Passing time in restricted zones…

On Tuesday we got a call from our local moving agents saying that customs officials were refusing to release our air shipment because the bill of lading said (a) it was one piece and (b) weighed 273 kilos.  However, what arrived was two pieces weighing 284 kilos. Each piece had our airway bill number on it and was clearly ours but how to explain the discrepancy?

After a flurry of calls we discovered that the U.S. moving company had banded together a large box with a small box on top on one pallet and wrote “1 piece” on the airway bill.  In London someone cut the bands, opened the smaller box (we know this because the security tapes were all broken), and then left the shipment as two pieces.  Regarding the difference in weight, no one could explain this other than suggesting scale differences.  Or perhaps the boxes were weighed with a pallet in Africa and without a pallet in the U.S.?  The weight discrepancy was odd.

Then yesterday the Lusaka moving agents said we should come down to customs and talk with them ourselves.  At 9 am I met Aggie, the local moving agent, and we went and talked with a customs agent, who said we had to talk to security.  We talked to security who said we had to talk with the head customs clearance official.  We joined several other people in the restricted cargo zone area with real tractors as fork lifts (like John Deere type tractors), workers sweeping/emptying trash cans/serving tea/washing dishes.  The other people who were waiting (I came to know after sitting there for three hours) were from various airlines and needed the customs official’s sign-off on their cargo.

Finally, we were summoned to the official’s office (after everyone else was done, they had airlines to run after all) and we explained how the pieces were separated.  The mistake the local agent made was that they picked up the larger piece and signed for it and now they were back saying, oops, we want this too.  He would not be swayed by the fact that both boxes had the same airway bill number on them, that I could identify the box, and that we had a clear explanation from the shipping agent about the 1 vs. 2 pieces.  Our explanation for the weight difference was pretty lame (“scale differences”) and we all knew it.

Finally in exasperation he said that if we went to the super head honcho, the person in charge of customs for the whole airport, and got permission to take the box, then he would release it.  So, we traipsed across parking lots, through a narrow path on a waist-high weed field, and found the head honcho, who turned out to be a woman with gold and black striped painted nails.  After we explained what happened she rolled her eyes and signed the form.  It was obvious to her, as to us, that both boxes were ours and it was also obvious that she thought the official we were dealing with was an ass.

Sooooo, we got our air shipment!  I held my breath until we got it in the moving vehicle and drove away.  Because I didn’t know my way back to town I followed him.









And enjoyed the African scenery along the way.









Now normally people aren’t too excited about getting their air shipments because they’re only 500 lbs max and contain the bare minimum to get you through 2-3 months until your sea freight comes.  It sure doesn’t look like much, does it?










Think of going to a minimally outfitted cottage and that’s what an air shipment is like.  But, for us, it was like winning the lottery!  One reason for this is that I packed a ton of “consumables” that I knew we couldn’t get here.  When we lived in Rome we would beg/borrow/almost steal things like chocolate chips.  So, I came prepared.









And those who know me know I always engage in safe eating with plenty of condiments. 🙂









I think I went a little overboard.

p.s.   For those visitors expecting my famous cinnamon/orange ice tea never fear!  I brought 10 lbs.


About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine.
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6 Responses to Passing time in restricted zones…

  1. Gigi says:

    The company Mike works for, Parsons, only allows for a maximum 1000 lbs to be shipped for us in total with regard to furniture/kitchen supplies/personal belongings… It all comes very slowly and often take months until we have received it. I think Mike was able to push them to increase ours this last move to 1500 pounds that we can leave with from Guam… It’s still not much at all. It makes it very difficult and the moves become very expensive. In many ways you are very lucky!!!

  2. Chris H. says:

    Kimm: I absolutely thrill at reading your posts! By the end of a year, you’ll have more than a book’s worth! They are great reading, interesting, funny & give me such a clear (more clear, anyways) idea of what it would be like to be launched from all that’s familiar & comfortable to me. It troubled me, though, that I didn’t see your special blend of tea, and I wondered how you’ll manage without it! Keep on writing, girl! I feel like I’m almost there with you.

  3. Kimm X Jayne says:

    Chris — Thankyou!!!! And I had already put the tea in the freezer and forgot to photograph it…yes, I brought 10 lbs of cinnamon/orange tea and 2.5 pounds of Beaner’s coffee. I’ve updated the post with a special p.s. photo.

    Gigi — that’s inhumane! Do they pay for a furnished home then? Because the donor of the project that Thom is working on is the U.S. government we follow the state department standard guidelines, which allow a total of 18,000 lbs (of which 500 can be air freight). Here is the language:

    U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 14—Logistics Management
    14 FAM 610 Page 7 of 102
    14 FAM 611.6-1 Weight Allowance for Shipment and Storage
    (CT:LOG-78; 10-22-2010) (Uniform State/BBG/USAID/Commerce/Agriculture) (Foreign Service)
    a. The combined shipment and storage of effects allowance has been established at the statutory limit of 8,165 kilograms or 18,000 pounds, net weight, for each employee, regardless of family status.

  4. Marge says:

    Loved to hear all your adventures for you describe them so that I think we are talking! Great Pics! M.

  5. Mikey says:

    I was expecting the story to end where there was a 20 kilo box of heroin or cocaine attached, and you had to get involved in a sting operation to catch the drug dealers who were responsible. (And I don’t even watch many American movies [maybe it’s from a Shakesepeare play ;-)].)

  6. Vee says:

    I am so glad you finally got your stuff. Is there a way we can send you things?

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