PART 1. Bangkok.
PART 2. Jakarta.

It was a relief to leave Jakarta and fly to Balikpapan, the capital of the province Kalimantan Timur (SE Borneo).  From Balikpapan, it’s a 3 hour drive to Samarinda, where my collaborators/friends Danielle and Budi of the NGO Y.K. RASI live, and where I needed to apply for my KITAS.

The day after my arrival, Danielle escorted me to the local immigration office.

samarinda immigration office

Monday, August 13

  1. Samarinda Immigration, with Danielle: “You need to fill out form 24, 26, 27.  Also, you need 3 4cm x 6cm photos, and 3 4cm x 3 cm photos.  And a letter from the sponsor. Also, you have to buy a special envelope from the stall outside.”None of this had been mentioned anywhere before.  I came fully armed with 4×6 and 2×3 photos, but I had not anticipated the need for 4×3.  Surprises keep things fun though, I suppose.
  2. Go get 4×3 cm photos taken.  My photo order envelope was labeled “Ms. Bule” – which means “Ms. Foreigner.”  Buy a special stamp to put on the sponsor letter. Fill out the forms at Danielle’s house while she types up the letter and calls Budi so he can come sign it, as he’s the official sponsor.  Discover that the form I grabbed from the box labeled “26” was actually a 27.  Grow puzzled as to the need for separate forms 24 and 27, as 95% of the questions are identical.
  3. Samarinda immigration: Fill out form 26. Also about 90% similar to forms 24 and 27, except for one section:

“Sorry, Danielle, what does this mean?”
“Color of your skin…hmm… that’s tricky… you’re not really  ‘white’.  Hmmm… ‘coklat muda’? Means ‘light chocolate’?”
“Sure, that works! And this?”
“Hair. Coklat.”
“Eyes? I usually just say brown.”
“They’re a bit greenish too… maybe ‘coklat muda’ again.  All this sounds delicious.”  (She was fasting for Ramadhan…).

“What shape is your face?”
“It’s not as if they have 6 photos to base this off of, or anything.  So… what is the shape of my face?”
“Let’s say…oval?”

We wait a little while, then get called. The man looks over the various forms and photos and copies.  “OK, so…do you have the letter authorizing the visa to the embassy in Bangkok?”  No, I did not, because the purpose of the letter was to pick up the visa from Bangkok, which I’d done already, as you can tell from the presence of the visa in my passport.  Fortunately, and completely by accident, I had it on a jump drive in my bag.

4. Wander around from store to store, crossing the busy street multiple times as we searched for an open print shop with a functional printer.  Finally arrived at a snazzy new print/advertising store, which really wasn’t geared toward these modest document print jobs.  But Danielle asked the friendly staff if they could help, and they kindly obliged – without charging anything!

5. Samarinda immigration:  Drop off the letters.  Thank you, good bye!

there’s a man who covers the motorcycle seats outside the immigration office so they don’t get too hot. for a modest tip of 500-1000 rupiah (~5 to 10 US cents)

Wednesday, August 15
Back to the Samarinda immigration office to get my photo taken (more photos?), fingerprints taken, and money taken.

And now, I’m doing some work back at the house.  And getting ready for some working vacation time – off to Derawan while the offices are all closed for Independence Day and Idul Fitri.  Then I’ll fly back to Balikpapan, where the scavenger hunt continues.

I should note that, as tedious as the process itself is, I’ve found the people in the various offices to be pleasant and even helpful. So, that makes things easier.

All of this had me thinking, “I…don’t know that I’d do research in Indonesia again.”  But then Danielle showed me photos from some of her coastal surveys in the area, and there is some fascinating stuff going on here.  And it’s a fantastic country.  And I really haven’t seen much of it at all.  So…maybe I’d go through all this again.  Only, maybe I’d hire someone else to run around Jakarta.  And maybe I’d schedule it at some time other than a major religious holiday.


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