Friday, September 12, 2014

I've been a bad, bad boy

Recycled image may be irrelevant and solely for shock value

I really try to be a good boy. I'm always punctual with my rent and always send my work on time (except that time I forgot about those solar panel pages in 2012, Oliver. Sorry again), and despite living in a country that puts a lot of collective effort into trying to tempt me past moral and legal thresholds, I've never been tempted to take the enthusiastic locals up on their offers. Mainly because I find that whole prospect extremely untempting.

So it wasn't laziness or a deliberate affront to The Man that I let my 30-day visa waiver pass into oblivion on Monday, and spent the next couple of 'free' days off work nonchalantly writing silly stories and shopping for an oven and second hand books rather than getting the hell down to the immigration office and pleading not to be thrown into a prison that would undo all the hard work I've put in to letting these anal fissures heal, or else get deported away from my partner who isn't allowed to follow me thanks to racism.

No, I was blissfully, moronically clueless about my illegal immigrant status, having mistakenly thought (for whatever reason) that my regular foreigner penalty wasn't due for another month and only noticing I was already two days overdue when I was digging in my bag for something else and thought I might as well double check in my passport what date it was in October that I half-remembered my next visa extension being due. It was something like the 8th, wasn't it...?

Ah. I see. September, is it? Righty-ho then. I'm so screwed.

May not have happened.
(Those are Thai dummies, not Filipino dummies. Can't you even tell, you racist?)

Since I'm not mournfully writing this with a quill in the corner of my stone cell, watching them construct the gallows on the hill through the bars of my cruelly positioned window, you can rest assured that everything was fine. Or, if you prefer, be annoyed about that if you're a citizen of a less unfairly privileged nation currently dealing with immigration trouble in a higher status host country that won't be so quick to forgive and forget when you simply throw some extra money their way.

If you want to spend longer than a standard tourist visa allows in most countries, it can be a right hassle trying to sort that out without a convenient spouse, employment or educational gimmick to back you up. Not so in the Philippines, where people like me can just pay an agency to line up on our behalf and get us an extra 59 days time and again. We have to leave eventually - flying out and back in every couple of years or so to start the cycle over and give the illusion of at least some strictness in the regime. But as long as we don't want to do anything stupid like own property or start a business and bring in valuable foreign money, we have it insultingly easy. And yet I still couldn't manage my solitary, undemanding duty of simply getting to the Fastpass office in time for a clearly advertised deadline? I agree with you, I'm a disgrace.

I felt terrible, a little afraid and extremely disappointed in my oversight as we rode the taxi to the Fastpass office, where I disclosed the shameful situation to the woman behind the counter. She seemed unfazed, and just handed me the same extension form to sign that I usually do. The visa extension fee fluctuates all the time anyway, but I think I only paid an extra 1,000 pesos or so to clear up the mess (about £14), and just picked up my passport the next day as normal. I didn't even have to hastily buy some long trousers and closed shoes from the mall across the street so I could line up for hours at immigration and make my apologies to various condescending officers with unnecessary firepower.

It doesn't seem that there will be any permanent consequences for my lapse. I have the paperwork to prove it:

I could be anyone.
(I may not know the difference between 30 days and 60, but I'm not a complete idiot)

So that's nice.

Is it? Should I have gotten away with that so easily? Obviously, this has made me more diligent about keeping note of my visa deadlines for the future, but it's also revealed that the rules don't really matter when you can just legally throw money at any problem to fix it.

This is a country where it's extremely easy to be on your worst behaviour and exploit the impoverished natives in the most demeaning ways, but if you try to have a positive impact by offering some constructive criticism, offering to teach English to orphans for free in your free time without having to commit to a strict schedule, or offering to donate your good quality used books to a book store that's trying to survive entirely on deteriorating 1980s romance paperbacks and Windows 95 tutorials, you're met with disinterest or abuse.

I don't want to be part of the problem, but they don't make it easy for me to help. I think my duties are just to pay up, keep quiet and parade around the malls every few weeks so everyone can have a good old stare. They should be paying me.

Oh, and one more thing, Bureau of Immigration...

1 comment:

  1. My only visa irregularity came a few years ago when I left Thailand. Rather than look at my passport for the date I had to leave, I tried counting 30 days and missed, booking my flight a day later than I should have. As I was in the airport the lady who checked my passport said I'd overstayed my visa by a day. Not sure what would happen next, I stammered out something like 'Oh... sorry' and she waved me through. I wasn't sure if anything would happen if I tried to get back in so I was a bit worried last year, but no one said anything and I got away with it. I think I'm meant to pay a $10 fine or something (nowadays: decapitation).