Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

[what's brewing: bold overtones with a hint of authority]

It is strange, yet somehow encouraging, realizing that some of the sights and experiences that caught my attention when I first arrived now seem to be normal elements of the landscape.Broken pieces of glass or cacti that are cemented into the top layer walls and properties are now an understandable form of security. Seeing small taxis with towers of goods precariously strapped onto the roof still makes me smile, but it doesn’t necessarily seem out of the ordinary. I am sympathetic to traffic jams that are caused by herds of cows and sheep crossing the road. Roadside vendors selling drinks in plastic bags may not appeal to me exactly, but it seems normal within the context we’re living in.

Another less fortunate normal are the unwarranted traffic stops we seem to face on a monthly basis here.

Jason consistently blames me for these unwarranted pull-overs since his features are dark enough to blend in here while my pale skin not only confirms, but announces to everyone that I am a foreigner. I concur with his assessment but insist that the true blame goes back to him for purchasing a red Jeep – not the most discrete selection around here to say the least. Whatever the reason, we do find ourselves being pulled over quite frequently. What follows is a fairly predictable scenario: a careful review of our paperwork, thorough questioning of who we are and what we’re doing in the country, a lot of waiting, and ultimately an accusation of a random, often fabricated, offense that is followed by the threat of a pricey citation.

Unless, that is, we can think of “another way to solve the situation”, which is an indirect request to be paid off (which makes it legal). Jason refuses to pay anyone off, which generally leaves us in a long exchange with the police officer and a delay in my schedule that I find to be very annoying. Thankfully we’ve always managed to escape without paying the officer or receiving the citation.

This weekend Jason was driving out to the Children’s Home for his regular game of Friday midnight soccer when he was pulled over once again. (This time it was my brother’s white skin that allegedly caught their attention, not mine!) The charge? An out of date emissions clearance, even though the emissions testing center has been closed for months. Following the standard procedures, Jason began to talk with the police officer, presenting his case for why he should be free to go without a penalty. After a nearly 30 minute deliberation period, the officer insisted that in the spirit of Christmas, some type of repayment was necessary for his generosity if he were to let Jason go. Jason decided to go along with the Christmas spirit idea and offered a panetone in return for his kindness (which is a holiday sweet bread, similar to fruitcake but much better. Very popular here at Christmas time).

The officer’s response: “Okay, it’s a deal. But you know, why don’t you save yourself the trouble of going to buy the panetone. Just give me the money you would spend on it instead.”

Jason’s response: “No, no – it’s free. We bake them at the Children’s Home to raise funds during the holidays. It’s no trouble at all. I’ll bring several by the police station for you and your buddies. A small gesture of the Christmas spirit!”

The officer’s (disgruntled) response: “Great. A couple of panetones will be great.”

The officer was rather surprised to see the panetones actually arrive yesterday at the station, accompanied by a small card from the Children’s Home. He and his fellow officers were thankful for the treat and hopefully enjoyed a taste of the Christmas spirit he’d negotiated so long for!


Rodger and Lynne Schmidt Mozambique said...

Oh, the infamous traffic stops! Ours are even more frequent during the month of December! This last Sunday, on my way to pick up 2 local pastors to have lunch at our house, I was stopped twice in a period of 15 minutes! The second time was a young police officer who took the opportunity to "hit on" the white woman.

Do you think he was more surprised to find out I am a pastor's wife or 44 years old? :)

Anonymous said...

Did you ever mention in which country you are? It sounds all very familiar. Herds of cows, sheep, drinks in plastic bags, etc. Do you also have gas stations that look like juice bars?
Here most people avoid having a red car I am told, because it's the color of blood.
By the way, I posted a question on my blog, about how much women can enjoy a feast when they have to work more than normally. http://malianta.wordpress.com/2008/12/09/the-feast-of-the-sheep/
I would love to hear what other Coffeegirls think.

Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

The traffic stop we encountered when we ran a "red" light (that was CLEARLY green), after much negotation with the cop, a refusal to "pay", a trip to the bank, to the police station, back to the bank, then back to the officer who cited us - we handed over the "paid" paper, and he looked at it, clearly stunned, and uncertain what to do with this paper he had NEVER seen, away we went with our previously confiscated license. Ah the joys...

Libby said...

LOL! This cracks me up! We of course get stopped a lot too. Love the Paneton idea! My husband likes to put it all back on the cop. "What should I do sir? You are the police and know the laws, not me, what I can I do? I don't have $150 to pay for speeding (in a place where clearly everyone drives faster than 30mph)." Usually they feel so "puffed up" and proud to be in a position of power they can't ask for much and end up being friends with my hubby.

This all has me too chicken to get a license here. :)

I am really enjoying your blog, Coffeegirl! Thanks for getting this going this year! It's been a huge encouragement to me!

Denise said...

I'm a POM (parent of a missionary) and I am reading your blog posts with great interest.

By the way - have a happy birthday! I know its just around the corner this week.


Lori said...

Great story! Today I took a drivers license test in Tokyo - and as expected - I failed the driving portion. Actually I think everyone in my group of foreigners who took the test failed. Thankfully although the test givers were strict -they were also kind and even smiled some. In the end saying "Ganbatte!" or "Press On" - Good Luck next time." I'm scheduled to give it another try next week.

Grammy said...

Happy Birthday tomorrow!!! might be too busy then to open the computer...anyone else having funky highs and lows this season..from wow we are blessed to bah humbug?

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Coffeegirl!!

Becky Aguirre said...

Oh, Happy Birthday! Just a day late...oops...hope it was a good one!

Funny story! Driving is always an adventure...fortunately, we don't have too much trouble here as Miguel looks like a native! LOL! Although when we crossed the border last August with our packed van plus trailer, I noticed Miguel handed out quite a few boxes of Little Debbies and other snacks from our stash...warding off "complications"? :) And no, we didn't have any trouble at all...

Ellie said...

We always laughed that we were going to get fake IDs made up when we were "over there" because the police kept confiscating them. (Fake IDs are easy to make; only costs a dollar) We never did because we came home, but another family did. That way when the police, who have no real authority except to hassle, took the driver's license, it was not a big problem.

My husband got fed up with one policeman once who threatened to charge him a fee, and said, "Fine, fine, just send it to my embassy." The police officer went white, stammered a bit, and said, "oh, sir, you are with the embassy?!... no problem, no problem, go on..."

We just laughed.

Crystal said...

Happy birthday Coffeegirl (a couple days late!). Hope it was very special.

Julie said...

Great to find you Coffeegirl! Hope you had a great birthday and you have a blessed Christmas!!



The Lowen family said...

Thanks for your blog, it has really encouraged me in my struggles to adjust to a new culture and learning a new language.


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