Friday, May 21, 2010

The Good, The Bad, & The Absurd

The Good: Kim and I finally (after 66 days) have received our business visas. The little stamp is in our passports, and is good for six months, and in theory we have a letter from the department of industry which should get us a renewal for another six months after this one. So yay us. We can now move around the country a bit more freely as we no longer have to be in Kathmandu to intermittently sign paperwork.

The Bad: You may remember from my earlier post about hiking in Annapurna that I am supposed to be there trekking right now. Well with the visa taking all week, and the not actually getting the passports in my hand until around 3pm today it just wasn't going to happen. With all offices (for more paperwork of course) being closed on Saturday I can't get the needed permits tomorrow either. This means I have to wait until Sunday to get the needed permits. The only question now is if I go to Pokhara tomorrow so I can get the permits and start trekking the same day on Sunday, or get them in Kathmandu on Sunday and start on Monday.

The Absurd: In the West we like to pretend that our bureaucracy is somehow for our own good, that our over payed under-worked public "servants" are moving all that paperwork around for some greater good. Maybe it's to protect you, maybe its for some safety net scheme. However worthless the public "service" it at least has the mask of doing something, besides creating jobs for the paper-pushers you get to deal with. In Nepal they don't even bother with the masquerade. It is very clear that the paperwork exists for its own sake, to create jobs for the public employees and funnel cash into their hands and the hands of the state.

I arrived at the Department of Immigration and watched as my paperwork got shuffled around. There were a number of desk jockeys in the main room, we'll label them DJ1, DJ2 and DJ3. So the Nepali kid I'm with, who is our lawyer's assistant goes to DJ1 and talks to him for a bit. He informs me that one of the people we need to talk to isn't here, but he'll get it started. DJ1 looks over the paperwork for a bit and then after a moment points to DJ2. The paperwork goes to DJ2 and he moves some papers around and flips through the pages. After a few minutes of this he hands the paperwork back to the kid and he brings it back to DJ1. DJ1 now does the same thing as far as I can tell from my vintage point. Then he says something to the kid and he comes and sits next to me for a bit. After another ten minutes or so the paperwork gets briefly handed to DJ3 who tells the kid to take it to a room I will call Office 1. I never leave my chair so I'm not sure what happens in the office but after five minutes or so he comes out and then goes into Office 2. A few more minutes pass and he comes out and gives the paperwork back to DJ1. He unbinds a few documents, rearranges some things and actually writes something this time. The kid then brings it over to DJ2, but apparently he doesn't need it. It now needs to go into Office 3.

The occupant of Office 3 though is not here, and has not been here since our arrival at around 12:30. Long lunch I guess. As the time nears 2PM a guy in a smart looking outfit meanders into Office 3 and closes the door behind him. One of the female employees enters the room with some tea, but again I don't see what happens in Office 3 because I never leave my seat (which is missing the backboard and has exposed nails that should go into said backboard). A few more minutes pass and a woman comes out of Office 3 with a pile of folders. I'm thinking to myself that this must be it. I'm wrong. The paperwork and the kid visit DJ1 again, who rearranges some more papers, and then he hands something to the kid and he runs downstairs, to where I do not know. After another five minutes the kid arrives from down the stairs and has the papers he departed with along with some new pink ones. All these papers get woven into the file and transferred back to DJ2. So DJ 2 looks it all over and stamps something and writes something, and hands the papers back to the kid. The kid then takes the papers, and now our passports into Office 1. He is in there for a few, emerges and goes into office 2. After this he emerges and gives the file and passports to DJ1. DJ1 appears to put the actual visas into the passports, writing a bunch of stuff on both of them. After this the file and passports go to DJ3. DJ3 records a bunch of stuff in another book and files the mess of paperwork that is our file. Then around quarter to 3pm I finally got our visas.

It doesn't end there. So now I'm thinking I should go get the entry permit for the Annapurna area since I now have my passport. I wander over to the tourist information center conveniently located on the other side of town from the tourist district, and wander over to the area that services permits for the conservation areas. Apparently the very demanding job of issuing what are essentially tickets to a national park area requires short work days. Their hours are 9AM to 2PM. 2PM?!?! Really? A five hour slot? Huh. And of course nothing is open on Saturday. Oh well. So Maybe I'll just go hang out in Pokhara for a day, and get my permits there early on Sunday. Lakeside is really nice and I haven't been there since 02. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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