Posted by on Oct 9, 2013 in Blog, Personal Stories | 2 comments

You know those strange names you’ve never heard before? Ones your awkward, politically correct uncle would never refer to as “ethnic” for fear of the repercussions should the NSA be listening? It would seem that I have one of those.

Names that is. My uncle has no problem with the word “ethnic.”

It’s similar to how I apparently look like every other white man with a beard. Ever. I get called Josh a lot. It also leads to strange encounters in town when people pick up conversations with you that you never left off.

Is this what having a twin is like?

jayonaboat-motorcycle-pointe-noire-congo-brazzaville

Just over a week ago I bought a motorcycle for my buddy Brian, a friend that I doubt anyone would confuse me with (where I have a beard, he has a ponytail). The deal was that he’d put the money up if I’d do the work, seeing as I speak French and have gone through this rodeo once before. It’s a good deal for me, especially since he’s gone for the next two months so I don’t even have to share it until then. It’s a good deal for him too, it turns out, because the process is a bit more involved than it was last time.

It’s simple enough in concept: buy motorcycle, register motorcycle, get plates, buy insurance, ride until you can’t feel your derriere any more. In practice it’s been a bit more of a stretch than that.

For starters it took four days just to buy the motorcycle, largely because of people running us around or demanding three times the real price (another problem with looking “foreign”). Upon reaching a final sale, which involved an Indiana Jones-style cave, we begin the registration process.

indiana-jones-never-found-this-lost-treasure-trove-jayonaboat

The registration process was supposed to be a 24 hour thing. Show up, pay, leave copies of ID, come back the day after.

I returned the day after, it wasn’t ready. This comes as no surprise, I’m used to false starts in most realms of life here (restaurant experiences quickly teach great patience). But then they called me to come pick up my registration, and when I went in it still wasn’t ready. At first I was concerned because when I said that my name was Jay Swanson, the lady heard “Jay Swantiki.”

I’m no linguist, but that’s a jump in any language.

my-helpful-friend

When she said it wasn’t available (after almost giving me the finished registration forms for some other poor sucker) the main man himself assured me it was, so he went on the hunt for it. It took something in the realm of 30 minutes, but he found it. I spent my time trying to capture the less-than-ideal organization of the paperwork while I waited (though the most impressive pile was on the floor).

motorcycle-helmet-on-paperwork-jayonaboat

The confusion was largely generated by my name. No surprise there. What was a bit unexpected was what they thought my name was..

according-to-congo-motorcycle-registration-I-am-Texas

That’s right. After “Name of owner:” it says “Texas Driver License.” Most of the confusion cleared up after I directly translated what that meant.

A bottle of whiteout later and I was on my way to pick up the license plates. The lady called a buddy and said she could hook me up. This is the same one who was so eager to give me three registration forms belonging to someone else with a strange name ending in “son.” You can understand any hesitation I may have had. However she did shave the price by four dollars, so I figured it was worth a trip.

About ten minutes of driving past the license plate distributor later, we pulled in to a travel agent.

travel-agent-pointe-noire-also-sells-license-plates

“Oh yeah, we do that.” You mint license plates? “Sure, we do all kinds of things.”

And with no further ado, Jay Texas Driver License Swantiki had his license plates and a fully registered motorcycle.

jayonaboat-motorcycle-congo-pointe-noire