16.1.12

DMV vs. Busia

I had a truly delightful experience at two DMV offices this last month. Heather and I decided that we would need a second vehicle due to my work schedule, and shortly thereafter I found my dream truck: a mid-90's Toyota Pickup with a lot of miles on it, in need of a little care. I bought it that afternoon, added the vehicle onto our insurance with a 3 minute phone call and spent just 20 minutes the following day at the DMV in Wisconsin getting a temporary plate so I could drive it to its new home in Michigan. The following week in Michigan I spent 30 minutes at the DMV getting registration, title, and plates. Done. Anna has affectionately named the truck Blueberry Pie.
In contrast... two years ago I bought a motorcycle from my brother. He was leaving Uganda after a couple years with the Peace Corps there, and I was living in Kenya. He inquired about the necessary proceedings to transfer the motorcycle into my name in Kenya, and the process seemed doable. So he packed nearly all his earthly belongings on the bike and proceeded to the Uganda-Kenya border. The border officials appropriately cancelled the registration on exiting Uganda, and then my brother went 100ft to register the bike in Kenya and enter in through the Kenyan border at Busia. He was hoping to get to our house that afternoon, stay with us a few days, and then leave for the US. He was told that he had received some incorrect information about transferring the motorcycle, but he was assured that it could be corrected and he could be on his way.


3 DAYS later my brother was still stuck at the border, unable to acquire the appropriate paperwork. He had a plane to catch, so he left the motorcycle in storage (a closet somewhere on the Kenyan border) and took a night bus to our house. He gave me a synopsis of what had happened and what needed to happen to get the bike out, drawing maps detailing where the various people are that I need to talk to, and then he went on that same day to Nairobi to catch his plane. It was a week before I had a day off work to go back to the border and (hopefully) get the bike. I took the seats out of our van and headed for the border one early morning.

I found my brother's contact there in some back alley, and we proceeded together to various offices. To make a long story short, I eventually got the motorcycle out of the closet by that evening, heaved it into the back of the van, found a place to stay in this border town of Busia, and drove back the following morning. Soon thereafter I started in on the process of getting it registered in my name. This necessitated multiple trips to Nairobi, and eventually I gave up and paid someone to do it for me.

We discovered many things in the process, including that this was actually a stolen bike from Japan, that I did not have the right paperwork to own a motorbike in Kenya (so we put it in John's name), and that there are serious rules about parking in downtown Nairobi (I got a hefty parking ticket on one trip). Overall, the experience made me so grateful for the efficiency and order of the DMV... and yet somehow from this vantage point, it now seems like it was quite a fun adventure!

2 comments:

Jen said...

I understand! Even after more than two years back in the US, I am still often amazed at the efficiency of getting things done here. Your experience in Kenya brings back painful memories of regular trips to Immigration in Mozambique.

Kristin said...

I hereby resolve to never complain again about seemingly long, one-hour waits at the DMV.

Thanks, Jason!