Other countries, other customs 2/3
In Part 1, after several hours of waiting and a few exchanged SMS messages (yes, a bit vintage here in the Republic of Georgia), Papa Fish arrived home empty handed and the barrier of what I considered “crazy” news. (insert drum roll here) The news was: On Monday (two days later) we, as in, you and I will need to empty our 20ft container and have all our personal belongings evaluated by a custom’s “expertise”. I simply just had to laugh and thought he is joking right. No, he wasn’t.
At 11:00 am, Monday morning, our trusty taxi/translator arrived. Having had all day Sunday to absorb what we were about to do, I accepted the prescribed unload. I chose my most conservative CrossFit Reebok workout gear and there we were, off to the Lilo Customs Dry Port, Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia.
Once we arrived, the same woman who had attended Papa Fish two days prior greeted us. They quickly handed us a pile of papers, took Alejandro’s passport, gave him a visitors badge, and we were off to be reunited with our container after nearly 6 weeks of transport from Las Palmas de Gran Canarias to Tbilisi.
We hired a driver to transport our container from Poti to Tbilisi (Georgian Logistics Company). When he drove up to our assigned unloading dock, big grins swept over our faces. Out of nowhere, six young men came running up to the back of the truck. Both relief and fear were our first thoughts as we just realized it was not us who was unloading the container. It was the young men who were going to unload ours belongs. With my best smile and warm “garmajoba”, I made eye contact with one of the workers. “Please be gentle and take care of our stuff as you unload everything,” I said. The nice Georgian “Nico” replied, “We’re professionals. You have nothing to worry about”. It was then and there ALL control was handed over.
Over the next two hours, our entire container was unloaded into a 70 square meter area. It was “roughly” organized into piles of boxes and furniture. Once complete, the men requested for the “expertise” to come and give further instruction. After one hour of waiting, a slim soviet nurse-like looking woman followed by three less official looking men approached our unloading area. In less than 60 seconds and a quick glance around at our belongings she had requested for all of our boxes to be open and categorized into six groups. These groups included: clothing, kids toys/books, electronics, kitchen, furniture, decoration, and sporting gear. Yes, you can imagine what I was thinking… Fudge, just a little less censored.
Following the information, we had just received we simply looked at each other, took a deep breath, and said, “3,2,1 GO.” Each step of the process had already been very unclear or different to what we had originally been advised. It was all part of the process towards getting our stuff home, right? Ultimately, deep down, I knew this was non-negotiable to persuade or adjust in any way or form. My husband was so proud of me at this moment. When it counted most, my feisty spirit took a back seat and just went with the flow.
One by one our boxes were opened, fluffed, and turned upside down. My mind raised with thoughts of – How is this going to fit back into the container? How many things are going to break? Oh my, what a disaster. Several of our boxes were packed with “mixed categories” (ex: towels protecting kitchen breakables) these were hand separated and assigned to their corresponding piles. After 2 hours of separating and hiding non-importable items (wine, coffee, creams, antique watches) the expertise lady was summoned and once again visited our pile of craziness.
Up till this point, we had been at it for 4 hours. For the next 2.5 hours, we patiently watched as everything we owned was either weighted, hand picked and evaluated, or simply jotted down on a piece of paper. After each box had been evaluated, they were returned to the container. Half way through the evaluation, the nice young man informed us if we did not finish by 6 pm we’d have to resume the following morning. Hence, leaving what remained of our belongings open and out over night in the middle of the unloading zone. Again, I knew this was non-negotiable and simply started wishing to the heavens above for everything returned to the container before leaving that evening.
Six-thirty seven pm, the expertise lady finished her evaluation. She simply smiled, said thank you (in English) and returned to her office. All of our stuff had made it safely back into the container, apart from one piece of furniture that was nicely placed in the remaining area on the back of the truck.
Next step was to return the next day at 2:00 pm, as requested by the expertise lady to collect our evaluation and pay the VAT on the content of our container. We were advised to bring cash, as it would make the process quicker the next day. We kindly asked how much money (approximately) we should bring. The expertise woman kindly responded, “enough to pay for your goods.” And that is how our day ended.
Last thoughts of the day: I had to admit I was surprised. Nothing was broken, none of our hidden wine, coffee, and creams was found, everything made it back into the container and besides a load of hours waiting around the process was a good laugh. From the woman who attended Papa Fish on day 1 to the pack of young men who worked their butts off on day 2 – each took the time to share a laugh with us. As for the expertise lady… she was just doing her job. Under her serious presence, she was also soft and empathetic. As we found out on Day 3, she was also only a very small part of the evaluation.
Stay tuned for: Other countries, other customs: Part 3 – Does it go on the wall, floor, or on a table?