I am now the proud owner of a Driver’s License of a Velocipede without a Motor. In a country where cars can do seemingly whatever they want, I found it hard to keep a straight face when I went to acquire my very serious and very official bicycle documents.
At 8:15 this morning I entered the Municipal Building downtown and after some inquiries found the hallway for velocipede licensing. I was sent to the last window, the Velocipede window where I was charged 2 meticais (7 cents) to fill in a form. I handed over the bicycle owner’s documents (yes, we need those too to operate a bicycle) which were in the previous owner’s name. The government official behind the counter asked if I wanted to transfer the documents into my name. Well, sure. Of course that meant going back to the first window to the Treasurer to pay 50.50 meticais ($1.74) for the transfer. Then I had to take that receipt to the Velocipede window. The official told me to come back the following morning at 10 to pick up the owner’s document and then go to the fire station at 1pm for my bicycle exam. I asked if it was necessary. I told him that my colleagues had informed me that if I showed my driver’s license that I wouldn’t have to take a test. He told me to sit down and wait to speak to his manager.
It was a woman. I hate speaking to official women in this country. They’re often harsh and never smile. I smiled a big smile, greeted her, and very politely explained that my colleagues had informed me that with a driver’s license I wouldn’t have to take a test. I told her I’ve been driving for 13 years and riding a bike for 25+. Therefore, do I still need to take the test? She scrutinized my license, then handed it back and said, “Yes, you need to.” Then I asked if it would be possible to take it at another time since I work everyday. She interrupted me and said, “You can sit down.” Um, okay…why? She said, “You can sit down. We’ll do it now.” I thought she meant the test, but she meant she’d give me the license. Of course that meant another form and going back to the Treasurer’s window to pay 21 meticais (73 cents) then taking that receipt back and waiting for my license.
As she was filling in the card, she said accusingly, “You’re a teacher of what? It says here you’re a teacher. What do you teach?” I told her I teach English at the Pedagogical University and also work for an NGO and do workshops in schools. She looked very skeptical. She said, “At UP? English? English, English? I did English at UP.” Of course she didn’t actually speak a word of English to me. I told her I was teaching 12+1 and that this was my first year. Then she believed me and relaxed a little.
As I was getting ready to leave, I asked if I could come earlier than 10 tomorrow to pick up the other document since I have to work. She told me I could try, but she couldn’t promise anything. Wow, an honest statement about time in Mozambique! Then she said, with a slight smile, “Can I ask you for something?” Sure. “Books.” She wants English books, specifically grammar books. I told her I didn’t have any grammar books but might be able to bring her a novel or two. Finally she gave me an actual smile. I finally walked out the door just after 9.
If all goes well tomorrow, I may be cruising the streets of Beira on a non-motorized velocipede as early as this weekend! I just need to make sure I carry my official documents with me at all times.