How to extend a Visa in Jakarta (if you're me)

Procrastinate. Everything is more fun at the last minute, right? Plus, you've got the election and the bomb and the odd spot of food poisoning to attend to. Gather the requisite documents: a sponsorship letter, photocopies of your passport and visa. Proof you do actually plan to leave the country relatively soon can't hurt either.

Attempt to locate a coherent set of instructions on the process. Fail.

Notice in passing something about needing to extend at least seven days before your visa expires. Wonder if you should be concerned you only have two days. Be concerned.

Finally locate the address of the immigration office closest to your house. Be vaguely irritated that the Department of Immigration's webpage has not been translated into any foreign languages. (Including English.) Because, clearly, no-one looking for information about visas would have any use for such a thing.

***

After fitful sleep, drag yourself out as early as you can manage. (Not very, sad to say) Head through Jakarta's hellish traffic to the immigration office closest to your place of residence and your visa sponsor's address.

Upon arrival, be told you're in the wrong office. And, consequently, your paperwork can't be processed. Get directed to an office twice as far from home and work, that is technically in the right district.

A long, expensive taxi ride later, arrive at an office in a part of Jakarta you were previously unaware even existed.

Walk into a building full of people, but devoid of helpful signs. Finally determine you need to be on the third floor. Climb.

Show your paperwork to the man behind the window. Get a grunt indicating you are in the right place. Be directed to the photocopy area to get the form you need.

It's illegal for government offices to charge you for forms. So, of course, they wouldn't even consider doing such a thing. The folder you are required to put the forms inside, on the other hand....3,000 rupiahs, please.

Hand over a 5,000 rupiah note. Wait for your change. And wait. Say, "excuse me, elder brother, I thought it was 3,000." Get told to go fill out your paperwork.

Realize there's really nothing you can do at this point. You need something from them, which they can easily deny. They know it. You know it. They know you know it.

Go fill out your paperwork.

Bring it up to the window. By now though, it's nearly 11:45. And lunch starts at noon. So they couldn't possibly accept your forms now.

Figure you might as well eat something too. Wander across the street. Encounter mean food vendor, a first in Indonesia. Hate it here.

Come back. Wait. Text an Indonesian friend out of boredom. He sends back a story about going to the same office, but being denied entrance because he was in a t-shirt and sandals -- until a security guard agreed to loan a jacket and the shoes off his feet. Remember why you kind of like this place after all.

Wait until around 1:30, when they finally accept your documents.

Sit back down. Wait some more.

Finally get called up. Get handed your documents, and told to go see Bapak Danil, in the basement.

Go down the back stairs. Wander through a few flooded out storage areas without finding anyone. Consider that this may not be a good sign.

Finally find Bapak Danil. Get stamps on your folder and a green piece of paper.

Walk back up to the third floor. Show your green paper and your stamps. Get sent to Bapak Wisnu in another section.

Bapak Wisnu enters your data into a computer. More stamps. Then get sent to an Ibu in yet another section. Wait while your data is entered in a notebook, and another computer.

And wait some more. Pull out your little notebook and start recording for posterity.

Get sent back to the first window. Get a slip of pink paper.

Go to the cashier on the first floor. Pay 250,000 rupiah. Get your pink paper stamped, and another set of carbon copies.

Back to the third floor.

Hand over your papers. Get back the white piece, stamped. Wait.

Ask if it's going to be long. Go to the canteen behind the building to get something to drink so you don't pass out.

Climb back up. Wait some more.

Get sent to a back office to have your photo and prints taken and your signature digitized, all with the latest gadgets.

Get made fun of for looking like a man in your passport photo.

Go back to the window. Get some stamps in your passport. Finally! Get sent to make a photocopy. Notice your extension stamp explicitely states the extension must be done seven days before your original visa expires. Be very glad nobody has said anything.

It's the same copy guy as in the morning. Still no change, but at least he has the decency not to charge for the copy.

Back to the window. Sign a little book. Get teased for writing with your left hand.

And you're done.

Walk back down the stairs, try to figure out where the hell you are and how to get home. It's nearly 4:00 pm, just in time for the worst of Jakarta's traffic.