Angry and Frustrated
I am angry and frustrated today.
I invited a lady friend from the Philippines to visit me. I had wanted her to visit me in the States, but the only way for that to happen would have been with a fiancée visa which would have involved a bit of artifice with the State Department. I don’t mind circumventing unfair laws, particularly those that discriminate against fun-loving bachelors. However, it would have also involved raising questions I didn’t care to raise. Anyway, it never happened.
But visiting Thailand seemed a much simpler, more attainable goal. She has a passport. Filipinas don’t even need a visa for visits of thirty days or less. Fares on a puddle jumper were fairly inexpensive. What could possibly go wrong?
I sent her money for the tickets and incidental expenses and looked forward to seeing her again after two long years.
The travel agency wouldn’t sell her the ticket without a notarized letter of invitation.
I checked the Thai consulate web site and argued with the agency, but they were insistent. So I trekked out to the Thai consular offices, which are about halfway to the Myanmar border, where I was assured by several earnest government employees that she didn’t need a letter of invitation.
A terse letter to the travel agency elicited a clarification. While she doesn’t need an invitation to enter Thailand, she needs one to leave the Philippines because there is always “prejudice” against Filipinas. They obviously aren’t heeding Chairman Mao’s advice on emigration policy.
Thailand doesn’t really have notaries. The embassy will notarize documents for U.S. citizens and some lawyers will notarize documents for a fairly hefty fee, but you can’t just drop by your friendly neighborhood bank and get something notarized as a favor.
The red-shirt protests and government intervention gave me a couple of unanticipated days off, but also resulted in the embassies closing, as well as law offices. But in the midst of the mayhem the U.S. embassy set up temporary accommodations for consular services at a hotel so I spent a morning cribbing an invitation from an example found on the Internet and getting it notarized.
I couldn’t send it right away because the post office, FedEx and UPS were also closed. But the letter and other requested documents eventually began their journey.
Meanwhile, the travel agency suggested a plan B. Apparently girls aren’t harassed at the airport if they are traveling in the company of a tourist, so the agency proposed arranging for one of their other clients to beard for me. But somehow that never happened. Marylyn says she waited for them to text her, but they never followed through.
Meanwhile, my documents arrived in the Philippines and the agency assured me the invitation letter would suffice.
But the money I sent Marylyn for her ticket had somehow evaporated, so I sent her money for two more tickets and incidentals.
Finally, all the pieces were in place. The e-ticket was issued. The wait was over. I checked on the airport shuttle schedule and bought her a T-shirt printed in Thai with “I heart Thailand.”
They wouldn’t let her on the plane.
I’m not sure of all the details. I got a tearful call from a hysterical girl speaking in broken English. Apparently, the Philippine emigration officer wasn’t satisfied with her invitation letter and claimed it wasn’t an original, which doesn’t make sense as it was embossed with an official seal. I suspect he simply wanted a bribe. If she had called from the airport, I could have suggested she try to smooth things out with a contribution to the Greedy Scumbags Benevolent Association, but she didn’t call me until she got home. She had exhausted the prepaid balance on her cell phone and had not replenished it, as she wouldn’t be using the phone in Thailand and the official wouldn’t allow her to use his phone. It’s a bit of a lame excuse, as they sell phone cards at the airport. At least they do in Manila. But one can’t expect an emotionally distraught girl to think clearly.
My plans for the next month have gone out the window.
But it doesn’t end there. Today she went to the travel agency to try to pick up the pieces. They were closed. In her agitation, she left her cell phone in the trike (a motorcycle taxi with a covered side car). This is the third phone she’s gone through in the past two years.
Maybe Nona is trying to tell me something.
It isn’t like there aren’t enough pretty girls in Thailand.
She’s cuter than most, but still.