The saga continues…
After leaving the letter from the Vice Chancellor with the inspector at the eSpecial Branch office of the police in Malibag, we did not hear anything for several days. We’ve found it to be mostly the case here that as long as we do nothing no one else does either. So Jen finally got on the horn and called the police inspector to see if he’d received our application from the folks at the passport office. No so sorry, he had not. He suggested that we go back to the passport office and ask them to give us back our application so that we could hand deliver it to the inspector in person. Naturally we were reluctant to do this because it would involve another trip to the passport office AND another trip to the eSpecial Branch office in Malibag. So we let it slide for a few more days. Jen tried several times to call the Assistant Director of the passport office, but the woman never answered her phone. So when we’d still heard nothing by the end of the week we decided to take the police inspector’s advice.
But first we thought it would be prudent to get another copy of the letter from the VC, this time addressed to the Director General of the passport office, in case the incorrect salutation on the previous letter was the cause of the present hang-up. This meant another trip to Baridhara, which is actually not so bad. We have lots of friends staying there, and it doesn’t hurt to have an excuse to pay them a visit once in a while.
With the new letter in hand, we went back to the passport office. It was about 11:30 AM when we arrived. We waited in line until it was our turn to speak with the Assistant Director, a woman whose face is now very familiar. We explained that the application had not been received yet by the police. We wondered if the cause was the incorrect salutation on the last letter. Yes that was the reason she said. But you said the last time that it would be okay. No response. Well here is the new letter with the correct salutation. Now can we have our application, please, to take to the police? Before we can release your application we must write a letter to the police. Wait until my window closes and then remind me and I will give you the letter and the application. Okay, that sounded good, never mind that her window didn’t close for another hour and a half. Luckily we had anticipated the possibility of a long wait and sat down, me with a book and Jen with her knitting.
At 1:00 PM the Assistant Director’s window closed. We went to inquire and were admitted beyond the “Entry Forbidden” sign. We were pointed towards the Assistant Director’s office. No one was in there, but we sat down and tried to look like we belonged figuring she’d have to show up eventually. About forty-five minutes later she did. She came in, sat down, and started signing papers on her desk. Then a Korean man came in and started complaining about how someone had told him he’d have to wait an hour for something or other. He was very put-out but eventually sat down and began to wait. Periodically various people came in to drop off or collect papers. It was interesting to see the conversational dynamics between the Assistant Director and her colleagues. Mostly she yelled and griped at the men and women who were bringing papers in and taking them away, telling them (as far as I could tell) that they weren’t doing their jobs properly and that they’d better get their shit together. At first I thought, oh great, maybe things will go more smoothly now that she’s cracked the whip.
Nope. Upon further observation, I realized that the men and women shuttling papers remained totally unfazed by the tongue lashings. In fact, this appeared to simply be the daily order of things. At one point the Director General walked in and asked some questions. There was a remarkable change in the Assistant Directors demeanor when she spoke to him. She switched to a more educated/bookish Bangla register that clearly demonstrated deference and respect.
Eventually the Korean man grumped at the Assistant Director again, then got up and went out, leaving only the three of us remaining in the room. The Assistant Director turned to us and started complaining about her job. What do these people want from me? How do they expect me to work here? What does it take to make them happy? (At which point I thought to myself, gee, most people when they come here, they really just want a visa. Getting one would probably make them happy. But I refrained from making this point at the time)
The astute reader may have noticed that I have not yet reported any communication from the Assistant Director to us about the status of our application or the letter she was going to provide. Why? Because she hadn’t said a damn thing about it! When she came in she greeted us and simply got to work signing papers. There was absolutely no mention of what was happening with our application. So there we sat. And sat. And sat for about an hour.
Finally, of course, we broke down and asked what was going on. The letter has been written she said. Now it must be signed. So we’re waiting here for someone to sign the letter? Yes, he’s having lunch. Thanks for keeping us informed…
We took advantage of the current lull in activity to re-explain our case and re-state our primary concern, which was that we be able to leave the country without paying a big fine for having overstayed our visas. What happens if the police do not grant us permission this time? Oh no problem, she said, just come back here a week before your flight and submit a letter requesting an exit stamp. Then three days later you can come back here and get the stamp. And they won’t charge us when we leave? No, no everything will be fine. (AAAAARRRRGGGGGG!!!!!!! Why have we been running around all over this godforsaken city writing letters and talking to police inspectors and vice chancellors and your charming customer friendly staff for the past month trying to get this issue resolved wasting their time and ours, when we could have simply filed our appeal and let the application sit on someone’s desk gathering dust until a week before our flight, when we could just come in and get an exit stamp?!!! I’ll tell you why!!! Because we didn’t know it was a @!*&% option! Because no one had the good @!*&% sense to tell us that it was an option!) Oh, great that’s good to know, we reply.
We continue to learn over and over that if you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right information. How do know which questions to ask? You get screwed repeatedly until you develop an intuition. That’s all I can figure.
Then again, maybe the Assistant Director did try to communicate this option to us when we received our initial rejection. She seemed very unconcerned about the problem. She just kept telling us all you have to do is file the appeal and every thing will be fine. You’ll still be legal, everything will be fine. But how will it be fine, we needed to know. And what is fine? Is fine showing up at the airport and having to pay 30,000 Taka in order to be allowed to leave the country? It might be fine with you, but it’s not fine with me.
I guess she didn’t feel like she could just come right out and explain the let-it-sit-and-gather-dust option. Or maybe she just wasn’t thinking ahead enough to consider that as a labor saving option that was very much in everyone’s best interest. Or more likely, it was just so obvious to her that that was the thing to do that she couldn’t figure out why we kept asking so many questions. I guess we’ll never know.
But back to the details of the moment. After realizing, implicitly, that the best thing for us to do would really be to stall the process (so as to save everyone the hassle of having to deal any more with this application) rather than try to complete it, Jen and I exchanged glances and stood up to leave. After all we’d been sitting there for four hours. Nothing seemed to be happening. If we managed to leave before anything happened it seemed pretty clear that we could count on having to make only two more trips to the passport office and no more trips to the eSpecial Branch office in Malibag. That seemed like a tolerable outcome. We’d made it half-way across the lobby when someone came running after us. Madame! Madame! Your letter!
Damn! Damn and blast! We turn around and go back to the Assistant Director’s office. The letter is typed. The letter is signed. But the application must be photocopied. So we wait. The application is sent out of the office. It comes back. There is now a photocopy of the letter. No, no! Photocopy the whole thing, the Assistant Director cracks her whip again. The application goes out. We wait some more. The application comes back. Now there are two copies. You go with them. She will give you the application for the police, the Assistant Director says.
Which one will we take to the police Jen wants to know, the original or the copy? The original the Assistant Director says. We will send the copy later. The original? I’ll take the original, Jen asks just to be sure. Yes, the original. Don’t loose it or there will be big problems.
We go into the other room with the Assistant Director’s passel of assistants. One addresses an envelope. Another staples some pages together on the application.
They put the photocopy of the application in the envelope and hand it to Jen. Jen takes it out of the envelope. She said to give us the original. This is the original he says. No listen to me, Jen says, She told me that you would give me the original. This is the original, he’s pointing to the letter. Jen steps into the hall intending to go back to the Assistant Director for clarification. The door is closed. Shit! Jen says. The female assistant says, she hasn’t had lunch yet.
Jen turns back to the man. She told me – He interrupts her. This is the ori- Jen is furious. NO! You listen to me!! Are you listening to me!!? It’s plain that he’s not, but Jen goes on anyway. She told me you would give me the original. If I go all the way down to the eSpecial Branch police station in Malibag and they tell me I have brought the wrong copy I will be very angry, do you understand! He stands there totally unfazed.
We could wait another half-hour to speak again to the Assistant Director, but it’s 3:30 PM and we haven’t eaten since breakfast either. So we take the photocopy and leave. Outside we try to get a CNG to Dhanmondi where we could get a bite to eat at a restaurant. The CNG driver says he’ll go. We get in. He won’t turn on the meter. He wants sixty taka. It should be a 20 Taka ride. Jen jumps out of the CNG. Because I’m white you think I’m stupid! You’re stupid!! She smacks the windshield as hard as she can. I get out. He drives off. A peanut vendor says, wow she’s crazy. Let’s just go home, I say.
We try to get a rickshaw. It’s never hard to get a rickshaw to our house from here. Today the first three we ask say they won’t go. Finally, someone will take us. We spend the ride home glowering and thinking very uncharitable thoughts about
The next day we get an early start and head down to the eSpecial Branch in Malibag. I have misgivings about going down there. After all we could just go to the passport office on August 31 and request and exit stamp. But some how now it feels like too many people know about our situation. They’ll notice if we don’t show. We’d better go.
At the eSpecial Branch office in Malibag. We are promptly admitted to see the inspector with whom we’d met previously. He took our application – the photocopy was fine – and left the room. He came back. He left again. He came back and asked us to come with him.
We went down the hall and entered a big air-conditioned office with only one desk. Clearly the man sitting there was important. We sat down in front of his desk and he asked us some questions. Jen explained that we’d applied for a visa extension, been denied for lack of proof that she was doing research, we had that proof now, bla, bla, bla. The man asked about me. I’m just family, I said. Okay, so when are you leaving he asked. August seventh we replied. So you will stay another year? No, fifteen days! I say. He doesn’t say anything, but by the look on his face it seems clear that he thinks this is ridiculous. What’s all the fuss? Sure, we’ll have someone take care of this right away. He motions over one of his subordinates and says some stuff to fast for me to catch. Then to us, he will take care of your case.
So we go across the hall. The subordinate inspector (who is totally new to our case, as far as I can tell) sends someone to find the record of our first application. It comes back. He spends a few minutes reading the cover page, which must be the report from the inspector who’d previously investigated our case. Then he starts asking us questions. So it looks like you did not have proof that you were doing research in
We sit for a while longer. Then the inspector says, okay I will write my report today and send it tomorrow. Can I call you to check to make sure it was sent, Jen asks. Yes call tomorrow or Sunday. They exchange numbers.
Jen doesn’t bother to call the following day. In fact she probably won’t call on Sunday either. After all we really should just stall at this point, that much has been made clear enough.
Sunday morning, the phone rings early. It’s our friend the inspector. He would like to have a meeting with Jen and the people at IUB about her summer language courses for which we have been unable to provide proof of attendance. What? My summer language courses have nothing to do with this visa. This is a research visa. Nevertheless, he insists, they must meet at IUB. Can she come today? NO. How about tomorrow? Well okay, maybe tomorrow.
And that brings us up to date. Jen has arranged to meet with the Inspector at IUB tomorrow. The IUB people were totally unfazed by the request. Oh yes, not to worry this is just standard procedure. Do not be offended. Everything will be fine.
So now the totals stand at 5 visits to the passport office, 3 visits to the eSpecial Branch, and 3 visits to IUB (counting tomorrow’s) and we are guaranteed at least one and more likely two more visits to the passport office, in order to get this resolved. That will mean a total of 13 separate trips to official offices in order to avoid a 30,000 Taka fine. That’s around $430. Do you suppose it’s worth it?
To be continued…