Seriously, I blame my mommy brain – just like I blame it for the decrease memory space in my head – that my passport had actually been expired since February this year!
Last Friday, my youngest brother Danny and I went to the South Jakarta Immigration office. Although I had always used travel agencies to take care of my passport, this time we agreed to try something different. Doing it ourselves! Gasp!
Why I used travel agencies before? Simple, because dealing with government officials here can be a total pain-in-you-know-where!
We went there at 6 in the morning – yes no kidding! Half an hour ride in a taxi we got there and around 15-20 other people were already there. The office was clearly still closed and their queue machine won’t be turn on until 7:30 AM.
Around 7, an official announced out loud for everyone to wait in line by the machine and OMG what a chaos – but the people quickly formed a line. Danny managed to get in line too while I waited. One person can only punch and get 5 numbers max. Standing for half an hour is no fun!
Most people there were surprised when they saw their numbers. All of their numbers starts at 200 something! When Danny showed me our numbers I just knew they did not reset the machine back to zero at the end of the day. Really? I’m sure it’s not that hard with it being computerized and all. Anyway, our numbers were 247 & 248! From a small talk with others there, I found out the number for that day start from 225!
To renew or make a new passport you have to manually fill out a form (although I thought their campaign for online application should take care of this!). The forms are free but the manila envelopes are not, you have to pay for that. Danny who was there last week, arrived at 9 and got waiting number of 500+something had got me the form.
Yes, I am a die-hard skeptic when it comes to our governments institutions – I can’t help but making mental notes of how bad things run at the place. Annoying to see people go to the windows then fill out their forms there instead of before! Seeing the crowded wet-market-like-line in front of the passport pick up booth, I just shook my head and sigh. I mean c’mon…how hard would it be to have those people get waiting numbers too – separately from new/renewal applications then call them by the numbers instead of screaming calling their name while those people hover in front of the window?! You know those little monitors that supposedly show what numbers are being called now don’t even work! Someone from inside the office had to use a microphone and manually calls out the numbers and which empty windows they have to go to.
Sorry for the poor quality it was taken with my cell!
In total we had to wait 3.5 hours before our numbers were called! And I got into a bit of trouble taking pictures in there. A man came up and asked if I’m a reporter. When I told him no, he said only a reporter with an official reporter id card is allowed to take pictures. Oopsie!
At the window, the guy asked for recommendation letter from ‘my company’ since apparently on my ID Card (KTP) it says my job is an employee. I explained to him that I’ve been out of work for ages and when the ID card was renewed last year we were in China. I guess the ‘agent’ who took care of my ID card decided to put ’employee’ there and it didn’t even bother me. The officer said “I’m just giving you a suggestion because if you apply for a visa the embassy will ask for that letter.“
Although in my head I know I’m not applying for any visa anytime soon and to hop to Singapore we will get the visa on arrival – I kept my mouth shut. You see, dealing with these guys you really have to tuck your emotions inside. From my experience, it’s safer to play ‘dumb’ than arguing with them because they have the power to make your life miserable!
They had no problem with the stamp on page 5 from the Indonesian Consulate in Houston that manually added my ‘new’ last name in 2005 and I explained since we used to live abroad, I haven’t had a chance to register our marriage here at the civil registry. They just took my marriage certificate plus its official translation and keep the copies, no questions asked. Oh wait – yeah there was one question when the guy were flipping through my passport. He saw my K-1 Visa stamp and the handwritten A-number (my famous Alien Number!) then asked “Did they write this or you did?” I find his question amusing!
We are scheduled for biometrics (photo & fingerprinting) for next Tuesday but I suppose to bring a letter explaining my new employment status as a ‘housewife’! So when we got home I contacted the guy who took care of my ID card and just told him to make a new ID card and change my job also my marital status. It will be done tomorrow. You see how money talks here?! After biometric the new passport will be ready in about a week.
The long waiting time, the lack of facilities to makes the Immigration Office staffs work their job better and of course the mentality makes most Indonesian opted for the ‘short cut’ when dealing with them. Most people would rather shell out more money – sometimes double the standard fee (of around $20+) to get someone else (agent) doing it for them because they will get it faster and quicker since agents have enough connections inside to get your passport done in a day if you can pay over $100!
I wish it would be as easier and as quicker as applying for Lil’ A’s American passport or how Mr. X’s renew his passport with just a stamp from the US Embassy here, not making a whole new book like Indonesians way – But I keep telling myself to remember that we’re back in Indonesia now.