It is now just 3 weeks until we depart from West Timor for England. We have now received our final visa extension, which means we can be here for the remainder of our time, not having to worry about the visa situation. When we left Norway, we had a 60 day tourist visa which we could extend for a total of 4 times 30 days meaning we could be in Indonesia for a total of 180 days. After this time we had to leave Indonesia, and headed for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Whilst there we successfully applied for a new 60 day extendable tourist visa for each member of our little clan. So after the 60 days were up, we got an extension of another 30 days through the local immigration office here in Kupang. This we did 2 more times.
Each time we have been to the immigration office, there has been something which has happened that didn’t happen before (including the time the whole immigration staff were playing volleyball in the car park, which meant I, Peter, had to park on the road). The one but last time, we almost accidentally drove into the midst of an official motorcade. I don’t mean crashing, but driving where they didn’t want us to be. It could have been the Governor, or some other high-ranking official, who was coming to visit the immigration office, just as we drove out of the car park to leave (on our normal route which we had done countless times before). But a smartly dressed soldier, turned us back into the car park, and then waved us out-of-the-way of the official’s car.
So, because of it being our very last time to apply for an extension to our visas, and being aware that there could be some little surprises along the way, we decided to apply a bit earlier than we had done for our previous applications. Monica and I drove up to the immigration office, but it looked closed. This was strange as we were there in opening hours. We had to meet our sponsor for signatures for the required sponsor letter afterwards, so decided to meet her first and then return to the immigration office later. This we did, but it still looked like it was shut up. We saw a random man, who had stopped on his moped near the office. He then walked into the parking area, so I decided to try to speak with him. Luckily, he spoke a bit of english, and said that the immigration office had moved! I asked him where, and he said that it was near the airport, which is on the other side of the city virtually.
We thanked God for the random man, and headed off towards the direction of the airport. Random man had not given us an exact description of where we should go, but we drove to where we thought it could be. Once we had driven past the place of our thoughts, we decided to stop at a little shop and ask some people if they knew where the ‘Kantor Imigrasi’ was. They didn’t speak english, but got a nearby woman to come and translate who amazingly spoke english. This seemed so random, even more than random man at the original immigration office. Anyway, one of the two men phoned a friend (‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ style), and they got the info as to where the office was, and said that we could follow one of the men on his moped, as we drove.
So, he then drove as if he was trying to win the Superbikes championship, but we managed to keep him in sight. After a while we realised that it must be near one of the hotels we stayed in when we first came to Kupang. And indeed, it was quite close to the Timore Hotel. Soon we were at the newly built ‘Kantor Imigrasi’, which happened to be right next door to the children’s prison (don’t ask!).
We were quite impressed with the new building…it was bigger, brighter, had a feeling of niceness about it, and even had air-conditioning. We handed in our applications and were told to come back in a week to pay. Seven days later we returned, but they told us that more time was needed to process the applications. They told us to come back 3 days later. We went back after 3 days to find out what was going on.
On arrival, they told us that Daniel’s application had been accepted, but only his. This was strange as we had never had a problem before, or experienced that one or more had been accepted before the other members in our family. They told us that more time was needed, as there seemed to be a problem ‘with the system’. We assumed their internet connection was giving them problems, as our applications had to be sent to Jakarta. We said that we would come back the next day, a Friday. Our visas expired on the Sunday, and the office was not open in the weekend. Early Friday morning we returned keen to see that everything was okay. However, it was not, and they didn’t know when the problem would be corrected. There was a man at the office who spoke good english, who we had spoken to a lot, but he was not there. One of the ladies who spoke a little english phoned him, and he said to return in 3 hours or so. Monica and I went home. Throughout the whole process we had been praying for God to help us. We had a peace that He would sort it out, as the thought of us having to leave Indonesia at very short notice was not good. Where would we go?…East Timor (10 hours drive and anyway we would have needed to apply 3 days before for a visa…), Singapore for 2 days, Kuala Lumpur again, Australia, or just go back to London now?
Some hours later we returned (with the children who were a little curious to see the new building-and the children’s prison). Still nothing had been sorted out. The lady said that everything would be okay in an hour. How did she know this? We decided that we couldn’t sit there for an hour with the boys, so drove home. Right after we got back to our house we got a phone call saying that we could come back as everything was okay… So I returned and paid for the applications. On the Monday we returned to pick up our passports, which had the correct visa extensions. So even though we started very early with the process this last time, it had taken around 2 weeks to get everything processed. The immigration staff have been helpful, and have given us no problems, even though we have had a few surprises along the way. In some ways, we have got to know the staff a little, and we have very much appreciated their help. We must admit though that we are very happy not to have to apply for any more visa extensions.