So THIS is How it Feels

Today Jason decided that he and I would head off to the local Immigration office for our district to apply for my visa extension.  Normally a tourist can enter Indonesia on a 30 day tourist visa.  That’s what I have.  However, my flight back puts me in this country for about 36 days.  It WOULD have worked out correctly if our original plans to meet up in Bangkok had worked out but when Jason and Laura changed their travel plans and flew to Bangkok earlier, that made me have to cancel the Thailand portion of my travel which put me in Indonesia for longer than the 30 days on a normal visa.  However, Jason assured me that I should have no problem asking for an extension.

We left bright and early, catching a taxi to the main road where we then walked up and down a series of metal walkways and overpasses to catch a bus.  What luck!  No sooner had we paid for our tickets and entered the waiting area then the bus we needed pulled up AND there were plenty of seats on it.  Jason assured me that this was highly unusual because usually you had to stand up, crammed closely together and gripping one of the handholds.  Yay, us!

Jason had never traveled to this part of Jakarta before so we both were looking at the surroundings with interest until finally we saw a sign that said “Immigration” and we told the bus attendant that this was the stop we wanted.  Off we hopped.

We looked around for an official-looking building.  Nothing seemed to fit the bill.  Jason stopped a passerby and asked him if he could tell us where to find the immigration office.  He pointed to a vacant lot with dirt-moving equipment parked in it.  Oh, oh!  This didn’t look good. 

“So what’s the scoop,” I asked Jason.

“Well, see that empty lot there,” he replied.  “That’s where the Immigration Office used to be but apparently it was moved and the old office building was torn down.”

“Do you have any idea where the new office is?” I asked. 

“No, but if we catch a taxi, the driver should know,” he answered.

Off we set, walking along the road until I quickly spotted a group of taxis.  Hooray, we just might make it to Immigration after all.

We got in the taxi and Jason conversed with the driver in Bahasa Indonesian.  When he was finished, I said, “Well, what did he say?”

Jason looked at me.  “Um, he either said ‘beautiful’ or he was saying the name of a street.  I’m not entirely sure,” he said.

I stared back at him.  “We are in BIG trouble,” I thought.

We pulled off into the traffic.  Our driver drove and drove and I had no idea nor did Jason where in the world we were except for the fact that we were still in Jakarta.   At one point, while sitting at a red light and next to another taxi from the same company, our driver rolled his window down and motioned to the other cab’s driver to do the same.  They had a quick conversation until the light turned green and other cars and motorcycles started honking and off we set again. 

“He doesn’t know where it is, does he?” I said to Jason.  “I think he was asking the other guy for directions.”

We drove further and I could feel a stress headache coming on.  I knew that the offices were going to close early today since it was a Friday and New Year’s Eve and I really didn’t want to finally get there only to be turned away.  After another 10 to 15 minutes of driving, our driver pulled over to the curb.  Jason piped up, “Immigration Office?”

“Uh, no,” I said to Jason.  “I think he’s going to ask those other taxi drivers for directions again.” 

Sure enough, that’s just what he did and when he came back to the cab, I, who do NOT speak Indonesian, can almost tell you with certainty that he said “We’re in luck.  It’s just down the street.”

Off we went again and after about five more minutes of driving, we FINALLY pulled over in front of a building with walls around it and some guards.  This looked like the place plus there was a sign that had words that looked like “immigration” and “visa.”

We paid for the taxi and walked into the compound.  Oh, my….my heart leaped into my throat as I stared in astonishment at the throng of people clustered around the entrance.   People were everywhere, sitting on the ground, on the steps into the building, and on the railing beside the steps….all clutching official-looking papers.  We walked past these folks, into the building and into a room that was even more crowded than the entrance.  Again, people were everywhere.  There wasn’t a free seat in the place.  All I could think of was, “I’m never going to be seen today.”

Jason went over to a side window and asked a gentleman if there was a separate section for “visas on arrival.”  Sure enough, he was given some paperwork and directed to the third floor.  We headed up the stairs, which was no mean feat in itself because people were sitting on both sides of the steps as we went up.  However, by the time we reached the third floor, the crowds had thinned and there were actually some free seats in this section.   Hallelujah!

We put our heads together and filled out the form.  There were a few words that Jason was unsure of so he called Laura and she helped us interpret them.  As he explained it, they weren’t words that you would use in everyday conversation.  Jason had already had the presence of mind to come prepared with photocopies of my plane ticket and my passport, which was good because we needed those when we went up to the counter and presented our paperwork to the lady behind the glass. 

We explained the situation and she seemed quite agreeable to us getting an extension.  She gave us one more form to fill out, stressing that I was to put down my departure date as January 12 and that the extension would only be until January 12.  Sounded good to me.  I have every intention of making that flight, Lord willing. 
I filled out the final form and gave it back to the clerk.   She asked for my passport, took the forms, and gave us a receipt. 

“Come back on Tuesday morning around 8 am. and you will pay the fee and be given your visa extension.  Then you will wait about an hour and be given back your passport,” she told us.

Alrighty then.  So it’s one more trip to the Immigration Office this coming week.  I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about my passport being in someone else’s hands while I’m in a foreign country but Jason assures me that this is commonplace and I should not worry.  I certainly can empathize with the many people who line up hoping to get work visas to immigrate to our country.  I used to see long lines waiting outside the American Embassy in Morocco and I’d feel sorry for all those people, knowing that there were just a small number of quotas to be filled.

Back to my extension, Jason also tells me that if it had been him, he would have just skipped applying for the extension, shown up at the airport on the day of departure and paid whatever fine they assessed and it would very likely have been much less than I’ll end up paying doing it the official way. 

What can I say?  I’m just not wired that way.  If I was on a deserted island and came to an intersection with a stop sign, I would stop and look both ways before crossing it.  It’s the way I am.  I’m from good German stock.  We obey rules.  Besides, I would be worried sick the whole rest of my visit if I didn’t apply for (and hopefully get) this extension. 

Since I really couldn’t take pictures of the throngs at the Immigration Office without risk of offending someone, I thought I’d post pictures of what I ate for lunch today.  It’s called Soto Ayam which translates roughly to mean “Chicken Soup.” 

It came with half of a hard-boiled egg floating in it, bits of chicken, some diced tomato, cabbage, seasonings, and thin, clear noodles.

Then they brought me a plate with a mound of rice on it, some shrimp chips, and a bit of hot seasoning.  You add the rice to the soup and the seasoning (if you want it hot) and then you can dip the chips in the broth and eat them before they become soggy.

It was pretty good.  I would have added salt and left out the egg.  I found the egg a little off-putting as it bobbed around in the broth. 
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Hot Flashed Funk

  • I don’t fly on the wings of a duck either, I’m more like you when it comes to crossing the “T’s” and dotting the iii’s. So another trip and it should be taken care of.

  • I probably would have gone for the extension as well….rather than worry about being ‘caught’ over the next 10 days.

    The soup actually looks pretty good.

    Don’t you wish you had a spy cam sometimes? So you could take pictures in those situations?

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