The efficiency of bureaucracy

Let me start this post by giving you the conclusion: The title is a lie. There is nothing efficient about bureaucracy. Nothing at all.

In the past four months I have been to the immigration office eleven times. Take some time to let that sink in. Every time you want to extend you visa, you have to go to the office three times. Or, if you are lucky, as I was, you get an interview, and get to hang out with the workers there four times!
This is globally how the extension process works (at least for the socio-cultural visa I am here on):

Step 1: You go to the immigration office. Which on its own can be quite a challenge, given the morning traffic in Jakarta. There, you go to a random counter to ask for the extension forms, and they will point you to the counter that hands these out. If you are expecting signs to make things easier for you… well, there just aren’t any.
So once you get the form, a lot of websites tell you to go home and collect the proper documents, and then go back the next day and hand them in. Don’t. I will tell you what documents you need, and all you need to do is bring a pen when you go there for the first time, so you can fill that lovely form in, right then and there. And when I say bring a pen, I mean bring a pen. Don’t forget it. Because there are no pens lying around, and only if you ask the receptionist really nicely, they will loan you their pen. But they will watch you write everything down and wait impatiently until they get their belonging back, so this option may cause you some stress (it did for me). So bring a pen!
And also bring the following documents:

  • Your sponsor letter
  • A copy of the passport of your sponsor
  • A copy of your passport (don’t know why, because they also want your actual passport – see next point)
  • Your passport
  • The printed confirmation of your flight leaving the country
  • Details of your stay (addresses, phone numbers, email addresses of all people involved. In my case, the address of the office where my internship is – and my own of course)

You can hand in the documents, together with the form and they will tell you to come back two days later.

Step 2: Go back two days later. Working days that is. Don’t show up on a Saturday if your first visit was on Thursday.
If you are lucky, today you will get to proceed to step 3 immediately. If you are unlucky, you will have to do an interview. Sometimes they say it is random, sometimes they say it is because they have a question about your documents, but what I can say for certain is that they won’t save the notes they take during the interview, because I had to do one twice. It was kind of a test for my patience, because they asked me all the same questions. Anyway, if you have an interview, they will need another day to process that (i.e. put the paper in the correct folder) and you will have to come back the next day.

Step 3: On this day, you will have to go back for two activities. First, you will have to pay. For an extension it costs IDR 355.000 (December 2015). Second, you have to take a picture and give them your finger prints. Of course, the queues for this are kind of long, so bring something to entertain yourself.
And mind you, you only have to take the pictures the first time you extend. Because of the slow process and their lack of methods to save documents (like my interview notes), I assumed you also had to do the photos every time. So for my second extension I waited to get my picture taken for half an hour and then they told me it was not necessary to do it twice. So I wasted some time there.

Step 4: The last day (for this month at least). You get to pick up your pasport with an amazing new stamp, waiting to be admired by you and all of your friends.
So all in all, my advice would be to live close to an immigration office, because you will be there a lot. And if you have to travel to go there and back for hours, your life will be unnecessarily hard and those nice immigration officers (who also spend a lot of time on their phones, until you show up at their desk) will not show you any mercy.

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The magic of Bali

I went to Bali a few weeks ago and the thing that keeps haunting me is that I am not done there, at all. I need to go back, many times. Or one long time. Or several long times. The point is, I want to go back.

I went there this December with my brother and his girlfriend. We arrived with the fast boat from Lombok and as soon as we got off the boat, people were bothering us and showing us all the items they had for sale. Food, mostly. Welcome to Bali. We waited for our bags to be unloaded and when they were we looked for our shuttle bus to Ubud. We found it quickly and even as we were inside the bus, they kept showing up with products.
And here is where it gets really funny. Because you would think, that when you buy something, they will be happy and stop bothering you. BUT NO!
I bought a packet with some pineapple and watermelon, because… well, because why not? I love fruit. But instead of selling it to me with a smile, she tried to sell me two, or even more. And when I didn’t want that, she listed some of the other products I could buy. “Da da Ibu”.

The drive to Ubud was nice and when we arrived, we got dropped off in the parking lot of a supermarket. Our accommodation was 3 kilometers from there, and I wasn’t in the mood to walk with my backpack. I figured we could just hail a taxi. But apparently, that is not how things go around Ubud. There were no regular taxi’s driving around, I didn’t see any ojeks (motorbikes with drivers). So I was a bit confused. I called Blue Bird and when I finally got the right number for Ubud, they told me it would take 30 minutes before we could get a taxi, because they had to come from Denpasar. I was surprised, because why would there not be any Blue Birds in Ubud. Later, I learned that the local government (or King of Ubud, or Sultan, or just the Mayor, whatever) is keeping them out of the city. There are a lot of local taxi’s and otherwise they would be out of business. We found out later that Uber is active there, so that saved us some money in the upcoming days.

Anyway, we decided to walk, because when we asked what the price would be to take us 3 kilometers to the north and the guy replied with a price that was way way way way too expensive, we went off. And on the way, a lot of people asked us if we needed a taxi. We kept saying, yes, but for this and this price and after five minutes we found somebody who would at least take us for a sort of reasonable price (and that reasonable price already went up a lot since we arrived and had to forget about the regular prices for a taxi).
‘Ok, wait here!’ the guy said. ‘I will be right back!’
So he disappeared around a corner, and came back a few minutes later with a car. We were hysterical, because it was all so shady, but it seemed the most normal thing in the world there.

IMG_8588When we got to our destination, our host brought us to the villa we rented for three days. The pictures where beautiful, but you never know…
We had to walk along a path through some bushes and along rice fields (we even crossed a small stream), but when we finally arrived, the view was amazing. We were right next to a rice field, the villa was everything you could imagine and when our host started cutting up some fresh mango and pulled out three bottles of water from the refrigerator, we never wanted to leave.

In Ubud, we did some of the touristic activities that one must have done in Ubud. We went to the Royal Palace, we went to the Art market (which is just a huge place where you can haggle and buy souvenirs, don’t let them fool you with a fancy name) and we went to the Monkey Forest.
IMG_0244_FotorSurprisingly, I had so much fun at the market. I did not plan on buying a lot of souvenirs and I knew this meant some serious discipline, but when I got there and I started haggling in Indonesian, impressing the seller and myself, I just had the best time. I bargained for sarongs and small statues and all the other things one wants to buy there. And not just for me, but also for my brothers girlfriend (my brother did not suffer from MSD – a.k.a. Mad Shopping Disease).
The highlight was when I wanted to buy this small wood carved statue of a monkey sitting on some books. I had seen it in several places already.
So, I decided to just ask what the price was. He said IDR 600.000. Uhhh. No. And so the game begins.
I finally got it for IDR 300.000 which I thought was a pretty good deal (20 euros). But what made my day came next. He told me, in Indonesian (so just the fact that I understood made me smile with pride), that for tourists he would normally start with one million rupiah, but because I spoke Bahasa Indonesia, he started at a lower price.
Well, if that doesn’t make a person smile, I don’t know what does. (Although maybe thisIMG_0168_Fotor

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We had some plans to do a yoga class and a cooking class in Ubud, but we didn’t do it in the end. So when I go back to Bali I will spend at least two more weeks in Ubud. I want to eat at all the vegan restaurants, do a cooking class, go on a yoga retreat, rent a motorbike and explore… And many other things.

IMG_0442_FotorOn our last day in Ubud, our host drove us around the island a little bit. We went to a coffee plantation where we had a small tasting, we saw a huge mountain, we went to a very popular rice field (which made it all the more unattractive) and we went to this amazing waterfall (where the stairs made me realize I am not exercising enough). It was a great day where we got to see some of the island of Bali and in the end the driver dropped us in Denpasar, where we were spending the next two days.

On the first day in Denpasar (Seminyak, to be exact) we walked along the beach. I found a seashell (yay) and we had a very expensive lunch in one of the beachside restaurants. We figured we would check out the central square (sort of) after that, but there was not much to do and all the tourists made us kind of crazy, so we went back home for a dip in our private pool and to relax.

I also want to share a joke that the waiter at the restaurant made. When we were finished and were about to leave, we asked the waiter where the toilet was. And before I continue, let me just stress that the restaurant was very fancy and expensive. And he just flat out told me that they did not have a toilet. He looked so serious and then told us that we could go outside and around the corner. I think I may have had an annoyed look on my face, because toilets in Indonesia are always so much trouble and I saw it coming. But then he started laughing and told me he was joking. And I totally saw the humor in it because it was very funny and playing into one of the worst fears of their customers, no doubt.

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At the end of the afternoon we wanted to go to Tanah Lot to see the sunset. It’s supposed to be amazing there. We got a taxi at five o’clock, but didn’t realize there is only one way that leads in that direction… and it was full of cars. People use that road to go home after work and it leads to a different area of the city.
As you may guess, this story ends with a sadly missed sunset. We arrived there when it was already almost dark and by the time we reached the view… There was nothing left to see.

The next morning we went to the DMZ, where they had 3D trick art which made for some amazing pictures. It was raining very badly that day and after the museum it was time for me to say goodbye to my big brother and his girlfriend and go back to Jakarta.
When I went back to the airport by Uber I felt pretty awesome. My Uber driver was very nice (offered himself up if I ever need a boyfriend in Indonesia) and at the airport I sat and ate some lunch/dinner by myself and I was walking around the airport like I knew the place. Security was a breeze, because by now I know what to do there (and they are just not as secure here as what I am used to) and watching everybody else struggle really made me feel good about myself.

It gave me a great ego boost for my upcoming travels and I look forward to that every day. But for now, I will enjoy more of Indonesia and I am already writing a list of what I have to do here when (not if, when) I come back at one point in the future.

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For more pictures, click here.