As the happy group made its way toward the exit, a customs official stepped forward and started to quiz us about our boxes. I pulled out our letter of invitation from the Bangladesh Ministry of Health as our international partner Dr. Shafquat Khundkar had asked us to do. The customs official was interested in our countries of origin and began to ask us many questions. I saw Shafquat outside waiting for us and I gestured to him that all was not going as planned with customs. Somehow he was able to enter the customs area and then began the long discussions with the customs official.
In the end,
the customs official was insisting that we did not have all the proper papers
for bringing in our equipment and supplies “tax free” and so he was not going
to release anything until we either produced the proper documents or they went
through every item in the boxes to levy a tax. This was the first time in 15 years Interplast has had a problem
in customs with our boxes.
At this point, the team was sagging and it was very late. We had to leave the boxes at the airport until everything could be straightened out. Every box had to be inscribed by hand into a notebook with a description of its contents. Luckily we had the box list that we gave them. Shafquat told me that there was nothing else we could do and suggested that if Dr. Tony Sudekum remained with him to sign the document the rest of us should leave for the hotel. I was only too relieved to finally be able to take the team to bed. They were exhausted, and by the time we arrived at the hotel and sorted out the rooms it was 4 am. Tony came in about 4:30am. I asked everyone to meet at 11 am for our team meeting, after which we would have lunch and then head over to the hospital to meet with Shafquat and his registrars.