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My Second Trip to Tanzania

Popularity 4Viewed 5934 times 2016-3-5 14:59 |Personal category:Travel|System category:Life| biz trip, Tanzania, immigration hall

On 26 February, I got an urgent email from our salesperson David, asking my supervisor to send me to Tanzania for on-site assistance to one of his customers there. His customer is from Selcom, a local telecom company which provides network of point-of-sale terminals. The last time I was there, it’s in November 2015, and I was there to train their software engineer Andrew some basic stuff about our SDK (Software Development Kit). The headquarter of Selcom is located in Dar es Salaam, a beautiful coastal city to the west of the Indian Ocean. I stayed for about two weeks in that city the last time I was there. During my stay there, Andrew took me to the nearby beach and we had a wonderful stroll along the coast which had left a deep impression on me. I was impressed by the pristine ocean water, the winding shoreline and the deep blue sky.


I said it’s an urgent email, so how urgent it is? The CEO of Selcom wanted me to be there within 1 or 2 days for their crucial deployment on an NMB (a bank) project. Our salesman David took it seriously and had a talk with my supervisor immediately after he showed up at work on Friday. My supervisor knew this was an urgent issue, so he agreed to let me go.


After more than 19 hours of air travel, I was finally here at Dar es Salaam Airport. The temperature here was hot as usual – more than 30 degrees. I followed a group of passengers to the immigration hall and saw piles of people were filling out their forms. I felt a short of breath because of the unbearable heat and congestion in this tiny hall. I went to the desk and get a visa application form. I was familiar with this kind of form since I’d been here month before. I found myself a tiny open space on the desk and started to fill the form. Like the last time I did, I chose travel as the purpose of my stay, then got into the line for my visa application.


When I finally got my turn, I handed my form and passport to the officer in front of me. He had a close look at my passport and had a brief review of my form. Then he asked for the purpose of my stay. I told him I just want to travel here.


“Where do you want to visit?” he asked again.


“Emm… to tour around the city,” I was totally unprepared for this type of question.


“How long are you going to stay here?”


“About one week.”


“Can I see your ticket?”


I thought he’s referring to my boarding pass, so I handed it to him. He said, “no, I mean your travel schedule.” Then I took out my e-ticket itinerary and handed it to him. He looked at it then handed back to me.


“You’re doing business here,” he said without any expression.


“Why are you saying that?” I was very surprised and felt a bit anxious.


“Because I saw your movement.” He flipped through my passport. “I have experience with this, and you should be open,” he continued.


I felt like a kid caught with my hand sticking in a jar. I didn’t know what to say because I’d never expected of this kind of situation.


“So, what’s your job?” he urged on.


“I’m a software engineer,” I have to confess.


“So, what are you doing here?”


“I’m going to provide on-site assistance to a local company here. It’s our customer.” I was totally open now.


“You must tell me the truth.” He seemed to be not satisfied.


“Yes, what I’m telling you is the truth.”


“OK, you’ve to pay 250 dollars,” he said.


“No way.” I felt angry about his decision.


My mind went blank as I had no experience in dealing with this kind of situation.


Watching me agonize over this issue, he offered me another option. “You can choose to pay only 50 dollars, but you’ve to pay me 50 dollars in this case.”


“Can I get a receipt for 100 dollars?” I asked.


“No, only 50 dollars.”


I was thinking if I can get a 100-dollar receipt, then I could ask my company to cover the expense. As I was thinking for a solution, the officer urged me to sign my name on a paper. On that paper, he wrote down 50 dollars as the amount I should pay for visa, which mean I was going to pay him 50 dollars as a return of his favor. After I wrote down my name, I reluctantly fished out my wallet and checked all the cash inside it. Having failed to find a 50-dollar bill, I simply told him I don’t have 50 dollars.


“So what’s your choice, or do you want to pay 250 dollars?” he showed his impatience. “You must make a quick decision, there’s a long line behind you.” His constant urging had really driven me nuts.


After having waited for a while, he retrieved the paper from me and changed the amount to 250, then pointed to the direction of visa payment counter nearby. I took the paper and stepped aside. In a fit of anger, I squeezed the paper into a ball. Never had I ever felt so frustrated during my business trips before. I found a corner in the hall and tried to calm myself down and find a solution.


I reached my phone and tried to call my colleague David, since he’d more experience traveling abroad. The connection was so bad that I only heard him a few words before the line dropped. I was on my own again.


I only had about 300 dollars in my pocket, so there’s no way that I was going to give them most of it. The only chance that I could pay less was to try my luck on another officer. There were total of four officers sitting side by side. I quickly filled out a new form and lined up for the one who sit the furthest to that bad guy because I didn’t want to be noticed.


Luck was with me – without many questions, that kind guy granted me tourist visa, which meant that I only had to pay 50 dollars. As I was waiting in the line for paying my visa fees, that bad officer recognized me and motioned me to get out of the line and go to him. I realized something bad was coming. He felt being deceived and forced me to pay that good officer 50 dollars as a kind of compensation, or I could face the consequence of being deported back to my own country. It’s been more than two hours since I stepped into this hall and I felt enough is enough. So I paid them 50 eventually and ended this ordeal.


This experience may have tarnished the image of this country to me, but warm-heartedness of most of the people I met here so far is something that I could never forget. I still love this country. Love to hit the bars with local people and drink Kilimanjaro.


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report Chengking 2016-3-5 19:18
Should have just paid the extra 50 the first time. A word of caution - Don't mess around with the authorities in a foreign third world country. You rights, as you understand it, may not mean anything there.
Reply Report voice_cd 2016-3-7 10:08
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted it in our blog homepage.
Reply Report snowipine 2016-3-8 01:38
That officer should be severely  punished by their discipline department, obviously.
Reply Report cody160 2016-3-9 14:21
Chengking: Should have just paid the extra 50 the first time. A word of caution - Don't mess around with the authorities in a foreign third world country. You ri ...
Yes, I paid $50 for this lesson.
Reply Report cody160 2016-3-9 14:23
snowipine: That officer should be severely  punished by their discipline department, obviously.
He may avoid the punishment by sharing some of my money with the discipline department.
Reply Report RonJaDa 2016-3-10 19:39
Hey Cody, that sound like a scary experience,  it is hard to know what to do.  I am glad you got through safe and did not encounter more serious problems.

My recommendation would be to talk to your boss about it to ensure you are covered for future trips. If you legally have to declare a business trip and get the $250 visa, your company should be able to add that cost to your customers bill for your trip.

It is always hard knowing how to deal with corrupt officials, but I guess this is a valuable lesson for you.
Reply Report cody160 2016-3-17 10:25
RonJaDa: Hey Cody, that sound like a scary experience,  it is hard to know what to do.  I am glad you got through safe and did not encounter more serious probl ...
Hi, Ron, thank you very much for your concern and kind suggestions. Yes, it's a valuable lesson for me.

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  • My Second Trip to Tanzania 2016-3-17 10:25

    RonJaDa: Hey Cody, that sound like a scary experience,  it is hard to know what to do.  I am glad you got through safe and did not encounter more serious probl ...
    Hi, Ron, thank you very much for your concern and kind suggestions. Yes, it's a valuable lesson for me.

  • My Second Trip to Tanzania 2016-3-10 19:39

    Hey Cody, that sound like a scary experience,  it is hard to know what to do.  I am glad you got through safe and did not encounter more serious problems.

    My recommendation would be to talk to your boss about it to ensure you are covered for future trips. If you legally have to declare a business trip and get the $250 visa, your company should be able to add that cost to your customers bill for your trip.

    It is always hard knowing how to deal with corrupt officials, but I guess this is a valuable lesson for you.

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