Wednesday, 26 August 2009

On a dark desert highway...

OK, so today I went to Immigration to get something called an exit clearance certificate. This allows me to leave the Philippines. Without it, I'd be stopped at the airport and redirected to Immigration, which is about an hour to an hour and a half away to get one.

Needless to say, the person without one will miss their flight.

So I went today to get one.

The system for getting a visa renewal has been quite streamlined and now only takes one hour, so I was prepared for this to take about as long.

Silly me.

After being handed one piece of paperwork and filling it out I then had to have photocopies made from my passport, which is usual. Then I had to have 5 2x2 passport pictures taken. Fortunately they do it there and for just P100 ($2US). When I returned with that I was given three more sheets of paperwork to complete, including pasting of the 2x2 pictures and fingerprints all over each of the three forms plus an additional index card.

This all took an hour.

Then I submitted all my completed, photocopied, photographed, pasted, fingerprinted forms and was told I could return at five o'clock.

It was only eleven in the morning.

Six hours.

The cost: P500 for the express lane fee.

What's express about six hours?

Well, considering it does take the post office across the street two to three weeks to deliver our mail, perhaps six hours isn't all that bad.

But I had things to do. I couldn't wait six hours. And the thought of returning to pick something up at the precise time the offices are closing is just ridiculous.

So I didn't wait. I can return some other time.

But first I had to get all the black ink off my fingers. So I went to the men's room to wash it off only to find there's no soap in the men's room; not even a dispenser. There was however, plenty of stink from all the urine which covered quite a bit of the floor. That was lovely. Even worse is that the door sits propped fully open, so all passersby see and smell the stuff. (Keep in mind, this is a freshly-renovated building.)

I did the best I could to wash my hands. Like all other restrooms in the Philippines, there are no towels with which to dry your hands. There was also no electric hand dryer. So I left with semi-clean, wet hands, being careful where I stepped on the way out.

On the way home in the cab there was a tune running through my head. It's a tune I haven't heard in quite some time and it wasn't on the radio. It was the Eagle's Hotel California.It wasn't until it had been running around in my head that I realized the reason I was thinking of that song. It's lines in the lyrics:
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave.

We'll see if I get out of here...

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