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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Incorruptable Colobuses

This should be a story about Lake Navasha.
But every journey starts with a few steps...or in the case of Kenya, a few road blocks...and public holidays at the end of the month before Xmas are prime road block time. Unbeknown to us our front left mirror had fallen off/been stolen/retired to a pothole. Either way its lack was sheer cash in the eye to Mrs PC Plod Policewoman who started on a good foot of not knowing the difference between a mirror and a sidelight. After the long and cogitative stare at Ida's international license, officer Plod asked for our 'Lifesaver'. Equally meaninglessly I sloped around in the car searching for (in our case) the very non-ubiquitous red triangle which doubles up as a full set of indicators and tail lights for most trans-Africa heavy trucks.
Clearly we had committed 2 heinous and immoral offences and we were read the riot act while Ida's brother (who is also a solicitor) sat on the armco barrier and smoked under a plastic hat.
'Madam, this is very serious. We must now take this car and lock it up in the police station and you must also be locked up tonight in the police station and go to court tomorrow, because there is no court today. can pay the fine to me now. '
In Kenya, there is no provision or paperwork for the paying of either spot fines or just popping into the nearest police station in a few days to pay. Simply no paper work exists. It is either jail or a bribe. Simple. Everyone takes the latter...except for Ida.
So it was that we spent the next 45 minutes discussing with an ever increasing number of AK47 wielding policemen what exactly might be the options available to us. Now remember, us South Africans are used to guns and have lots of time when travelling, being used to many stops for piepie and padkos. So the stage was set for us to dig in for the long haul.
'Everything is possible', suggested Ida, 'from Mother Teresa to paying a bribe'.
'No Madam! This is not a bribe. A bribe costs much more and it is voluntary. This is compulsory.'
Every so often the constabulary negotiators wander off to caucus with one of their mates (normally a more senior officer who then tries his luck). But Ida was unswayable and finally having persuaded them that we were happy to be guilty of an offense and rather insisted on paying the fine and that we were indeed happy to do it then, provided they gave a receipt with the officer's number on........The most senior officer congenially walked up, smiled for an extended moment and said, 'You may go.'
That was the start of our trip to Lake Navasha.

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