Trials, Large and Small

This earthquake business is nuts.  President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has declared a three-day national mourning period for the victims.  In our apartment complex we saw the Indonesian flag at half-mast–we thought that was only a Western thing, but apparently not.  There is still no word on what the situation is for many villages in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces, and no news is not good news in this situation.  The news we saw this morning suggests that the worst damage anywhere, though, is on the Andaman and Nicobar islands, some low-lying Indian islands south of Bangladesh.  Tens of thousands of people missing.

But again, business as usual in Jakarta, although things seem less frantic than normal because a lot of people seem to be taking time off for the Christmas holiday.  We are, yet again, involved in immigration haggling.  Yesterday we went to the Indonesian Academy of Sciences to get a letter to deliver to the immigration office to ask for yet another visa extension.  Strike one: the only person in the Indonesian government able to authorize such a letter was on vacation.  We’re about to go try again.  Can you imagine this level of incompetence?  It’s like the one person who issues driver’s licenses at the DMV calls in sick, so no one can get a driver’s license that day.  "That probably happens here too," JM mutters.

Primus has a song called "DMV," and in its lyrics, you might replace "DMV" with "kantor imigrasi" (immigration office).

"I’ve been to hell, I spell it, it’s kantor imigrasi. Anyone who’s been there knows precisely what I mean.  I’ve sat there and I’ve waited and choked back the urge to scream…"

Comments 4

  1. Le Anna Watkins December 29, 2004

    Tom & Julie —
    I am so glad to see that you are okay in Jakarta. I cannot imagine the devastation of that earthquake and tsunami, but I can imagine the fear your parents must have felt when learning of it.
    About immigration; I can relate. You were very young when Bob and I lived in Zambia but I spent an entire day in the immigration office trying to get an extension. They wanted proof that I was married to Bob who had a work visa. Naturally I didn’t have my marriage certificate with me! I think they only wanted kwacha (local currency) but I never caved it and gave it to them, and I finally did get my visa extension at quitting time.
    That was my third world immigration experience, not to be outdone by my Canadian immigration experience. They held me up for hours one time when I flew in to Calgary, where Bob & I were living. He had a work visa and I thought I had an “accompanying spouse” permit. However, it turned out that I needed his original work permit; he of course had his original and I only had a copy.
    We can only wonder if the US immigration folks are frustrating to the foreign visitors to our country. Apparently not, judging by the vast number of visitors to the US.
    Stay safe! Your blog is very interesting; thanks for sharing.

  2. Julie and Tom December 29, 2004

    I can only imagine the frustration in Zambia. Sounds a lot like what we go through here–just proficient enough in the local language to ask questions and get answers, but not proficient enough to really believe that we understand what’s actually going on. Stay tuned for more visa extension updates…

  3. Steve, Isabel, Catherine and Butler December 29, 2004

    Dearest Tom and Julie,
    I am glad to hear that you are safe and sound. Mom was extremely worried that “on those little islands everyone gets hit.” I think she was under the impression that all of Southeast Asia is the size of Topsail Island. We thought of you over the holidays and even Butler has wondered how you are (he has yet to learn how to access anything on the internet other than his email so he is not checking your updates).
    As for immigration, I had a similar experience in Sweden. They just couldn’t understand how I could be a student and not be studying at Gothenburg University. I expect I will have the same trouble when I go back in May.
    Love and kisses to you both. We are thinking of you!
    (and Butler, Aunt Isabel and Uncle Steve)

  4. Matt Glassman December 30, 2004

    Totally off topic, but it occurred to me that your blog should probably be called “Some indonesian junk that’s goin’ round” (or similar) instead of “Some southeast asian junk.” It’s much cooler and definitely funnier for those who get the Cheap Trick reference.
    I’m glad to hear that everything is ok with you guys. Please keep us updated with news – what you say is far more interesting than the MSM.

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