Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I woke up Wednesday Morning...

This morning I was rudely awakened at 7 a.m. by our security guard yelling through my window that the police were here. So I got up and looked out the window by the door and, yes, there were about ten air force people. I opened the door and they came in with no explanation and started looking around. I have two problems with this: 1) that they can come into my house without a warrant and no probably cause; and 2) they do a really poor job. Oh and that they came into the house with their muddy boots and the cleaning lady came just yesterday! We thought Manurie and Bhuti were in one room sleeping so the guards didn't even open that door. For my room they just glanced in. I have a wall right at my doorway, so if you don't walk into the room, you miss half the room. I'm not really sure why I had to wake from a very deep sleep to let them in to do this sorry job.

Fast forward a few hours -- I'm in a tuk trying to get to the Indian Visa Application Center. I told the tuk I needed to go to Colombo 03 and held up three fingers. He repeated what I said and then asked for 450. I bargained down to the appropriate amount of 35o and we were off. We got to Galle Road and he suddenly realized that Colombo 03 is Kolupitiya and thus the fare should be 500! I can't really remember what happened, but somehow I got out of the tuk and walked over to another tuk to get me where I needed go. The original tuk driver then walks over and starts telling my new driver how I owed him money because he drove me from Boralesgamuwa to here. My theory is, if you don't follow through on your side of the deal, which was to take me to Colombo 03 you don't get money. Plus, he wanted the 350 we had originally agreed to and I was only in Wellawata, which is actually a 200 rupee fare. Luckily my new driver was completely sane and told me to give the original driver 100 rupee and we drove away.

At the visa place I actually had no problems, which really should have caused me to worry (more on that later). Oh, did I tell you I'm going to India next week for vacation?

On the ride home we apparently hired a tuk driver who is either insane or completely blind. We are riding along and I'm thinking, "gosh, this guy takes a lot of chances," as we were almost squished between two buses.

And my fears were realized later when I could clearly see a pick-up truck ahead of us that was stopped with no space to move away and yet instead of stopping, which was obviously the way to go, our tuk driver sped up. We hit the truck pretty hard, which caused me to jump and hit my head on the roof of the tuk and jam my knee. Then the driver asked us to pay him! I don't think I should have to pay when bodily harm has come to me, but clearly this guy did not understand. And Barbara paid him! She thinks I'm crazy -- she doesn't believe he could have avoided the accident, but I could see very clearly and it was obvious he needed to stop, but instead he sped up. I know this is hard to believe, but as it was happening I thought, "does this guy want to kill us." And I still wonder if this was his goal.

And then of course we couldn't find a tuk who would take us the rest of the way for an appropriate amount and our old tuk driver refused to help us (because why should he, we just paid him).

We finally get back to the house and I receive a call. It was the visa office telling me I can't actually apply for a one-year, multiple entry visa so I need to return and get a new receipt for a six-month visa. Basically they expected me to pay 700 rupees to come back to their office because they sold me something they should not have. So I spent a very long time trying to get the man on the phone to understand a few things like, 1) I live in Boralesgamuwa and it takes an hour to get to Colombo, which means their office would be closed by the time I got there, 2) that I can't come tomorrow because I actually have a job and I have meetings all day (this concept was really difficult even though they have a copy of my resident visa), 3) I leave for Vavuniya in the afternoon and will be there all day Friday, and 3) I don't see why I should pay for a multi-entry now because I will only be using it once (tuns out, though they didn't say this, that there is no singe entry visa for foreigners).

It does say on the Indian High Commission's website that I can get a one-year visa and my receipt says it is for a one-year, multi-entry visa right next to the fee that they only charge U.S. citizens (everyone else, including Europeans and Japanese get their visas cheaper) so I'm still unclear why I can't have a one-year visa. Anyway, eventually I got someone on the phone who, though still refusing to bend to my will on the one-year visa, would at least let me come next week to collect my change (because a six-month visa is a little cheaper than a one-year visa) and a new receipt. Still, I feel India is trying to rip me off -- I could get a 10-year visa if I were in the States. Now I have to pay $60 twice (which means $30 more) to buy two six-month visas because my next trip will extend beyond September. And there really is no guarantee that my visa is actually being processed or that I will actually get any money back next week.

So that was my Wednesday. How was your hump day? I have a headache.

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