For the third time in just over a year, I went to Singapore to get my visa processed.
It’s pretty typical to have visa problems when you are an expat working in another country, but Indonesia’s always changing visa policies (read: always changing level of enforcement of their visa policies) make getting a working and permanent stay visa particularly difficult. Add on being under 25 and being a teacher, and I am the perfect storm for visa problems.
There seem to be two different attitudes to going on a visa trip. On Facebook, fellow teachers write either, “On my way to Singapore for the day! How is this my crazy amazing life!?” or, “My least favourite thing about being an expat is getting into a taxi at 4 am to go to Singapore on a visa run, only to return at midnight and teach at 7 the next morning.”
You get the idea.
I seem to fall in between these two camps: yes, I think it is cool that I can day-trip to Singapore on a whim (or whenever HR tells me to). However, I take my job really seriously, so not being at school detracts from my ability to do my job to the best of my ability. In addition, because we return back in Jakarta at such a late hour, I have to not only be 100% prepared for the day I am missing, but also the next day, since there is no time to work in the evening and I don’t have prep periods in the morning.
For some reason, my most recent excursion to Singapore was an overnight trip. My guess is that an additional overnight time period was requested for our visa processing. Regardless, our flight was scheduled to land in Singapore at 8:30. Before we even departed, we were told that our return flight had been delayed. (Classic South East Asia.)
I enjoyed the jaunt to Singapore: Kendal (who was also getting her visa redone) and I have become pros at using the MRT system and traveled from our hostel to the largest bookstore in Singapore, IKEA, the place where our academic principal had contact lenses waiting for her, and the airport. Shockingly, I still haven’t been to any of the iconic Singaporean places, like Chinatown or Marina Bay Sands. (Future weekend getaway, perhaps?)
Visa trips a reminder to me that, not only am I am alien here in Jakarta, but I am not even a permanent alien (according to my visa status, at least). For 22 years, I lived in the same place. I rarely left the country, and I barely even traveled in my own state. But, my identity was at least based in a place that claimed me as one of their own.
Not only that, but they are a reminder of how quickly my life changed. From only having been on a plane a handful of times to flying across the archipelago or going on a day trip to Singapore, in only a year my ability to travel and my understanding of travel has expanded in leaps and bounds. I have filled 15 pages of my passport in just as many months, and that blows my mind.
A lot can change in one year.