I wrote the following on Tuesday and have been trying to post it from BlogPress on the iPhone but it's having a "Computer Says No" moment. So I have copied and pasted from there:
Tuesday, Nov 23, 11am:
I am sitting in the Indian Embassy in The Hague, quietly seething. I arrived at 9.50am, 10 minutes before they're officially open, and the waiting room was already crowded.
My queue ticket said 87 and the number on the counter was 54. Like... Seriously?!
I am so tempted to just say "SOD OFF, INEFFICIENT BUREAUCRATS!!" and just pick up a tourist visa through a travel agent when I'm back in Singapore over Christmas. Y'know, do it the civilised way - pay someone else who will sort it out for you in 3 days flat with no hassles.
After all the pellava (spelling?), apparently tourist visas are still accepted and are less of a pain in the ass when you arrive in Mysore (coz with a student visa, you have to go register at the police station on arrival and on departure too. WTF?)
So I had a short practice this morning, knowing I wanted to get here early. Just standing sequence, a forward bend, and the closing sequence. Thank goodness I did coz I currently feel like blowing someone's brains out. If I hadn't practiced, I would've probably wanted to machine-gun down every single person in here.
Tuesday, Nov 23, 11.30am:
I am finally called up by the lady behind the counter (only ONE lady serving something like 100 people). I explain my case and say "You said you'd call me in 1 - 2 weeks and that I shouldn't call you coz you'd call me. It's been 1.5 months and you haven't called, neither have you picked up the phone any time I have called in the past few weeks. So... I am here now to find out what's going on."
She just smiled, took my passport and papers to a back room and said "You wait."
So I waited. And waited. And waited.
By this time, everyone crammed in the waiting room was best friends with each other. "Old timers" who had been there from 10am, like me, were telling people who'd just arrived what the "system" was and where they should go to fill in which forms. There's such a lack of a system or signs that tell you what the process is that we all just had to figure it out and ask other people around us. Like... ?!?
Because the Embassy Lady was sat behind a counter with a perspex/ glass panel shielding her from the rest of us, it was difficult to hear her talk. So she had a microphone. Any time anyone spoke to her in a hushed tone coz they didn't want to announce to the whole room why they were going to India, where they work and what they do for a living... the lady would repeat back to the person OVER THE MICROPHONE everything that he or she had just said to her. So EVERYONE could hear exactly what each other's stories were.
I mean... Seriously?! ZERO PRIVACY. The Embassy Lady even said at one point OVER THE MICROPHONE "What do you do? ...You're a what?! A HAIRDRESSER? But... You have NO HAIR!!"
Of course the whole room cracked up at that point. The poor, hairless hairdresser.
Tuesday, Nov 23, 1.30pm:
I am starving and thirsty. There is no vending machine in sight. There are lots of water cooler bottle holders stacked up, but no water cooler in sight.
I am still waiting. Waiting for WHAT, I have no idea. But since the person before and after me in the queue from this morning are both ALSO waiting, I feel vaguely comforted. Commisery.
Tuesday, Nov 23, 2pm:
Someone says "The interviews have begun".
Interviews? What interviews? What?!
An Indian dude wearing a suit appears from behind a door and starts calling out a name. The said person disappears behind the door with him. There's a big glass window peering right into this interview room, in full view of everyone, so we can all see what's going on inside. It's the most bizarre process!!
Tuesday, Nov 23, 2.30pm:
My name is called and I enter the room. The hairless hairdresser, who's the one right after me in the queue wishes me "Good luck. And hurry up!"
The Embassy Dude-in-a-suit sits there with my case file. All the documents I had given them from a month and a half ago are with him: a letter from KPJAYI requesting a student or yoga visa from whom it may concern, letter from my company confirming my employment in The Netherlands, visa forms stating my intention of why I want to go to India.
Of course he says "So... why you want to go to India?" (thick heavy Indian accent)
I explain why. It is everything that has been painstakingly prepared and written up for him, but still I explain why in the nicest possible way.
Then he starts flipping through all my paperwork. You know when someone is just going through the motions but not really processing anything upstairs? Yup, that was this guy. He made a a big show of rubbing his chin as he looked at my papers (yes, he was LOOKING at them, not READING them).
AND THEN YOU KNOW WHAT HE PROCEEDS TO DO?!????
He takes off his glasses and proceeds to use the arm of his glasses to dig out his ear canal.
I was sooooooooo horrified and in complete disbelief I had to stifle a gasp of shock AND hold back the laughter. Good thing I wasn't facing the window that looked out into the waiting room coz if I had caught anyone else's eye at that point, I would have just been in complete stitches!!
This Dude-in-a-suit was completely for real!! He was asking me questions about yoga while he was still digging at his ear like there was no tomorrow! I didn't know where to look! If I looked at him, I'd be distracted and start staring at his ear (you can imagine the glasses were waving about in the air as the arm was sticking into his ear canal), but I had to maintain eye contact with him in order not to be rude so he could give me my bloody visa! And then he starts asking questions like "What religion are you? ...No religion? Good, good... Your parents? What religion are they? Christian. I see."
Erm... You see the ridiculousness of this situation? All these banal questions as he was nonchalently digging his ear with gusto... You see why I had to stifle my laughter so hard?
And it was at this point YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?!? ...He stopped digging his ear. I had to stop my jaw from dropping when I began to think "Oh shit. What is he going to do with those glasses now? Wear them?"
No, he did something even better.
He proceeded to wipe the arm of the glasses, yes the one he had been using to dig away at with gusto, he casually wiped the edge of the glasses arm off WITH HIS FINGERS!! I have no idea what he did with his hands/ fingers after that, coz I couldn't bear it anymore and had to look away. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
When I turned back, he had put his glasses back on his face.
BLECCCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! SO. GROSSED. OUT.
Then he proceeds to say "Yoga visa? What is this yoga visa this school is asking for?"
FOR. CRYING. OUT. LOUD.
If even the Embassy Dude has no idea then it's Game Over. Since I've been hearing that this yoga or student visa is more pain than it's worth, I then proceeded to plant the idea with him that it's probably easier if he just gave me a tourist visa. I said "the school has no registration number yet and they said if you need it in order to give me a student visa, just give me a tourist visa instead because they're still accepting that". This is the god-honest-truth, exactly what KPJAYI had told me when I asked for their school registration number, and this is exactly what I've heard through various other sources too.
Keystone cop aka Embassy Dude-in-a-suit says "Really? Who told you that?"
And I had to repeat myself. I really couldn't believe I was living through this unbelievable process.
Finally, he says "OK. You can go now. Come back at 4pm for your visa." But what visa is this?! I ask the lady behind the counter... and she says "You'll get a tourist visa."
And so there it is guys. I'm getting a tourist visa to go to Mysore. Because nobody knows their arse from their elbow, not even me, and because I told the Dude-in-a-suit "gimme a tourist visa", he gave me a tourist visa. I hope I won't live to regret this! HAHAHA!
FUCKING HELL. A WHOLE FUCKING DAY AT THE BLOODY EMBASSY.
COME BACK AT FOUR?!????
And so I did. Of all the visas sitting in my passport (and I've collected quite a few along the way!)... This one definitely rates pretty highly in memorable experiences (so memorable I never want to go through it again).
The one highlight of my week this week: The new bike arrived! This is what it looks like, fresh out of the giant box it came in:
Yup, it's the same old brand new bike as before. I'm adding the carrier in the front, like before. Except I don't think I'm going for the white wicker basket again. It's pretty, but it's just too heavy. So I'm going for a white plastic milk crate. I figured I might as well conform a little bit to what the Dutchies do. They pretty much all have a plastic milk crate in front of their bikes. :)
In 5 days, I'll be leaving on my whirlwind shoot around the world. I'm thinking of what to pack - we'll be in climates on the opposite ends of the scale: African summer in Cape Town, and butt-cold freezing in Ivalo, Finland (seriously, we googled the temperature at 4.30pm yesterday, and it was already -24 degrees Celsius, that's something like -50 Farenheit or something ridiculous like that).
You know what I'm also crapping my pants about now? I've been so flat-out busy I haven't had a regular ashtanga practice going. I will be making my virgin Mysore trip the most out-of-shape I have ever been.
ACK! (And sorry for the long post. Just feels like I have so much to catch up on, on here!)