You know how they say that every day, you get a little bit more like your parents? Well, just yesterday, I was shining example of the truth of that statement.
For those of you who don't remember (or maybe haven't heard) a few years ago (I am so old, oh my gosh) my mom and I went on an awesome trip around the world for the sake of food. On that trip, we meant to go to Brazil, to eat at a place called Marius (which, for the record, is insanely delicious). My mom, being the renegade, devil-may-care kind of lady that she is, didn't realize that we needed a visa to get into Brazil. When we arrived at the immigration desk, sans visa, the officer was a bit put out; our passports were taken away from us and we were detained in Brazil, with the authorities threatening to send us right back home. Luckily, thanks to the fast talking of a United worker, we were just shipped off to our next destination. No harm, no foul, right?
So yesterday, I went with the family of a doctor friend of mine to the Royal Botanical Garden, and we had to pass an immigration check-point. No worries-- I had my visa, which extends until September 3rd, my passport, and a letter from the Secretary of the Ministry of Health. Once we reached the check-point, my doctor friend (his name is Ratna) parked the car, got out, and went over to a little building on the side of the road with all the above-mentioned paraphernalia. After about five minutes, he walks back over to the car with a concerned look on his face, and says I have to go talk to the guy. (Wait, what?) So I walk over, and the guy looks at me and, waving my passport in my face, tells me that my visa expired a week ago. (Wait, what?!) He then goes on to inform me that I have to go to the immigration office on Monday, but that there's no telling what they'll do-- they might fine me, or detain me, or even deport me. (Whoa whoa whoa, WHAT?) I'm desperately trying to explain to him that I thought it was all taken care of by the Health Ministry, and that I'm a little confused, since the paper I have says I'm legal until September 3rd, and unless something has gone very wrong somewhere, I'm pretty sure it's still only July. Mr. Immigration Official then starts telling me that when he wants medicine, he'll go to a doctor, but for immigration things, I should go to the immigration people. Right.
This goes on for awhile, until Mr. Immigration Official's buddy, who is also in the little building, takes a moment to look at my actual visa, and points out to Mr. Immigration Official that it does in fact say I'm allowed to stay until September 3rd. It turns out that Mr. Immigration Official was looking at the stamp in my passport, which, in his defense, did expire a week ago. Apparently, however, this little stamp is really, really important (why? I have no idea... but it's not like US immigration policy makes any sense either, so I'm not really willing to start pointing fingers) so I still have to go to the immigration office on Monday and plead my case. This will consist largely of me explaining that while the woman at the airport told me to renew the little stamp guy, the folks at the Ministry told me it was all good, and since I'm lazy, I believed the Ministry people. My bad.
Once this all becomes clear to Mr. Immigration Official, he starts laughing at me! Seriously, he's chuckling his head off, and repeating all the stuff about my getting fined and whatnot, and then goes on to let me know it was good that I had the paper visa with me, or else he would have had to detain me there. Then he wants to know why I didn't listen to the lady at immigration, to which I really have no good answer (I'll admit that was stupid) and when I say as much, he starts laughing more! At this point though, I have to admit it is kind of funny--I mean, it's like something out of an episode of "I Love Lucy" (I'm Lucy, while Mr. Immigration Official is clearly Ricky)-- and so we all started laughing at my dumbness, including Ratna. Which, now that I'm writing about it, makes me feel dumber, if that's possible, but whatever. I mean, at least I'm not in jail... yet. I still have to go to the office tomorrow. Ah... Mom, I hope I did you proud.
Well, after our hearty laugh at me, Mr. Immigration Official (who wasn't so bad, actually) let us all go on ahead to our picnic in the Royal Botanical Garden. It was so fun; one of Ratna's friends and his family came along, so it was like a big family get-together, plus, you know... me. Ratna is from Southern Bhutan, so he and his family speak Nepali to each other. His mother is this older Nepali lady, with a nose-piercing and some seriously intricate earrings. She is ADORABLE, and speaks no English, so our conversations, if you could call them that, are entirely in gestures. Ratna's wife is also from the South; she's a teacher, speaks great English, and is completely bodacious, so we totally jived. Since the two of them got married when Ratna was 20 and she was 19, they are now in their 40's with kids around my age. Their daughter, who is in class 12 (the equivalent of a senior in high school) was there, so we hung out and played some badminton, and they have one more son who is away at school. All in all, it was a really fun day, even taking into account my brush with the law.
Whew... that is a long, emotionally trying post. I'll let you all know how it goes with the immigration folks tomorrow; fingers crossed for another good laugh at my expense! It's better than the alternatives.
As always, loving and missing each and every one of you! Keep it real wherever you are, and if you get some time, drop me a note!