Through the Hoops to Paradise

again from Mountain Mecca & Hippie Heaven!

If you
think going to work in a foreign country is as simple as packing your sunscreen
and hopping on a plane, think again. We are now in the “Bureaucracy” phase of
preparation. This means we must fulfill all of the requirements of the Cook
Islands government and then wait to see if our work permits are OK’d. We’ve
already had our police background checks done – thankfully they never found out
about that little incident in 2002, whew!(Kidding). We have most of our character
references ready to send. Thanks to all of you who made us sound so dang good;
after reading Miz Liz’s letter I’m tempted to forget all about Aitutaki and run
for Prime Minister instead. Our new boss has our CV’s already. And Monday is
the biggie…the medical exam (cue the ominous music).

We will
be thoroughly inspected – TB tests, HIV/Aids tests, chest xrays, tests for
things I can’t even pronounce, etc.  The
list of things we are to be poked and prodded about is two pages long. I’m
assuming the reason for such fine-tooth-comb-ness, aside from the obvious need
to keep infectious diseases out, is to keep people out who would be a drain on
the local medical system. This is just a guess; who knows. But I also think
governments, in general, like to make people jump through hoops.

In the
Cayman Islands there are some fairly strict regulations about hiring
foreigners. That’s great; however, the Cayman people typically don’t want to do
the jobs foreigners are hired to do. When we interviewed to work on Little
Cayman they explained that even though they knew, and the government knew, no
locals would either apply for or be able to do the management job we were
after, they still had to make it seem as if they were, in fact, recruiting
locally. So for three or four weeks they would have to post the position in the
Cayman newspapers knowing full well they’d hire a foreigner. You see, that way,
when that one citizen who likes to cause a stink goes and whines to the
government about foreigners taking all the jobs, Mr. Government official can
say to the business, “Why did you hire a foreigner?” and the business can say,
“We tried to hire locally, just look at all these ads we put in the paper!”
It’s all a sham and everyone knows it.

amazes me is, our country must have regulations about immigration, too, so why
do so many criminals and cheats get in? Not just in Canada, but in lots of
countries there are foreigners who would fail to pass the simple tests Prez and
I have to complete to work on a tiny little island in the middle of nowhere.
What’s the deal? And yet it seems there are volumes of rules and restrictions,
not to mention rivers of red tape to cross, to get anything done in this

ago Prez and a couple of good friends wanted to open a driving range. They did
all their homework and found a perfect piece of land for the business. Problem:
The land was in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve). The idea of the ALR is a
good one – protect agricultural land from development. Good, yes, I support that.
BUT…the piece of land in question was small, surrounded on all sides by
development, had not been used for agriculture for eons, was sitting empty and
probably always would. You’d think taking a little chunk of unused, unsuitable
farm land out the ALR would be an easy endeavor… you’d be wrong. Eventually
Prez and company gave up; the process to remove the land from the reserve was
just too long and costly, with no guarantee of success. The last time I saw
that land it was developed, it was only a matter of time. Oh, and money.

countries we’ve visited have learned to combine bureaucracy with corruption. In
Costa Rica we learned all about the politics of corruption. A fishing lodge was
for sale on the Osa Peninsula and we were stoked. This place was tight and the
fishing was out of this world! The price tag would have required us to find
investors but we reckoned it would be an easy sell and we saw a multitude of
means to bring in more revenue. The owner was an amicable fellow, eager to help
us out. He arranged for us to meet with the accountant so we could go over the
books. “Books”, plural, is right. We quickly learned in Costa Rica you keep one
set of books for you and one for the government. The accountant also showed us
the “bribery schedule.” He’d point to the calendar, “This government official
always comes to stay for this week. He doesn’t really stay here, he stays at a
whorehouse, but if his wife calls we tell her he is here.” On and on it went,
freebies, cover ups, anything to keep smiles on the faces of those who stamp
your papers and approve your requests. Ah ha…we backed out of that deal pretty
darn quick.

I use
the term “government” loosely, I know. Not all facets of government are so difficult
to deal with. We happen to know a former Mayor who – despite her ill-behaved
dogs – worked diligently to help her city and is a model of “how it should be
done”. And the problem of bureaucracy is not limited to government, any
organization can fall victim to the quagmire. Our old union, at least while we
were members, had no shortage of paperwork, corruption, and gobbledy-gook. There
was a small fund for each individual put aside for insurance and medical needs
not covered under our regular plans. To access this money, you had to file a
request and a board would vote on it. After Prez suffered a 2nd degree
burn on his face, we submitted a request to cover various small items such as
bandages and non-prescription meds he needed. We sent a letter, and a photo of
Prez’s scarred & charred face, for back up but our request was still
denied??! Crazy, huh?

While I
understand the need for policies and procedures, at some point common sense
must prevail. Mustn’t it? Perhaps not. When I see the airport security staff
making the pilots take off their shoes for inspection, I want to shout, “Hey
guys, if the pilot wants to crash the plane, all he has to do is this…” – and then
I mime a person pushing way down on an airplane throttle.


And as I
wait for my seventh, and final (sniff), Harry Potter book to arrive, I’ve been
thinking about how cleverly JK Rowling wove her own little rant against
bureaucracy into her story. (Nice segway into talking about Harry Potter,
hmmm?). On Monday, I made the half-hour drive to Castlegar to see the latest HP
movie – book five in the series (awesome!!). The government body in Harry’s
wizarding world is the Ministry of Magic and it is a pretty realistic
reflection of real government. In the movie, the M of M staunchly denies
the return of Voldemort (the very bad guy), and the steps it takes to
enforce this stance are both humorous and horrible. (The scene of Harry writing
“lines” for detention will make you squirm!). Interestingly, in the next book,
faced with the reality of Voldemort’s return, the M of M does an equally lousy
job, and is more concerned with public opinion than with actually protecting

The good
news is, tomorrow, after I’ve been stuck full of needles and who knows what
other instruments of torture, it will be me and Harry for the rest of the day
(and night, probably)! Oh, and there is more good news, my dad has volunteered
to take Emily for me! Well, perhaps “volunteered” is not exactly correct…more
like “coerced” but it all boils down to the same thing. So I’m still sad but at
least I’ll know where she is and that she’ll be looked after well. Whew!

OK, tons
of writing to do, so I must fly…right after I file a form J-68768GH requesting
time to write and submit to the proper authorities for authorization, that is.

What’s your bureaucratic horror story?

next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!



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2 Responses to Through the Hoops to Paradise

  1. Cindy says:

    I have been on social security disability and medicare for ten years now so it\’s a little difficult to pick JUST one.  I\’ll tell you the most recent. 
    I went to the doctor for a bladder infection.  When they tested my urine, they also discovered, besides the infection, a lot of sugar in it.  This prompted my doctor, as you would expect, to perform a blood sugar test.  He also ordered a test to check my hormone levels since I\’m *mumble* years old and have begun showing signs of menopause (way too early IMO).  Medicare has denied payment on both tests because they came back \’normal\’.  Had they come back \’abnormal\’, they would have paid.  The question:  How was my doctor to know they would be \’normal\’ WITHOUT PERFORMING THE TESTS? 
    It\’s madness, I tell you, MADNESS!!

  2. Kristene says:

    That is CRAZY! Wow!! My mom-in-law just sent me a great story about trying to get citizenship for her late husband. Every time they\’d go in, the clerk would tell them one or another document was no good. Instead of dealing with everything all at once, they had to keep coming back and back and back…Stupid.

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