I could say that yesterday morning was « taxing », but that would mean I was making a very cheap pun. I’ll instead tell you that my efforts trying to pay our Burkinabe income tax were frustrating and insanity-provoking.
Taxes usually aren’t my thing. JP has always taken care of this stuff. But this year, he told me that it had to be paid before the end of March and then got on a plane for
“Talk to Mme. D- at the tax office. She’ll help you. See you in two months” he said.
And there I was.
After the bitterness died down (just kidding. haha. sort of) , I decided to go take care of it. That was yesterday.
I got in my car with Mahama, our driver, and headed off to the Tanghin neighbourhood, in the northern part of Ouaga. We hadn’t gone far when I realized that’d I’d forgotten my cell phone, but I didn’t go back for it. Big mistake, but more on that much later.
We continued on and in about 20 minutes had arrived. I recognised the building, as I’d been there once before to drop off some papers in years past. But it looked different now - really different - as in completely abandoned and about to be levelled by bulldozers.
I quickly asked some neighbourhood guys hanging around where the office had moved to. They told me it was all in a big new building in Tampouey, on the Ouahiagouya road.
That’s a neighbourhood in the extreme northwest of Ouaga. It’s certainly not one I hang out in often, so I had no clue where to go. I never would have found it without Mahama, who knows the city really well.
The new tax building was absolutely huge by Ouaga standards- five stories, the exterior entirely covered by white ceramic tiles. It looked like the world’s largest public restroom facility.
It was so big, it was impossible to know where to enter. I randomly chose an entrance. I went up to a window and asked the man behind it where I could find Mme. D- and take care of an expat tax matter. He had no clue, but sent me over to a colleague at another window.
He had no clue either, but sent me across the way to an office. I explained to the man at the desk what my problem was. He had no idea, but was sure that a fellow on the other side of the building would know.
So, I trudged around the maze of offices until I found this fourth fellow. And I explained for the FOURTH time what my problem was.
He seemed to know something. He told me that this was not at all the building I needed to be in. (What a surprise!) In fact, I would need to go to the other new tax office, over in Gounghin. There I would find someone that could take care of my problem.
I got back in the car and we headed south.
We’d been told that this new place was near a certain truck repair garage. Luckily, my driver knew it because he was a truck driver before coming to work for us. If I’d had to find all these places on my own, it would have taken me two days, not just a single morning!
This new building was only three stories high and much smaller. I thought it would be much easier to find my way. I was completely deluded, of course. Once I got inside, I was sent to three different people on the ground floor. The last one informed me that I actually needed to go outside, around the back of the building and take the stairs there up to the second floor.
I went around and up.
It was a brand new building, but built in that Burkinabe way that is very strange, unattractive and uncomfortable. None of the corners are square, lots of wiring is exposed, and the stairs are not designed for the use of humans. I think that aliens from outer space must pay their taxes here in Burkina, because we have their stairs. Each step is a different height, either too high or too low. The handrails are too high and made out of sharp-edged metal. (the aliens apparently have tough protective plates on their appendages.) The windows on the landing are tiny and set at human knee-level. The elements combine into a very weird, difficult to use whole.
Because of the step irregularities, you feel like you’re going to fall, but if you use the handrail, you cut yourself. And the small, low windows mean it’s very dim inside, adding to the creepiness. (note to general public: Appreciate your stairs! You never notice them until they are gone and replaced by constructions from distant planets.)
I lurched up to the second floor, nicking my hand in the process. Up there, I found yet another maze of offices. As in all these places, the doors were either unmarked or were labelled with a piece of paper bearing some mystifying notation like “Sec./Tr. 1- 56RTRX”. Looking back now, I now believe these papers denoted the rank of the alien Pod Leaders within.
As this is getting really long, I'll write and post the rest of the story tomorrow. It goes on and on and on....