28 March 2013

Officialdom

Three and a half hours - that's how long I spent at the Department of Immigration this morning. It is a huge modern building on the northern outskirts of Bangkok - miles from anywhere. I was there for two reasons. Firstly, I had to extend my work visa because my teaching contract was recently extended from the end of March to May 3rd and secondly I needed to acquire a re-entry visa because I am leaving the country on Saturday for just over two weeks. This flag will tell you where I am bound...and it is there that I will meet up with Shirley who has a week off work:-
And of course, as if you didn't know! It is the flag of Sri Lanka - or as I still prefer to call it - Ceylon. There was political mischief behind the changing of the teardrop country's name.

So anyway, I have got my first supermarket deli ticket and I am sitting in the waiting area adjacent to the many "N" booths. A robotic female voice with a Thai accent chants the evolving appointments - "Tick-et-num-ber Twoah Threeah Zero, Counter (dramatic pause) fourtEEN (Rising to a robotic crescendo)". The appointments are also listed in red digital displays but the "N" section's lady robot's increasingly irritating voice is in competition with the lady robots from the other sections. Their soulless voices are identical and they interlace like spindly fingers.

When you finally get into a glass booth to see an immigration official in an immaculate army-type uniform, she or he goes mad with the old rubber stamps before sending you out to wait for another half hour - only then being allowed to pick up the amended passport. At least today I didn't encounter the cheeky female official who laughed at me in 2011 and said I looked like Colonel Sanders..."Oh yes dear, I'm a finger-lickin dead ringer for Mr KFC!" (Not!)

There are hundreds of other perplexed aliens in the Palace of Bureaucracy - maids from the Philippines, construction workers from Burma (not Myanmar), Welsh chicken farmers, Cambodians, Indians, beachcombing hippies from California and Canton GA and other farang (foreign) international teachers like me with school bureaucrats in tow. I was with the delectable Khun Lek who - in spite of only knowing a dozen English words - is my school's visa liaison officer for foreign staff. But I will give Lek her due today. She managed to bully or charm the officials into giving me my re-entry visa just before the shutters went down for an hour's lunch break. Well, what does it matter if hundreds of visitors have had to traipse out to the suburbs in taxis, waiting in snarled traffic jams, missing hours of work? What really matters is that the army of officials can have their noodles and their Tom Yum soup, their "Daddy Do-nuts" and their Colonel Sanders specials. Let the buggers wait.

So with passport sorted and reservation sheets now printed, I am just about ready for Ceylon where apparently foaming, rabid dogs often fight with equally bad-tempered monkeys. Nice.

7 comments:

  1. Have a great trip. Love your blog by the way. I have happy memories of holidays in Siam.

    LLX

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  2. Work visa in Angola: Official price, not sure, system never works and applications must be made in country of origin. Alternate method, US$5000, can take months. Visa overstay fine $150 per day.

    Biggest fine I ever incurred in spite of being legally entitled to residency (been here nearly twenty years, have Angolan wife and family) US$36,000

    Only three and a half hours to renew a work visa? Bloody luxury. Pah! Kids of today, you've never 'ad it so good... Bet your Mum was rich enough to be able to afford a bit o coal to heat up your gravel fer breakfast. We 'ad to eat ours cold.

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  3. It seems red tape is a trial everywhere and just has to be endured. Extending your stayeh? You must be enjoying it. Look out or they'll be offering you a permanent job.
    glad you are getting a holiday with Shirley. Are you missing home at all ... or are you just glad to be out of the cold?

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  4. LETTICE Thanks for dropping by Lettice Leaf. Soon I am going to get round to checking out your blog where I shall leave droll comments and advise you on matters grammatical. Get ready.
    HIPPO Gravel for breakfast? Bloody hell, we weren't millionaires! Until I was sixteen I didn't even know what breakfast was as I was always working dahn pit dragging coal wagons. I loved a nice bowl of frogspawn in the springtime and winter snow was always a treat.
    HELEN Shhh! The extension pays for our holiday! What do I miss about home? A nice plate of fish, chips and mushy peas, walking in fresh air without sweating like a pig, the ambience of an English pub, Hull City matches, "EastEnders" and of course Shirley - but not necessarily in that order.

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  5. I'm so glad you appended that last sentence. Still leaves it rather open, 'though, don't it?

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  6. Can't beat a bit of red tape and stern stamping - lot better than all this new-fangled internet do-it-from_home stuff; at least this way you get to meet people ...

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  7. Lettice Leaf calling... As my old mate Les Dawson would say as he played the piano badly... 'You've got to know how to play it goodly in order to play it tunelessly!' Well that's my excuse anyroad... call it introverted snobbery!

    I do just love being a rebel, that's the prob.

    LLX

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