Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bhutanese Bureaucracy

April 7: After dealing with so many little frustrations, I guess this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In some ways it’s like the frustration we feel in Canada when we have to phone government offices, and after pressing this and that, you get put on hold forever, and then you might get cut off, or if you get through you find that the office is closed or that you have to call a different department. In fact it is a lot like that.

Today was my fourth trip to the dzong to try to figure out why my “salary” has not been deposited in my account. I always have to go during school hours, which is rather disruptive. Each trip is an uphill walk in both directions. Oh alright, it is only an uphill walk to get there. I counted the school steps today – 108 big concrete steps!

Yesterday I submitted all my paperwork yet again, and was told that everything was in order. I would have money in my account by yesterday afternoon, or at the latest, this morning. I called the bank this morning –no money. I tried to phone the DEO (Director of Education) and the Finance Officer at the dzong, but their phones both went to fax machines. I spoke to my principal because she was on her way up there to find out why we still have no water at school, and she said she would try to sort things out.

She phoned me a short time later to say that they were requesting copies of the same stuff I gave them yesterday, and could I please go up again. I went and was put into the hands of a secretary who was going to help me get it all sorted out. When I was taken to the same office as yesterday and asked for the same papers, I lost it! I said I was frustrated and angry, and I almost started to cry. I told them that I wasn’t leaving the office until I had a cheque in my hand.

Then I was escorted to another office (third one) where various phone calls were made, but not answered. The head of HR then handed me a multi-paged booklet to register as a civil servant. It required more passport photos, fingerprints, blood type, parents’ birthdates and occupations, educational background…. That’s when I lost it a second time. I phoned Nancy (the coordinator of the Bhutan Canada Foundation), and as I was expressing my frustration, I started to cry. Poor Nancy. I’m sure she was worried. She asked, “Have they at least given you a cup of tea?” to which I blubbered, “No they haven’t.” She spoke to the head of HR and made some other phone calls, and I ended up with, first a cup of tea, and finally my cheque!!
From there I went to the bank, deposited my cheque, and withdrew some money. Now I’m overflowing with ngultrums. Supposedly at the end of this month, and subsequent months, my pay will be deposited directly into my account. I hope so.

A couple of amusing asides: The dzong is the religious and secular centre for the area, and is a beautiful medieval looking fortress. Each time I visit, I walk past a bunch of young monks in the courtyard. Yesterday they were listening to Bhutanese pop music, and today a couple of them were on cell phones. It just looks so out of place!

Also, when I was waiting and waiting for the cheque to be written, one young clerk in the office offered me the use of his computer. When I sat down, I noted that he was on facebook. Hmmm.

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