Forget what Florence and the Machine are telling you, the dog days aren’t over…
I walk into the low-lit hallways of Imagrasi (immigration) alone. I’m on a mission to get my KITAS, the Indonesian working visa that will allow me to continue teaching in the archipelago. It’s a rundown, plain-looking building, situated away from the main drag of the city. A few men in militaristic looking uniforms, with the ever-present shoulder tabs, are huddled together in a corner. I point to the end of the mustard-colored hallway and they just smile at me so I decide to press forward. I reach a doorway cloaked by a thick layer of cigarette smoke.
The next room is a clutter of desks filled with men sucking on cigarettes and women in jilbabs running around talking on cell phones. A tall gentleman approaches me and directs me to a chair in an empty office. After a few failed attempts to speak with me in bahasa he tries some broken English. He thinks I work for Chevron. When I say that I work for “RAPP” (the name of the company that owns my school) he looks confused and sputters off the name of a man, I think it starts with a P, and directs me out to the main waiting room. I sit down in the haze for a moment but then realize that everyone else who is waiting is holding a cream folder. I decide to walk out to the desk at the entrance to try and find the “man with the name that starts with P,” or someone who can give me a cream folder too—since this seems to be the next step in the process. In this instance, being a tall, white woman plays to my advantage and Mr. P (I still don’t know what his name was), picks me out from the crowd as the American that he is supposed to be helping.
Turns out I didn’t need a cream folder.
Instead Mr. P ushers me back inside and after 20 minutes I hear him call “Amanda come” while pointing to a small room. A gaggle of ladies and a man behind a computer screen take my picture and scan digital copies of all of my fingerprints. After a short exchange with the ladies about the ever-eyebrow-raising fact that I am single (GASP! I’m not married yet!) my time at Imagrasi is finished.
As if he were calling a dog, Mr. P says, “Amanda come,” and we are on our way to our next destination. We stop at a photo shop. I’m taken into a back room and led to the “glass” (mirror). Apparently Mr. P wants to give me an opportunity to fix myself up. (Admittedly, I was a bit worse for the wear today after waking up with a sore throat and pounding headache). Once my hair is in order a sweet old lady takes a few passport-style photos of me. Thanks to digital technology, within 15 minutes Mr. P is holding an envelope of pictures. “Very good,” he says pointing to one of my photos and giving me a thumbs up.
Once again he declares, “Amanda come” and we’re back on the road.
I overhear P-man say that we’re heading to the “polisi” and while I want to believe that we’ll end up at a police station, the back alleys he’s leading the driver down have me losing faith. Eventually we arrive at a seedy-looking establishment that turns out to, in fact, be the polisi (which isn’t to say it isn’t a seedy establishment, I suppose).
“Amanda come,” says Mr. P as he exits the van. Again I find myself sitting in a dank, dark, smokey room. This time the walls are cream and covered in various black smudged finger and handprints. There are two long tables lining the walls. One is flanked by a long bench while the other is smattered with the same smear of black as the walls. P directs me to a chair and disappears around a corner. Just as I begin to mull over the various names I want to call Mr. P (due to his talking at me like I’m a puppy), he reemerges with a stack of papers for me to fill out. Meanwhile a short, squat woman in a khaki uniform walks out and begins rolling thick layers of black ink onto the table across the room.
The woman walks up behind me and takes my arm, leading me to the slab-o-ink. Taking my right thumb between her thumb and forefinger she proceeds to roll it in the mess and plaster it across the various forms and papers. The process is repeated with each of my 10 digits.
“Amanda come,” says Mr. P (oh how I wanted to whack him upside the head) disappearing down a hall. He points to a doorway where I find a bathroom. Well, I’m pretty sure it’s a bathroom. The small room has a raised basin filled with water, a squat toilet and five different buckets and tubs of varying sizes also filled with water. Mr. P picks up a scoop and dips it into one of the tubs and directs me to use the scoop of water to clean the ink from my fingers.
I quickly scrub away the mess and rejoin P in another room where two men are seated at desks. I’m directed to sit down in front of a man wearing shiny khaki pants and a bermuda-style shirt. He’s inspecting my fingerprints with a magnifying glass affixed with a blacklight. Mr. P hands me a wad of tissue to dry my hands while the man at the other desk stares at me.
Shiny pants man mumbles a few things in Bahasa and looks to Mr. P. I realize that they are talking about me and from what I gather from the sideways glances and muffled laughter, it’s probably not all that professional. This is followed by Shiny Pants asking, in English, if I understand what they are saying. When I say “no,” he smiles a big, greasy smile, says “good” and continues to fill in information on my paperwork. When he gets to the portion of the paperwork pertaining to my physical appearance the guy talk picks up again. “Do you have any tattoos?” asks Mr. P. I respond yes and suddenly Staring Guy at the other desk enters the conversation and is quite interested. I ask Silky Pants if I can take a photo while he’s working, I figure if they can use me for their amusement, I can at least get a photo. Silky Pants agrees.
He finally finishes filling in boxes and affixes one of my passport photos to the page. He looks at the photo and then at me. He smiles, declares that I am “beautiful” and says “Okay, you’re finished.”
“Amanda Come,” says Mr. P.