I know that I'm not in Gabon anymore and that I should be saying goodbye, if not to blogging, to this particular blog. I have already planned my last entry, and I promise you it will be as touching and inspiring as only my writing can be. Before it sees the light, however, I will still tell you a couple of stories.
The first one concerns our good old friend, the temple of African administrative hell, - have you guessed already? - yes, CEDOC! Do not get too excited, though. I have not (yet) received a call from Gabon telling me to give back the original of my carte de séjour, which I managed to smuggle out of the country. But I did lose an administrative battle today and, believe it or not, it made me remember CEDOC warmly. It turns out Polish bureaucratic world might even be worse than the Gabonese one. Judge for yourself.
Crucial information: in February Kasia and Jandro will be conquerring Brussels.
And now the story. It all started with an epiphanic moment of clarity:
"I won't have insurance in Belgium!", I exclaimed one beautiful morning.
"Do not be distressed, my daughter", replied my Father, "for you are in Europe, where life is easier and public offices less corrupt."
"You speak the truth", I said. "Let us google the Social Security webpage".
We thus googled. After a quick visit to the office in question (and I will not call it the SS Office due to my Polish prudence), I found out that all I had to do was register at the Employment Office (fill in registration form, show ID, university diploma, all contracts, and possibly several baby pictures), get the U2 form from them (and no, ladies who work at the Employment Office do not appreciate Bono jokes so you can stick them up the body part often displayed in the baby pictures), take the U2 form to the Social Security, fill in another form and show ID. You will get your insurance card in a day!
It all sounded extremely simple and I decided to follow the advice of the chirpy Social Security lady. First obstacle: the Office is about 700 kilometres away from my parents' place. Undeterred, I boarded a bus, the underground and another bus - the trip rounding up to an even hour and a half - only to find out that the number of people queuing was a charming 136. The security guard told me I had no chance of getting in that day. No worries, I'll come back tomorrow, I thanked him and trotted away to catch a bus, the underground and another bus home.
I'm tough. I'd defeated CEDOC. I'd defeated Trésor. I was ready to stand up against The Queue. I came back the next day, much earlier, at 8:30 am. There were 55 people ahead of me. I sat down and started reading. Do I have to tell you how depressing the Employment Office in Warsaw is? Sad, grey people, sit in apathy; they don't even bring anything to help them pass the hours they must spend there: no books, no mp3 players, only staring into space. The air is charged with frustration and, in some cases, with the stench of alcohol or unshowered male bodies. I felt blue ten minutes into the experience. Three and a half hours later, when my turn finally came, I was desperate to get out.
952! My number is finally called! I pick up my bag, I put a CEDOC/Trésor smile on my face and I enter the magical Room 9. I quickly localize the counter which called me and direct my CEDOC/Trésor smile accordingly. At this very moment Man sits on my chair, opposite my civil servant, who rudely informs me that Man was there before and was asked to come back. She thus blocks me, as no other lady will attend to my registration needs, because my number was already called. I have no choice but to wait for the monstrous Man to finish his buisness. He finishes. Nothing can stop me now! Courage!
Well? What happens next? It's Europe, n'est-ce pas?
Yes, it's Europe. Which, as of today, means absolutely nothing to me. You see, my conversation with the civil servant lady was full of contradictory statements, which left absolutely nothing clear, apart from the fact that I was not in the correct office altogether, as I was locally assigned to a different one.
Conclusions: I don't know if I should register. I don't know if I can get insurance free of charge. I don't know where I can get the U2 form. I don't know how to get to the correct Employment Office. More conclusions: administration works badly everywhere in the world. Only in some countries it's corrupt and/or messy enough for you to stand a chance.
And, while Jandro is trying to convince Galician authorities that he has indeed left Gabon and is now in Spain, there is only one thing I can say: I miss CEDOC.
The image comes from here.