Tuesday morning Cale found me at school. Word had made it to us that the Deputy Prime Minister had not left for Pago that morning. We needed to go to his office when it opened at 9 am to give him the invoice so the shipping could be paid before the Wednesday deadline.
We rushed home for Cale to change into a pocket lavalava. He even shaved. The Tongan Peace Corps Volunteers who were staying with us were impressed with his clean-cut face.
Once in town, we saw the DPM’s secretary who told us the matter had been passed to the Minister of Revenue. We went to the office next door and saw the Minister of Revenue’s secretary who said we could come back at 3 pm to meet with the Minister.
As we were leaving the building we ran into Marco and Marie Ines, who just happened to be introducing guests from overseas to the DPM. We waited around awkwardly as part of that group for a chance to talk to the DPM and I put my foot in my mouth. Thinking this was may be my only opportunity to catch the DPM, when Marco introduced us, I went into way too long a spiel about why we were here to see him, even though he had already said he would see us in his office when he was done (something Cale had heard and I had missed).
We talked to the DPM in his office, only to learn there had been a great misunderstanding. The DPM had agreed to write a letter to PFL on our behalf asking them to provide assistance in shipping the computers and PFL had with a 50% discount. That was the end of the DPM’s involvement. His office was not covering the remaining $2,000 tala in shipping. He mentioned that it was good for the schools to pay something for the computers, to show their commitment to the donation and I agreed. If only we had known months ago, we could have be collecting the money all along, but now the money was due tomorrow and we had nothing.
However, all was not lost. At some point during our wandering from DPM’s office to Minister of Revenue’s office one of the secretaries asked us, “Have you asked the Prime Minister?”
“No,” I said confused. “Can I?”
I was a little baffled, this woman was asking us if we had asked the Prime Minister of Samoa if he would pay for the shipping of these computers as if we frequently ran into him on the street or as if we could just call him up, “Hey! PM! Old buddy, old pal. Can you spot us $2,000?”
However, as it appears, she was not joking. You can just walk over to the PM’s office and make an appointment, no problems. So that is what Cale and I did. Our appointment was set for 3pm, it was only 10:30 am, and so we walked to McDonald’s for breakfast and then headed to the office.
Once in the office, I started calling all the Peace Corps Volunteers that were getting computers and telling them that at this time, it looks like we have to pay for the shipping and we have to pay for the shipping tomorrow. Luckily, the price was right, $13 tala per computer. Unfortunately, the timing sucked. There was no way for the Savaii schools to get their money across the ocean by tomorrow (I would probably be more correct if I said strait and not ocean, oh well). This is where Jordan (another volunteer at Chanel College) stepped in to kick ass and take names. He volunteered to cover the Savaii schools and be reimbursed by them.
Feeling slightly better, we headed off to our 3 pm meeting with the Prime Minister. When we got to the PM’s office we were directed to a waiting room. I was surprised by how casually dressed some of the other people waiting to see the Prime Minister of the country were. Cale was in a nice shirt and pocket lavalava. I was in a puletasi. However, several people where simply in shorts and t-shirts. I was starting to get the impression that seeing the PM is a lot more relaxed than seeing, say, President Obama. Of course, that didn’t stop me from becoming outrageously nervous as we waited.
Eventually we saw the PM and it wasn’t too scary. Unfortunately, he was also unable to help us. We mentioned a fund that the PM has available to him without a parliamentary vote. However, it appears that the fund is currently frozen while they consider investing options.
We headed back to the PC office to inform the schools they would need to pay the $13 tala per and ASAP. On the way, Blakey called and we did a drive by in our taxi, snatching $100 tala off her as she stood on the side of the road. One school down, six more to go. It was after 4 pm Tuesday. We had 24 hours to collect the rest of the money.
Will Cale and Sara collect all the money in time to make the Wednesday payment deadline? Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of The Tale of the Computer Donation.