It sometimes strikes me that there are things in my life here that I take to be completely normal, which to many people would be highly unusual. Today for example. I got up in the morning and prepared to set off for the immigration office and my newest round of paperwork and monetary fees. Before leaving I transcribed a copy of the grocery list from its place on the whiteboard and collected the designated house funds for the chore. Accompanying me was our newest guest who needed to renew her entrance visa as well. First up was a stop at the closest ATM for the large amounts of cash we would be sad to see handed over for the privilege of staying in the country. Then we crossed the street to wait for an appropriately uncrowded jeepney for the ride to the office. Once there we handed over our forms and joined the crowd to wait. After being called up to pay, I was told to make photocopies of some documents, so I ducked out to a nearby travel agency to do so. Back inside I was handed off to the next department…who asked for more copies of the same documents and some photos (which, of course, were nicely sitting on my bookshelf at home). Back to the travel agency for copies and then there was nothing else to do but flag down a taxi for a 15 min round trip ride home and back for the forgotten photos. Having submitted the required documents and had my fingerprints taken electronically, I was sent onwards to have my fingers printed manually. Oh, but “the person in charge of manual fingerprinting is not here this morning. Come back this afternoon”. So I smiled, said thank you, and only groaned inside.
Next stop: The grocery store. Tomorrow we are celebrating Canadian thanksgiving, so the grocery list is extra special/difficult. However, today I am in luck, there is milk in the cooler for once, and even something that I think will turn into a decent whipped cream for the pumpkin pie. I manage to satisfy almost all the requests on the list and come in under budget; almost unheard of. I set off for home again to get everything put away for tomorrow’s feast and grab some leftovers to fill my growling stomach.
Wishing I could change out of my “nice immigration clothes” into some shorts to combat the growing heat of the afternoon I start the walk for my next errand: electronics conversion. I have a coffee grinder bouncing around in my purse and the sun is causing sweat to erupt everywhere. I decide it’s far to hot to walk up a big hill at 1 in the afternoon and climb aboard a tricy (motorbike with passenger conveyance attached). My fellow passengers and I are dropped off at our respective destinations and I meet a friend carrying the bottom half of a large blender. Based on some extremely casual directions we will be attempting to get these 110V appliances coverted to 220V so we can use them in our house. The directions go something like this: “Go up this road out of our neighbourhood, turn left. Walk down the street for awhile. There is a small shop with electronics sitting in piles in the front. We can’t remember what else is nearby”. Surprisingly, it is as easy as that. We hand over the appliances for inspection and are treated to an unexpected lecture on the impracticality of foreigners trying to use 110V appliances here. In fact the lecture includes advice to just go to the store and get a local blender and an admonition that it is impractical to buy a transformer…we are not actually sure if the guy wants our business but we finally convince him to tell us how much it will cost for him to convert the appliances and it’s decidedly more cost effective than buying a new, lower quality blender or a transformer.
After leaving the blender to be converted, I am back on a jeepney on my way to immigration. I find that the manual fingerprinting person has arrived and proceed to have my fingers inked, re-inked, and inked again as I press my hands to various pieces of paper. After handing my smudged papers over to the next department I am finally done in this office for at least another month.
One last thing to do before I get to go home for the day. I cross the street to a different grocery store and pick up a few delinquent items. Bags in hand I start for the door, my feet are sore, my body is overheated, and my tongue is dry and I decide something icy cold and wet sounds absolutely delicious. I know just the place. One of the current prenatal patients works at a slushy stand. She greets me with a big smile and we chat as she prepares a delicious mixture of ice, mango, and apple. Her baby is doing well she says, kicking a lot. She asks about some paperwork and I tell her who she needs to see at the clinic to have her questions answered. When she tells me her next prenatal day, I look at my schedule and see I will be in the clinic that day. I hope to see her there. Soon she is waving goodbye as I walk away, finally headed home for what remains of the day.