Learning to Drive
on Tom's Excellent Adventure (Zambia), 15/May/2009 10:28, 34 days ago
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It looks like I’m gonna be buying a car so it’s become necessary to pass my Zambian driving test which whilst not difficult is something of a Palaver. We get dropped off at the Road Traffic offices at 8am and joined the already 30plus strong queue waiting to get their provisional licence application form. After queuing for a while Laura (Who was also applying) chatted up the guy at the information desk and managed to blague a form, I of course didn’t get one (Not pretty enough&wrong sex). After about an hour I went in to see“The Man” who took 10 seconds to stamp my form&tell me to go to window 9 pay. By all accounts this also means that I’ve passed my theory examination (Go figure?!). Apparently because the UK now ask Zambian drivers to retake their test when they come to the UK (You’ll see why later) they have determined that all Brits must do the Zambian Driving test, I believe this is the only country in Southern Africa whereyou can’t drive on your UK licence. Laura, on the other hand has been told to go to window 11 or 12 for a “Conversion” which would mean not having to take the test. Whilst this is against my guy’s advice we decide to give it a go as it would save a lot of time if we could avoid doing the test. I go to window 11&Laura window 12. Laura arrives first and hits the next obstacle apparently we need a medical certificate before we can proceed, this sounds like bollocks but“Missy” behind the counter has go her best “Whatever” face on and we’re going nowhere. One of the security guards offers to sell us a medical certificate for 40,000k but we decide against. It’s now midday on day one (4 hrs in) and so far we’ve managed to get a form, it’s not lookinggood.Stage II medical certificate.I’ve contacted Corp med and booked myself in for a medical at 8.30 tomorrow morning and am now on my way to the government printers, thankfully close to the office in order to buy my medical form, which goes remarkably smoothly, so it’s off to Corpmed in the morning. After waiting a mere 15 minsthe receptionist calls me, saying “I’ve looked you over and there’s nothing wrong, you look pretty healthy, so I’ve told the doctor you only need to do the eye test” which we do. I’m ushered into the Doctor’s office to hear “Yeah you’re right doesn’t seem to be much wrong with him”. He writes on my form “In excellent health”, signs it has a moan about the need to do medicals for this type of thing and then I’m off medical certificate in hand.I’ve been driving around in a friends borrowed car for about a month without a licence and now have to decide whether to risk driving to the RTA licence centre or not, I take the risk. Unusually there’s little or no queues so “Missy” in window 12 happily authorises my form and sends me to room 3 where I have my photo taken and then to window 15 to pay for my provisional licence and try to book my test but apparently the cashier at window 15 can’t do this and I have to go to Cashier 6. I do this wait for an hour but eventually get my test form; I’m booked in for Friday at 2pm.Having organised to hire a car for the afternoon I duly arrive at the test centre on time to be told I’m in a queue and they’ll call me when their ready. The driving test is in two parts one is a cone test and the other a drive around their test track. The cone test consists of driving forward and turning left then reversing back to where you started, then repeating the manoeuvre but turning right instead of left. If you touch a cone you’re out. There’s not much space either side of the car and once you’ve started you can’t readjust, it looks quite daunting to be fair. Fortunately for me the girl in the office takes pity on me and says I don’t need to take the cone test as I already have a UK licence. No-one passes it in the entire time that I’m there. Eventually the instructor comes for me and after driving for less than 5 mins he asks me to park and informs me that I’ve passed. Forty minutes later the requisite people have signed my form and I’m off. All I have to do now is go to the RTA to get my temporary licence on Monday and then go back in about a month for my permanent licence, a piece of cake!!!I cause a bit of a stir at the RTA by questioning a number of queue jumpers and sending them to the back (Very British), One got so upset that he told me to "Fuck Off" (V unusal for a Zambian) and that I'd be fixed. When I suggested he may need some help "fixing me" the rest of the queue laughed and started to gang up on him, he scarpered. From there on in no-one was allowed to queue jump as all the locals were now challenging the jumpers as well as me. I see this as my greatest moment of capacity building since I've been here. It seems to me queue jumping isn't cultural, it's simply that most Zambians are too polite to say anything so some take advantage.It looks like I've bought a car, a Toyota Hilux surf. The guy wanted 50m for it so I offered 45m thinking he'd back out but he's accpeted so now I'm worried about what's wrong with it, never happy.Anyway hopefully over the weekend we'll get things sorted but surprise surprise it's a long and bureacratic process to buy a car!!!!!!!!!!!!