A Singapore Visa Run

It’s been a week since school ended, and I’m edging nearer to where I want to be. I have a retirement visa, but have to finish up with a few documents that I’ll need like proof of having an Indonesian employee and proof of renting a place to live within a designated tourist area (Bali obviously qualifies). I feel a sense of relief that this visa, my permit to exist here, is pasted on a page of my passport and that the visa is no longer dependent on the requirement of my being employed, but rather gives me the space to look at something else in some other way. What that something else is and what that other way is I’m not quite sure yet, but the awareness of this thing is there just on the edge of consciousness like a name that I’ve forgotten but really know.

I took a trip to Singapore to get my visa. I hadn’t realized, until I saw that the international section of the airport was now different from what I remembered, that it has been 16 months since I last left Indonesia. My life these past few years has moved from being an international teacher who traveled a lot whether on vacation or for work to a sort of domestic expat who just happened to be employed by a foreign company in the way that I was once a resident of Sonoma Country who worked in a school in Marin County.

The Garuda flight was almost full and fairly bare bones – there was some entertainment on the monitors but no headphones were given out so there was no sound and a meal that was what is commonly thought of as an airline meal. But the flight crew was pleasant and the passengers were seemingly all in a good mood and we arrived in Singapore on time.

I stayed in the small hotel in Chinatown that I used to use years ago when Singapore was a regular stop for me. Not much had changed, the rooms were still small and the hotel was still full of backpackers, but the price had almost doubled in the seven years since I last spent a night there.

I called my visa agent and he arrived soon after at the hotel where he explained what he was going to do and what I needed to do once I returned to Bali. He was pleasant and efficient.

One of the delightful things about staying in Chinatown is wandering around the streets and watching what the locals are doing in the evenings. I set out and took an hour stroll around the neighborhood, and then feeling like I needed a rest, I stopped for dinner at an old outdoor restaurant (really it’s little more that a half-dozen small tables placed out on the street which are served by an open kitchen. The food is always delicious, served quickly and the price is reasonable.

After dinner, I stopped at the 7-11 which wasn’t on Keong Saik the last time that I was there and bought two large cans of Asahi which I haven’t had since I lived in America. I went back to the hotel room and drank the beer and watched reruns of American shows from the 90s. Feeling too much like I was drifting into a surrealistic approximation of reality, I went to sleep.

In the morning, I took a two-hour walk on New Bridge Road just to see how the city had changed and to take a few photographs of the architecture. I skipped eating as having breakfast alone in a large city always seems pointless since I can do without eating for long periods and eating takes away time that could be spent doing something more interesting or at least more relevant for the direction my life seems to be heading.

My colleagues at my last school were kind enough to give me a substantial amount of gift certificates for book purchases at Kinokuniya so I checked out of my hotel, notified my agent that I would pick up my passport later in the afternoon on my way to the airport, and took a taxi to Orchard Road. I’ve loved Orchard Road from the first time that I suddenly appeared there somehow over 20 years ago. It’s quintessentially Singapore – busy, in your face, and mixed with the high, the low and those on their way to either station.

Kinokuniya is just an enormous bookstore that, for a book lover, is a garden of pleasure. I selected my books in seven minutes, and then on my way to the counter decided to change one for something else. I did this for the next hour. When I finally completed my selection and arrived at the service counter, a very kind young woman informed me that if I purchased a member card, I would be saving $29 on my purchases and with the price of the membership, I would be in the black by $8. I immediately became a member and went back for another book, and then back for another because I still had money left over. We all had a delightful time including an elderly tourist who found it quite amusing when I would bring a new book back and after the total would exclaim, “I still have a dollar left.”

When I left the store, the blue skies had turned to gray and rain suddenly came down in such a fierce outpouring that I was forced to take shelter in a little alcove next to the Mandarin Hotel. I sat there for two hours smoking cigarettes while taking notes on the people that passed by – many of whom had umbrellas and were obviously more prepared than I for the day.

Eventually, wet to the skin, I found a taxi and made my way to the agent’s office. The visa wasn’t ready yet so in the 20 minutes that I had to wait, I met a long term expat resident of Jakarta who just happened to work in basically the same field as I.

We exchanged thoughts and reflections on Indonesia – Bali and Jakarta – most particularly, and then parted when our visas arrived.

The Garuda flight was an hour late so I spent some time wandering around the airport and sending emails to family members. There was an incredibly long que in the VOA line at immigration, but fortunately none one was in line over at the foreigner visa counters. I had a pleasant conversation with the immigration official and walked through customs as I had only a backpack for luggage.

I caught a taxi to a brother-in-law’s house in Denpasar, picked up my motorbike and my eldest daughter and drove through the midnight chill to Singaraja. We arrived home precisely at two a.m.


~ by drbrucepk on June 21, 2008.

One Response to “A Singapore Visa Run”

  1. I’m just testing to see if this is open enough to have replies.

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