I have been sneezing solidly for two weeks now and I want to gouge my nose out with a spoon.
Clears up whenever I leave the house, but I seem to be highly allergic to something here. I have no idea what, but I think it's the time of year. Jo's had it too, and I remember getting crazy hay fever at the start of rainy season in the past. Unfortunately I can't take antihistamines as they knock me out completely. Just having to suffer through. My energy levels are shot.
Finally, finally, finally managed to pay for my laissez-passer today. Oh my gods, what a trial. It used to be that you went to Immigration, paid at the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) booth there, then processed your papers - all conveniently in the same place.
Now, due to some 'let's put everything online' madness that seems to have gripped the country, you have to apply to pay for it online, take the receipt to your bank, pay for it there, then go to Immigration to start processing. Such a silly system.
Causes massive problems, especially as it's end of year tax return mayhem. I filed mine a while back, thankfully, but look at the queues outside my bank!
All the way around the yard. Reckon over 100 people, easy. I took one look and ran away. The booth for paying RRA is the same if you're trying to pay your tax or Immigration. Totally crap. So I went in to speak to Customer Services at my bank. They were aggressive and insulting (when not playing with their mobile phone). First time I've ever had to ask a Customer Service person not to raise their voice at me! They told me 'why try to bank here? You could go to another branch, like Remera.'
Oh, well, sorry - I bank here because it's in the centre of town and that's where I happened to be. I assumed the largest branch of the largest bank in Kigali might also be the most efficient. But, okay, let me fork out for transport across town to your other branch, as you seem to think that will be better...
Oh, gee, yes. What an improvement.
I gave up and went home.
Bank of Kigali having a total meltdown.
"Everyone always leaves their taxes until the last minute" Customer Service said.
"Really?" I replied. "Yet you do nothing about it."
"What do you want us to do about it?"
That afternoon I called up Jo and suggested lunch and a rant.
We went for melange at a place near her house. The waiter promptly threw a glass of pineapple juice over me. What a week.
Ended up back at Jo's, where she was desperately trying to complete her annual tax returns for the business she bought this year. The former owner hadn't made life easy, and there were two A4 envelopes stuffed full of receipts.
I'm one of these strange people who quite likes menial administrative chores. They give me a sense of calm. So, I opened up an envelope and started numbering the receipts whilst reading the details (from whom, how much, when) to Jo, who entered them into an Excel sheet for RRA.
We did about an hour's worth, then she dropped me home to change my pineapple-smelling jeans, pick up Zuba from school, and buy a bottle of wine. We headed back to hers and continued whilst watching Frozen. The wine was incredible. It was a sweet Argentinian red called Birds & Bees, like drinking liquid honey.
Munching on chunky chocolate chip cookies, we packed Zuba off to bed and pushed towards the end of the second pile.
Then I found this...
"Oh, my god!" I said. "I have got to stay there!"
Silent Hill was one of the first movies to be adapted from a computer game. It's a horror.
"Oh, I remember that," said Jo. "Did it have a woman and her kid?"
"That's the one."
"Was there a happy ending?"
We started giggling. Then the next receipt was...
"Twenty-eight thousand three hundred, thirteenth of March twenty-fourteen. Hotel MUHA.... HAHAHAHAHAHA."
That was it. We completely lost it. We were bent double, sobbing with laughter. I think we've both been so rundown lately we just desperately needed a release. Once we started laughing we couldn't stop. Best giggling fit I've had in so long.
Who knew filing tax returns could be so much fun?
Pulled up my old returns and talked her through the final submission process. It's such a ridiculously convoluted system. Well, not such a bad system as a totally dire website. It really is like a Rubik's cube. I once asked RRA if it was deliberate, suspecting they probably made more money out of fining people for late returns (because they couldn't work out the system) than they did from honest tax payment. Swear to goodness, this was their reply:
Aaanyway. Enough griping. It's finally done.
Finished up my glass of divine red and took a wander to find a moto. Love Kigali at night. It's been voted the second safest city in the world for women to walk alone at night, and the first in Africa. It's really easy to see why. Never get any hassle at night in the burbs.
|Used to live down that street on the left.|
Please take a moment to marvel at the street lights.
My debit card runs out tomorrow, so today I decided to head up to Novotel to take out enough cash to see me until my new card arrives. It's a fairly posh hotel in my neighbourhood. After all the craziness of the past couple of days, I decided to treat myself to their expensive, but utterly delicious, buffet. Needed the vitamin hit, and for pudding they had these gorgeous little cakes dripping with chocolate sauce. It rained heavily once I arrived, but I took my book and huddled up with after-dinner coffee until it stopped.
On a total whim, I popped into IM Bank in the hotel. I produced my online receipt for RRA and asked whether I could pay it there. I'd just assumed that I had to pay it at Bank of Kigali. There weren't any queues in IM Bank and it's a small branch, so I reasoned they couldn't possibly make the transaction...
... they could!
Immigration is a fifteen minute walk down the road.
I took my payment slip and my forms and I was served really quickly!
In about half an hour I'd achieved what I couldn't achieve in three hours the day before.
That's just the way of things in Kigali.
Nobody will volunteer helpful information. If you don't know the question to ask, you'll never get the answer. But every now and then, like a LucasArts roleplay game, you'll make a chance discovery that shortcuts you through the bullshit to the final prize!
The moment you submit the form to Immigration, it's 24-hours to process. Super quick. The fact it had taken me 48 hours to get to that point was forgotten. I was so chuffed at finally getting what I wanted. I suppose the harder it is to make something happen, the more satisfaction is derived in finally making it?
It's been a trying, yet strangely good, few days. I just wish I could stop sneezing.