Today is the big day. I was told I can pick up my passport, and it should contain my 30-day extension. Technically, it will be a 28-day extension because my last visa expired two days ago. This extension should date from my previous visa’s expiry date, so it will be two days old by the time I receive it.
Later: Got the visa extension, but it wasn’t easy. I had been told to just return on Wednesday to pick up my passport. But there was more to it than that. First, I had to have my picture taken. And this has to be done as a live insert with one of their cameras tethered to a computer and logged into the national immigration website/database. You can just imagine how that went.
My trip to immigration for the interviews ended up being successful but predictably weird. I got there on my bike, of course. My sponsor, Stephani, was going to get there on her own. I assumed she would be on a scooter. I showed up a few minutes before my scheduled interview time of 10 a.m. The usual woman was sitting behind the main counter, and I went up to her just to let her know that I had arrived but my sponsor wasn’t there yet. Then I sat to wait.
Sleep is such a funny thing. When I was in the middle of the stress and horror of trying to find a sponsor and complete the paperwork for immigration, I slept absolutely fine. Today, all I have to do is ride my bike down to immigration for an interview – which is something of a formality – and yet I was so focused on this that I couldn’t sleep at all. I also experienced a series of stress dreams.
I’ve gotten in the habit lately of getting up with the 5 a.m. call to prayer. It’s just easier that way since, especially here in Siantar, there is no possibility of sleep once the traffic starts to move and the horns start to honk. It’s best to go to sleep early and wake up early. But I was extremely tired this morning after the exertions of the last few days, and I stayed in bed a bit later.
For a few minutes yesterday afternoon, I stood on this hotel’s balcony and watched the beehive of manic activity at the intersection nearby. I reflected that all of this behavior represents a type of economic activity. In a very real way, that flow of giant trucks, buses, motorcycles, vans, and bicycles can be viewed as money flowing along the streets.
My trip to the immigration office was a complete disaster. It could not have been a bigger failure. The details might be confusing or boring, but bear with me. It’s important to note that I wasn’t doing anything unusual or complicated. It’s a standard procedure to get a 60-day tourist visa before entering Indonesia and then extend it for 30 days at a time if needed (up to four times for a total of six months).
Today is the day that I go to immigration to apply for a 30-day visa extension. I hope it goes well. If there is a serious problem, I still have options, however. I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I could probably go back to Tanjungbalai and take the ferry back to Malaysia. Then I could make my way up to Penang and apply for a fresh 60-day visa. I’m confident I could get that. But it would be better at this point to get the 30-day extension locally.
I’m still in Sumatra. My current tourist visa is expiring in a few days, and I’m on my way to a town called Siantar to visit the immigration office and apply for a 30-day extension. This may or may not go well. You need official documents from a local sponsor in order to get a visa extension. I have a sponsor and the documents already prepared, but this sponsor lives in the town of Kisiran, not in Siantar.