says “Mr. Rossman is a good customer and I was mistaken in our rates”.   The premium dropped by $600. Figure that one out?!?!  By now, it’s nearly 2:00 and we need to go back to the LCL compound to pick up my supplies, then to Saah’s house to pick up his bags since he’d be staying in Gbarnga with me, then get over to Eagle Electric to pick up our order.  As we loaded the 72 pieces of 1/2″ steel rod (each piece 36 feet long but they’re bent in half), the tailgate paint on baby FOTON was scraped off during the process of dragging them into the truck bed. I guess this was its baptism into truck servitude.  They stuck out pretty far and we tried to counter-balance the weight by loading everything else in our order on top of the end closest to the truck cab. We didn’t leave Eagle Electric until after 4:30. The clouds were getting darker so Saah wanted to stop at his brother’s to get a tarpaulin. Every bump we hit made the steel rod pivot violently on the tailgate fulcrum, causing the load proximate to the cab to nearly catapult from the truck bed.  This went on for over 3 hours as we motored north to Gbarnga.

Along countless potholes, the Gbarnga Hwy has numerous check points (where police stop drivers to check vehicles–I mean–take bribes). At one of these nuisance stops, we needed to hand over our registration documents once again.  This time, we were waved on without a financial transaction.  During this first FOTON expedition, I noticed the speedometer and odometer were not working…no wonder I was getting 120 mpg! When we finally pulled into my Phebe guesthouse around 8:30pm, I was exhausted from keeping my muscles tightly flexed (massive as they are) to keep from jumping out of my seat every time the steel rod nearly jumped out of the truck.  I was ready for bed but there was a new guest at the guesthouse that I needed to get acquainted with.  I tried not to be rude so I chatted for a while then just had to get to bed, especially since I needed to be up at 5:45am to get over to the work site where Sam had reached the limits of his supplies, assuming I would be back Wednesday.

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