Sunday, February 19, 2012

Renewing our Visas


We had to renew our visas yesterday. We went to the county government building that is not far from our house. No one could speak English there, but they called a young military man in to interpret and help us. We were told that we needed to go to the immigration building a few blocks away.  

This young man, Paul, walked us over there. We visited as we walked. He had spent two years in Australia. His English was very good. He spoke for us when we got to immigration, and after some discussion between several people, we were asked to bring in another set of passport pictures. These we happened to have at home, so we left with Paul to go back to the original government building. As we walked, we apologized that we didn’t know where to go and that he had to walk us to and from buildings. He said, “Oh, no problem! This is my job. I am here to help foreigners. In my two years here, you are the only ones I have ever had the chance to help! We don’t have many foreigners in Chia-yi.” Cute.

We had parked the car on the street. When we returned, we had gotten a “parking ticket.” Oh, dear, without knowing, we must have parked in a restricted space. As it turned out, this wasn’t an actual parking ticket. Tagging your car on the windshield is their method of charging for parking, without a parking meter. A “meter maid,” if you will, tags your car when you pull in and every 10 minutes she comes around and marks another ten minutes on the ticket. Then you go to the 7-Eleven or Family Mart and pay within a few weeks. (We got this information from our students at conversational English class last night. After class, we went to 7-Eleven and paid our parking fee…33 cents!)

When we went back to immigration with our passport pictures, we were helped by a volunteer who wore a vest that said, “Interpreter,” on the back. I’m sure she can interpret Mandarin, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, maybe even Thai but not English. This interpreter did a lot of pointing. She was a very nice, friendly girl but not one word passed between us until she was done filling out our papers and we said to her, “Shi shi” (“Thank you”).

We moved on to a service window. It was exactly like immigration in LA where it was a set-up like the DMV…take a number, go to the window on the electronic sign that appears when your number appears. After handing our paper work to the man behind the glass, we stood at the window and watched him read through every instruction on his computer. He examined our papers very closely. Others came by to see how he was doing with his task. After 30 minutes or so, he stamped our passports with a visa allowing us to stay in the country until April 27. Again, they don’t get many foreigners.

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