The only thing we really wanted here in our house, was the piano. It’s not just the piano, it’s the Financial Times piano which reflects the geo-political developments that interested us, over the past four years. The rise of Obama, the prior fall of Bush, Peak Oil, the rise in influence of Iran thanks to Bush’s pet war in Iraq, the financial meltdown, and several Financial Times contributions that got published, by Ben. So we have a vested interest in this particular piano. (Some family members may recall Ben wanting to turn his white convertible at the time, into a Financial Times collage of selected news articles. That was nixed by the boys and so it was the piano that became his political billboard.)
Once we decided to ship the piano we experienced “container creep”. First came the photo albums and home videos of course. Then Peta’s large and many paintings. Then the orange sofa seemed like it would be at home in Granada. Oh wait, what about the Argentian furniture (after all we spent two years of our lives working together with Mapuche Indians to help create a US market for their high end paper mosaic work and it seemed like a shame to not have a few beautiful momentos from that time period.) Oh yes, lets not forget the boys’ lego, toy cars, beanie babies that have stuck around this long, they might as well be put to very good use with neighborhood kids. So now…. the initial piano, has morphed into half a container!
After nearly three months of delay, during which time, we only really yearned for the piano, we got a call that the goods had arrived at customs in Managua. This is the time that we discover (thanks to our US transport service who was supposed to coach us on these matters) that we will get taxed for 80% of CIF. What is CIF you ask? It is the “value of the goods” + value of the transport + value of insurance. Oy! Value of the transport itself means that the cost of shipment has just doubled. But wait there’s more, the tax authorities want to determine the TRUE value of the goods. So how do they propose to do that? Well, Ben is summoned by the tax authorities to go to the warehouse. Armed with a rough estimate of what’s in the shipment (i.e x many boxes of books, x many boxes of clothes….), Ben squeezes in a visit between other Managua bamboo appointments.
Not so fast! This is where the fun begins. The large, sweaty customs officer adorned with gold chains and rings (not a good sign) proceeds to line up eight customs workers, places the six pallets in the middle of the warehouse, instructs that pallet one be opened. He looks at the submitted list of goods and asks to open random boxes. He checks his list for boxes 37, 42, 53 and 87. The first is supposed to be shoes, its albums. The second is supposed to be albums, its books. The third is supposed to be CD’s, and it’s a juicer. You get the point. So did he. The list of itemized boxes does not correlate and so he instructs that ALL boxes, ie. all six pallets will now be inspected. Gasp.
Some of the highlights include:
* CD’s: it’s not enough to say its a box of CD’s, they actually count every single CD in the box.
*Juicer: all electronics need to have serial numbers recorded (I never thought of juicers as electronics.)
*Paintings: could anyone have guessed that Nicaragua has a stringent cultural law provision that states that paintings made in Nicaragua OR of a Nicaraguan theme need to be registered with the Ministry of Culture, lest these paintings not be allowed to leave the country at a later date. Lets keep in mind Peta’s body of work for the last two years has been “Stray dogs of Nicaragua” and there is plenty of marketing material which highlights the Nicaraguan theme.
*Piano: ahem, the very reason for this container, has suffered travel trauma. The keys are stuck and the few that work sound like a 1920’s relic. Lets hope the piano tuner here can bring it back to life.
We await with great anticipation the customs’ “true value” assessment on which we will be taxed 80%. To set the stage for an imminent and inevitable negotiation, Ben tells them at painstakingly going through pallet three, of six, “frankly, I don’t need any of this shit, it’s all my wife’s stuff and if you value it too high, you might as well keep it!”
- Happy to be home
- Nica Times article: Bamboo Eco-Business Taking Root