The Fun of Customs

Last night, Emily and I spent the evening reveling in our fast internet and the delicious bag of bananas we had bought in Wa that afternoon…we should have known that our luck would not last. In the morning, the power turned off, the fans shut down, the water in the bathroom stopped flowing, and a call to the Chief Director asking about the progress of the exemptions for the shipments (so they can pass through customs in Ghana without paying import duties) left us frustrated by the news that the 1-2 week timeline had been pushed back to 3-4 weeks…news that we were beginning to fall into Ghana’s much-feared administrative abyss.

So we did what you do in those situations: freak out for a few minutes, compose a text to the Minister of Health, and then start calling everyone in our phonebook. Several hours and tens of phone calls to our shipping company, clearing agent, local health officials and MOH officials later, we were starting to make some headway.

Our first task was to get letters from our two recipient hospitals, stating that the goods in the shipment were donated. Getting a letter on official letterhead is easier said than done when a power outage makes it impossible to print the letter to get it signed, and access to a fax machine or scanner is a motorbike ride away. After an afternoon of surprisingly good luck, the letters were in the hands of our clearing agent and we were hoping for good news.