You regular readers know that if Immigration appears in the title of my blog entry, an adventure lies ahead. Well, this one is no different!
I can say I really felt a bit like I was in a movie; specifically one of the Harold & Kumar movies!Don't ask me which one I am in this story. Nic does funny voices better than I do, so I'll let him be Kumar.
Anyway, last week I took my Australian neighbor, Nic, to Immigration for his first time. Immigration is so much better now! The extension office is back in the main Immigration building and it is completely new, with shiny white floors, stone counters, big windows, new comfortable seating, air
conditioning, and girls in uniform to help assist people and keep order. Previously, the office had been located in a space rented in another building a block away while years of neglect (and fire damage) were repaired and rebuilt in the main office.
But just because all those improvements have been made didn't spare us from drama! If it did, I wouldn't be writing this now would I? First, Nic discovered he had mistakenly overstayed his visa by two days - a five-hundred peso fine. Then he realized he'd left his money on a table at home.
We also noticed that the copier that normally sat in the Immigration office, ready to make money copying pages from our passports, had disappeared. Nic would have to go outside to find a copier. Oh well, he needed to go to the bank anyway to withdraw money for his visa fees. Surely we'd find a copier somewhere.
So we went to the building where the office was last located because there's a bank in it, and found a store making copies beside the bank. Three pesos later Nic had his copies.
One four-thousand peso bank withdrawal and he had emptied his account.
So it was back to Immigration to fill out his forms and hope he had enough money to cover his charges.
Thanks to the new office and the uniformed girls handing out numbered tickets, there was no more standing in line and everything went quickly. Yes, Nic quickly found out he didn't have enough money on him.
Edson and I were almost broke as well, but between what Nic had left in the bank and what we had, we scraped together enough to cover his charges. Of course this meant we had to make another trip over to the bank building again so I could take out a couple thousand pesos to cover that plus our expenses in getting home.
Back at Immigration again, Nic deposited his forms and payment and we headed out for lunch.
I should tell you, drama follows Nic everywhere....if it doesn't get there first!
So we went to Robinson's (A department store and mall in nearby Ermita.) to eat and window shop. While eating, a guy passed by and smiled. And then smiled again. And again.
Ah, a money boy!
After we finished eating he followed us for a while, from a great distance.
We lost him and continued walking and browsing. Nic had to use the CR (comfort room, a.k.a. rest room), so I waited outside. As I waited by a railing, I noticed someone winking at me from the floor above.
Another money boy.
I turned back around to see Nic coming from the CR and Nic noticed the money boy winking from behind me. Nic made the mistake of smiling. That was like a magnet for our money boy, and he came up to us moments later, even though we had already walked a good distance away. We ignored him, but he kept walking just a few steps behind us whispering sex...sex...I suck...suck you...sex... until we had had enough and decided to grab a cab back to Immigration. He followed us all the way outside, where another money boy friend of his was waiting.
Immigration is now so efficient Nic's visa was waiting for us when we arrived, and we were 10 minutes early! That is something that would never have happened before!
OK, maybe this wasn't as exciting as a Harold & Kumar movie. But sometimes when Nic and I are here, we feel so many stares from people we have to do a double-check to see we haven't forgotten our pants. Add to those stares the money boys on the prowl, and we began to feel like jungle beasts were all watching, waiting for the predators to pounce.