Monday, March 29, 2010


In Indonesia it makes a difference who you know.

I shall give as an example my visit to the Immigration Bureau this morning.

I was accompanied by an Indonesian gentleman whose sole business it is to lead Westerners by the hand through the hoops and hurdles of paperwork, signatures, and official stamps. Our mission was to obtain my Kitas, which is simply the permit to live in Indonesia for a year before having to run the obstacle course over again.

I was told that I should dress nicely, for a photo would be taken by the police, along with fingerprints, and that I should pretty much let my representative do the talking.

I put on my slacks, not worn nor ironed in the last few months, a short-sleeved batik shirt, my black loafers, and off we went on Ketut’s motor scooter, bound for Denpassar.

The weather this week has been extremely humid--dangerously humid, one might say--and so by the time we arrived at the Immigration office we were both looking pretty much as if we had been newly dipped in an irrigation ditch.

Dress nicely? For God’s sake, why?

Ketut took me by the arm (yes, literally) and led me into a long wide room that was quite reminiscent of an unemployment office back in the States. I was told to sit while my guide looked about for his “friend on the inside.” For matters such as these it is quite necessary to have a friend on the inside--unless one relishes the idea of waiting for perhaps two weeks for his name to be called.

A friend on the inside has no little window, calls no names, takes no numbers. Rather he crowds in beside the employee who does have the window and calls you forward to crowd out the man or woman who has been waiting a week or two to be called to that window. You sign fifteen times and that’s it.

Next comes the picture. This also entails a two week wait if you don’t have a personal guide. The picture is taken by a single policeman who is not at all sure what a camera is. This in and of itself is quite different from the usual practice of employment in Indonesia, wherein five people would generally be hired to do one job. Which I find quite admirable, actually. Why limit one job to one person only?

And then the fingerprints.

And then you are done, free to not to think about it for an entire year.

Which is what I’m started on as I type.

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