Immigration

Well Wednesday was fun. Food and sleep deprivation bundled in with some long distance travel and paperwork and I think it’s possibly the recipe for the most exhausting day ever.

Basically we were told Tuesday night (yep, one day before) that we would be driven to Bangkok and back on Wednesday so we could sign a form that would confirm our new non-B visa’s which basically means we’re on the right visa finally after an admin cock-up by IES back in October. Long story short we knew this had to be done at some point, we thought it might be in Bangkok, we had hoped the trip would be broken up a little with perhaps an overnight stay.

Loei is about 10hrs from Bangkok by road. The minivan driver picked us up from our accommodation at 10pm Wednesday after we’d just done a whole day at school (6am start) and then drove continuously absolutely gunning it so we made it in 8.5hrs. We stopped only for fuel and the loo. It was a nice minivan but impossible to sleep due to how bumpy the ride was – we were literally being thrown in the air a few cm.

When we arrived exhausted we were met by our new IES rep (Sax was fired as she decided to go to America when she should have been looking after us) Yui, and she took us for “breakfast.” I’m using air quotes because breakfast doesn’t appear to exist here, it was rice or noodles. We had what we’d normally have for dinner and picked at it until we were summoned to immigration.

IES had told us they organised all of the paperwork necessary for us to get our visa stamp and once we signed a document it was just a case of waiting for it to be processed and then we’d be on our way. An in and out job. “Just bring your passport – you don’t need anything else!”

Everyone else’s went through fine. I however, hit the small snag of having my degree in my maiden name and my passport in my married name. They wanted my marriage certificate. It was in Loei. This had to be done in person. That day.

So! Despite having sent an electronic copy to IES ahead of time and them saying that was enough and also offering to show immigration the electronic copy I had on my Kindle and my driver’s licence which is still in my maiden name this wasn’t enough. IES spoke to the British Embassy in Bangkok and agreed for them to sort out some kind of document that would prove who I was and then this would be deemed acceptable.

The immigration office and the British Embassy are (from what I could tell) at the opposite ends of Bangkok. They also close at 11am! Ha!

So our minivan driver bombed (as much as he could given the traffic) over to the embassy  in about an hour and then Yui took me inside. Surprisingly, the guards didn’t seem to speak English so I was glad Yui was there to explain the situation. It was a cross between a prison and a benefits office. They search everything and take your electronic equipment from you before being led into a room where you take a ticket and wait a bit like Argos for your number to be called. They were playing one of the later Beethoven films.

I filled in a form (by hand – nothing was prepared) where I basically just said my maiden name is x and my married name is x and signed. An English woman then checked it, charged us the cost of a new passport for said bit of paper and rubber stamped it with the most unofficial stamp I’ve seen – the date stamp at the bank has more info on it.

When we cut across town again and were sat waiting in immigration we (Me, Jack and Grant) were pretty much swaying on our feet from exhaustion and didn’t really know what was happening. That’s when Yui pointed out that I’d managed to write my married name twice instead of writing my maiden name.

By this point I was running through various escape scenarios of how to get out of this ridiculous situation where I’d been awake for over 30 hours, not really eaten and was expected to do complicated immigration stuff such as sign my name correctly.

Yui suggested I should use a pencil to cross out the mistake, re-write it and then initial next to the change… very official. Good to know the woman at the embassy checked what I wrote before she stamped it.

However, this seemed to work. I had my visa. Done.

So we were back in the minivan. Originally it was us, Grant, Jack.S and Emma as it only affected people from the UK so Zoe was back at school. Jack.S’ grandparents have come to visit Thailand and were in Bangkok so he didn’t come back with us because his school recognised that he’d probably be tired after such a long journey. Emma got a flight to Phuket for the weekend because she’d also been given Friday off to recover. Grant was coming back to Loei and had been told he should only go to school if he felt up to it. We were going back to Loei with the knowledge we had to get up at 6am the next morning (no matter what time we got back) ready for a full day of school on Friday as we were expected in no matter what.

The trip back was fairly uneventful. I don’t know how the driver managed to stay awake all night through to all of the following day and not have an accident or something. I was glad I couldn’t see out the window when it got dark as we were coming back through the mountains and some of the roads are very steep and windy.

We got back to Loei around 8.30pm. He had bombed it again.

Luckily, this meant despite not having food, we would at least be able to sleep.

Apparently that’s the last time we’ll have to go to Bangkok for anything official. We will however have to go to Kon Kaen (which is no more than 4hrs away) to get our work permits soon.

We’ve decided that we like being places and exploring, but the actual travel part… we don’t like it. I get motion sickness and we can never sleep unless laid out flat.

Straight after school today we went to the only western restaurant in town and had a small feast. The plan for tomorrow is sleep!

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