Chiang Mai Thai

Ever wanted to learn Thai, in Chiang Mai? I did just that from November 2010, returning home in October 2011. If you don't want a headache, start HERE, it will explain the preceding posts. I'm Snap, Stray's other half. COOEE is our (other) travel blog.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Visa Extension Butterflies

The process of visiting immigration to extend our visas every three months is a hot topic in class. Not only the logistics, but, the much dreaded interview with the immigration officer. I joke with my teacher that I will place my hands way above my head when giving the wai and am prepared to grovel across the floor if need be. Or, if things don’t appear to be going well, I’ll play smoke and mirrors and divert the attention away from myself and onto my ‘suspicious’ fellow class mate...the one who keeps giving me grief about my upcoming interview.

Being a student of Thai language, we could, and rightfully so, be expected to speak Thai during our visa extension application. Under impromptu circumstances this isn’t something that I fear, because I don’t have time to dwell on it, but in an official surrounding, it can be a bit nerve it was for me today.

I arrive early, at 7.15, a.m. to make sure I receive a queue ticket in the low numbers. The dispenser was out of order?, so one by one we added our names and purpose of visit, to a numbered list. Number 14. Great! So I whittle away the time outside, by watching people and reading a book until 8.00 a.m., then move inside the building so I don’t miss my turn.

At 8.30 a.m. one of the office staff announces that he’ll be calling the names on the list and dispensing appropriate tickets, because certain officers only deal with certain visa matters. Now I’m number 8 in the ‘teacher/student/something else’ queue.

The waiting room is crammed, but air conditioned and comfortable, and I resume watching people and listening to the loud mouth bloke in the corner systematically put crap on several countries, including Thailand, and my home country. I feel sorry for the guy next to him who looks like he wants to shrivel up and die from embarrassment and notice that another has buried his head deep into a newspaper to escape eye contact. By the way loud man, if you’re reading this blog, Australia doesn’t want you partying there, anyway!

I notice signs on the windows, asking that visitors dress respectfully, with pictures illustrating that shorts and singlets are not permitted. Immediately I begin to scan the room, because that’s just the way I am ;) A young Thai lady wearing a short mini skirt, accompanying an older farang, leans over the counter talking to staff and I have a good chuckle (on the inside) at the message plastered across her butt...which reads ’her stupidity amazes me.’ I’m still thinking about that one.

Some applicants, holding higher numbered tickets, are told to return after 1 p.m. Obviously the staff have more than enough to deal with this morning. Good that they’re not left waiting for hours and hours and have the opportunity to go home, or wherever, for a while. I reckon there’s about 150 plus people waiting today.

My eyes glaze over as I become mesmerised by seven digital monitors, displaying counter and ticket numbers, and with every change comes a hypnotic voice in both Thai and English. I’ve just about forgotten my reason for being there until the announcement of number 208 snaps me back to reality.

I’m up! I walk into the interview area and am unknowingly blocked by a member of staff who has her back to me. I smile at the officer who is awaiting my arrival. I say ‘excuse me’ several times, but she doesn’t budge, doesn’t hear me. 20 seconds seems like 20 minutes. Finally I approach his desk and juggle my two bags, while trying not to poke my eye out with my paperwork, as I give him the wai and say 'sawadee kha'. At his invitation I sit down, tell him my name and hand him my documents.

I search for appropriate Thai phrases in my head as he looks over my forms, but so far, he’s only addressed me in English. Sometimes ‘conversational Thai’ just doesn’t seem fitting in these types of situations.

“Where do you work?” Hello!
“Where do you live, what food do you like?” A little forward I think.
“I come from Australia.” He knows that you twit, he’s holding your passport.
“Are you married, do you have children?” Clearly none of my business.
I guess I could tell him “I don’t like to eat leuuat in my soup, but do like to drink red wine”? No a lush that doesn’t like Thai food...might go over like a lead balloon.

Next a member of the local constabulary sits in the chair beside me and hands my guy a passport and they begin to chat in Thai. I smile and nod. Apparently I’m sharing my interview with some sort of urgent customs/immigration issue.

No problem! Sign, sign, pay, smile and I’m done.

I wait for my passport for another half hour, which has me exiting the building just before 11 a.m. I’m good for another three months, at which time I must remember not to get so anxious. Since starting my course in late last November, I’m surprised at how much I’ve learnt (and retained), even if I’m still a galaxy away from normal Thai conversation...I’m sure I’ll be able to manage some meaningful chit chat next time without working myself into a lather, won't I?


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  1. ’her stupidity amazes me’

    Hilarious. I'd love to hear the whole story on that one (but I can guess).

    I often see sweet Thais (kids and women) wearing t-shirts with messages in English so rude I turn pink when reading them.

    Odd that you weren't asked any questions in Thai. But then, TiT!

    (great writeup btw)

  2. @Catherine I could fill a whole blog with 'something gone awry in translation' t-shirts and lables ;)

    I'm glad I don't have to think about extensions for another three months.

  3. That would make a fun post actually :-)

    This week I took a photo of a t-shirt that said "LIVELIFE SIZE XL"

    But it was a medium-small size.

    So a one size fits small sort of deal. What's up with that?

  4. I think there maybe some sort of conspiracy going on here (here being most of Asia)...designed to mess with the minds of farang ;) Perhaps they are amused by our expressions when we read some of this confused puppies when they tilt their head to one side and give that 'what the?' look.


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