Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Left & Right

In Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, they drive right-hand-drive cars on the left-hand-side of the street. Why? Because all of Mozambique's neighbors drive on the left. In fact, Mozambique is the only member of the Commonweath that is not a former British colony, a decision made for mulitple strategic reasions. As a result, here in Maputo you will find the British High Commission, the Tanzanian High Commission, etc. [as opposed to Consulates] because this is the terminology used for diplomatic representation within the Commonwealth.

Driving on the left isn't so bad; for me, the problem is much more the right-hand-drive vehicle. I have a terrible time gauging where the car ends on the opposite side of the wheel and am constantly paranoid that I will come too close to a bus or pedestrian and not realize it. Of course parallel parking is also out of the question, something I struggle with even back home in a car with the "right" orientation.

I am in the process of getting my driving situation sorted here in Mozambique. I was recently (finally!) granted my residency permit, which means that I should now get a Mozambican Equivalency Driving License (once you are a resident, technically your home country permit, or even an international license like the ones issued by AAA, is no longer valid).

The process to get the Equivalency License is one of the better examples of backwards bureaucracy I've come across thus far. In addition to having to take an eye exam and a theoretical driving test, and get a $30 letter from your Embassy stating that your home license is valid and officially recognized (all reasonable requirements, though a pain in the ass), you have to leave your original drivers' license with the Mozambican National Driving Institute for TWO YEARS!

What on earth is the logic behind this requirement? Wouldn't it make much more sense to require tha the driver produce both his original license and his Equivalency License when stopped by the police? At any rate, you couldn't possibly convince me to leave my precious drivers' license with the Mozambican authorities for 2 years on the promise that I'll have no problems getting it back after that period of time, all I have to do is present the paper receipt they issue, and voilá, original license recuperated. Yeah, right.

So now I am presented with a dilemma:

Option 1: get an international driving permit in December when I am back in the US, and knowingly drive with the wrong set of papers here in Mozambique, knowing full well that I may have to play dumb/pull rank on/pay off police if they hassle me because I will technically be in the wrong; or

Option 2: through a "contact", manage to get the Mozambican Equivalency License without having to take the theoretical exam or leave my original permit for 2 years, but in return have to pay a price for the service that seems ridiculously high.

Then, of course, there are a few more things that must fall into place, namely I'd like to buy a car in January, and I need to get in some serious opposite-side driving practice. Hugh Marlboro has offered to let me go out on the plantations and drive around - I think I must definitely take him up on the offer.


ターナー said...

A lot of people take Option 1 in Japan. If it's possible, getting a Japanese driver's license is even more of a struggle in bureaucracy... proving you have driven in your home country for at least three months after the license was issued; as most licenses don't list the date of issue, you have to have a letter from the DMV, which in turn must be translated by an official at an embassy or consulate.

I'll stick with trains.

--jenna said...

option 3? tell the DMV that you lost your license overseas, and get a new one...then give the old one to the Mozambicans and forget about ever getting it back???

Option 3 said...

I agree with Jenna, I think you should surrender your current home driving license to mozambique in exchange for a mozambican driving license (kiss it goodbye because they won't return it)since you can go to the DMV and request a new one anyway (it is your home country and they have good computer records!)
I say this because here we are living in Mozambique, always upset at bureaucracy and how we foreigners always get tangled into paying for this and that under the table, and so when we have the chance to avoid all that, and feel good that no one took advantage of us we should do it. It is the right thing to do, and trust me, you will get over your "lost" license, and be sooo proud when the cops stop you and you can show them livrete e carta and they have nothing to "get" you for. Do not fall into "paying" people, they will always want more. and I do think these requirements are reasonable.

Ali la Loca said...

~It's funny, I don't associate bureaucracy with Japan! I agree, I'm a happy user of public transport whenever possible.

~Jenna/Option 3 - What great suggestions! Seriously, this option never even crossed my mind. I suppose this is why they say two heads are better than one when solving problems. I should write more on here about my seemingly unsolvable dillemas. I'll see if it is at all possible to get a license issued in New Mexico, because I know I can't get a California license at the moment [the infamous California driving test being one of the main reasons].

tumblewords said...

I really enjoy following your adventures - this one sounds a bit like Catch 22...amazing how a few rules can create such an amazing array of problems. Good luck!

DJPare said...

Good luck!
I can't even imagine driving from the right side. I would have the same issues as you - the left side would feel like it sticks out way more than it really does,

Ali la Loca said...

~Tumblewords - I'm glad you're following along. :) Yes, these rules can create headaches, but as you've seen from previous commenters some people are great at finding solutions in spite of it all.

~Dj Pare - I need to start practicing soon - especially parallel parking. Just thinking about it gives me anxiety pangs...