Friday, March 04, 2011

And now to return you to your regularly scheduled program

Apologies once more as I haven't managed to blog regularly.  There's enough that's happened in the last week that I'll break it into at least three blog, in no specific order.

Monday brought another trip to Singapore for a work visa.  I'm still unsure why we have to leave Indonesia to get the visa, though someone told me that it works that way in most countries.  Since this is the only country I've gotten a work visa in, I cannot attest to that.  Most people go to Singapore once a year at most.  In fourteen months I've made three trips now.  I'm not necessarily complaining.  It's nice to get out of smelly, chaotic Jakarta for clean, orderly Singapore.  The food in Little India alone is worth the trip.  The shopping is different too.  I made it to an Ikea there.  It's the only place I could find butter knifes. I am now the owner of three. Don't ask me why Jakarta doesn't have butter knives. When I had this discussion with a friend she pointed out that I should just use a spoon.  I said the spoon wouldn't fit in the jar.  That's what the handle is for she said.  Right, so the I can grab the handle five minutes later only to be cover in peanut butter.  I'm more and more convinced that this country was founded on the principle of deciding what is logical and then doing the opposite.
Singapore has not one but TWO Ikeas.  Jealous!

Going to Singapore again reminded me of the incident that provoked me to start this blog.  Again I was the only non-Korean in the group.  I followed not by understanding what was going on, but from a heightened understanding of body language.  The longer you live in places that you can't understand what is said, the better this ability gets. I had to explain three times that I didn't want to do the tour since it would be entirely in Korean, which I don't speak, and I'd been to Singapore twice previously. At that, I was told to get out quickly and meet at 5pm, Airport terminal 3, gate 1. Right 5, 3, 1.  Got it. I had Ms. Kim's (no fake name needed) mobile number.

I went to Little India for lunch and shopping.  The kidney beans and dhal (lentils) that I bought would be warmly received by co-workers who promised to bring me a share of the results. I also stocked up on dhall and curry sauces for myself.  At 2 SGD per 500gm, it was a steal and worth lugging around all day. Then an MRT subway ride with two transfers to IKEA.  Butter knives, a frying pan, two items for a friend and a stop at the food center there made me a happy camper.  Carrying all the crap after didn't.

I arrived back at the airport at 4.  I figured early was better than late.  Plus I'd get my passport, process my Tax rebate, go to Duty Free for the required liquor purchase, grab a snack and be on my way.  Best laid plans.  The woman was 45 minutes late.  I tried to call, no luck.  Though my phone worked when I arrived, both smsing and bbm, neither were working by the end.  Luckily (I suppose) my flight was delayed from 1830 to 1900 and eventually to 1930 for departure.  This meant rushing to get things done and then hurrying to the gate only to sit and wait 40 minutes.  Sigh.  Nothing here is ever easy.

Though the office personnel who handle visas assure me that there isn't a problem with the visa, I'm unconvinced.  My visa says 12 month visa.  Start February 28, 2011, expiry May 29, 2011.  I'm told that's the processing window.  If I'm deported in four months, we'll know why. I made my concerns know to the administrative staff and my departmental head who is Korean.  They brushed it off.  As they did with my monetary complains.  We are the only school I know of that doesn't provide either the school car or money for a taxi to go to and from the airport.  I had to argue to get them to pay the airport tax (150,000Rp) and lunch (100,000Rp).  The taxis alone cost me about 300,000Rp.  Plus getting photos taken, another 75,000Rp.  It all boils down to one more way the school is about nickel and dime-ing us to death while pushing programs that we don't want or endorse but they spend heaps of money on.

Highlights of the trip were shopping, being reminded that usable public transport exists and seeing Michael Jackson.  At least he looked like him.  Down to the slightly too short pants, and sparkly white socks under his loafers. Maybe he had the plastic surgery and whitening treatments reversed?

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