The rest of the visa extension saga

Monday (day 36) was Immigration Department day. I had to collect my passport which would hopefully by now be supplied with a sparkly new visa that would last for the duration of my stay.

Seidauk,” the helpful gentleman smiled at me when I handed him my passport collection form. (‘Sidauk’ means ‘not yet’). “Seidauk? Why seidauk?” I asked him. “You told me I could come on Friday last week.”

At this he frowned. “Friday last week I told you? Hmmm,” he replied, and he took the passport collection form back from me for another look.

“I fly to Australia on Wednesday,” I told him helpfully.

“On Wednesday? You fly on Wednesday?”

“Yes… so I need my passport.” There was a pause while we both contemplated this particular information. Then I asked him, very politely, “Where is my passport now?”

He was still frowning, so I added, “I think you need to find it today!” Luckily the person I was dealing with was the one member of staff there who can speak English and is relatively good-natured with his work. I think he is generally amused by his many dealings with malae.

He got up out of his seat, and said, “Wait here”. Then he disappeared out a door behind the counter. I sat down with Mana Er and waited, and he didn’t reappear for the next hour or so. They’ve lost my passport! I realised, with a fatalistic sense of horror and comedy. They don’t know where it is.

Mana Er also got in on the drama and I learned lots about getting powerful people to help you in Timor as I watched her speak with various officials. She was always quiet and respectful, speaking in a low voice so that others couldn’t hear, but she also told them things about what an important person I was, that I had a meeting with the Ambassador the following day (true, but not necessarily because I am such an important or famous person), that I was flying to Australia this week, that it was all very important and urgent.

Finally, the smiling, good-natured official reappeared, looking somewhat harried and hassled now. He called me over. “Write your phone number here,” he said, handing me a notebook and pen. As I wrote in his book, I asked for an update.

“We-e-e-ll, the director is sick and in hospital. The deputy director is in a meeting. We need someone to sign your form.”

I tried to be helpful. I offered to take the forms to the hospital and to track the director down myself (this was me being more bloody-minded and frustrated than helpful, I confess), but he waved that suggestion away.

“I will try to finish your visa for you. I will call you when it is ready”.

“Do you know when that will be?” I asked.

“Maybe about 4…,” he said vaguely, and so that was where we had to leave it.

As we left the building, we discovered that Dili was being pelted by one of those sudden intense tropical rainstorms that can hit it in the afternoons, so we ran along the driveway and across the road, leaping puddles as best we could, and dashed into Mana Er’s husband’s car – I was amazed to learn he had been waiting for us all this time.

We waited at Mana Er’s house for the phone call, and sure enough, at about 4.15pm I got a call from a man telling me that I could collect my passport from Immigration whenever I was ready. I raced back there, knocked on the door, was relieved when they opened it, and they checked my name, and handed me my passport. No money required! All done! A visa for the full length of my stay. Phew.

Two days later – day 38 – I left Dili and flew back to Melbourne to do a workshop for the MSO and follow up a few other project developments.

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