January 4, 2011
One of the joys of life here in the capital city is the signage. We drive around town and try to obey all the traffic laws as best we can, but sometimes you just can't read the street corner's mind. Yes, sometimes there are clear signs which indicate “Do not enter”. All they are is a circle with a line through it. This usually is your clue that that is a one-way street. Sometimes this sign is hidden behind who knows what or off in some distant corner somewhere. But many, many times there just is no sign. So, we try and watch the other drivers and see what they do. Today, as we attempted to take Megan's parents to the Cookie Shop for lunch and to show them what downtown Tana was like we encountered one such “non-sign”.
There we were in sight of the Cookie Shop and turned left where we always turned left and where we had seen others turn left on other days and what did we hear, but two whistles. We got pulled over. The police officers were astonished that we would turn the wrong way onto a one way street. We contested (Megan in Malagasy and Randy in French) that there was no way for us to know it was a one way street. “Where is the sign?” we kept asking. This went on for about 10 minutes while the officers looked at our paperwork. The Jr. Officer eventually came over to the passenger side window and apologized to Megan quietly and said he would let us go, but the senior officer would not. So, the senior officer took Randy's drivers' license and the car registration and gave us a ticket. In Madagascar you have to go to the police station and pay the ticket to get your license and registration back. We asked if the police station was close by. He said it was far away. We asked when we could go get it. He said the next day. Then we said that we were leaving town (to go on our vacation) and needed our paperwork. So, they had us go park and come back to talk to them. When we parked at the Cookie Shop we had Megan's parents go inside with the boys. (There they prayed for God to do a miracle). Then we walked back to the policeman. Randy tried to figure out how much we needed to pay and if we could pay the officers there instead of going to the police station. But the officer was hoping for a bribe. He said we should pay him 200,000 ariary. (That is $100. The average Malagasy gets 7,000-15,000 ariary a day.) Megan told him (in as good of Malagasy as she could) that this was not good and that just because we are vahzahy (foreigners) doesn't mean that we have lots of money. We told them we are missionaries and that our money comes from many other people who sacrifice to support us so that we could come here and help encourage the people of Madagascar. The junior officer was still on our side, but the senior officer was not persuaded yet. Meanwhile, Megan thought it might help if she began to crying. She was so stressed that she couldn't so she started thinking about how she missed her Grandmother and that got the tears flowing. When the junior officer saw that she was crying he said to the senior office, “Madame is crying”. So, he asked what we wanted him to do. We told him we wanted him to show us grace. Eventually he relented and gave us back our papers and sent us on our way. When we entered the Cookie shop with the papers and license my Dad's hands went in the air with a big, “Thank you Lord”! We all felt the same.