Bali’s Magic, Except for the GRRRR Factor

By Hannah Black

Sometimes living in Bali can really wear you down. All the positives – sun, sand, etc. – are fantastic things to have in your everyday life, but they sometimes get buried deep, deep down under insane drivers, corruption and silly amounts of bureaucracy.

Last week was one of those weeks where I could have been living in Skegness (it’s an English seaside resort you wouldn’t want to go to) for all the time I spent thinking about trips to the beach.

Now, I know there are hurdles to jump all over the world, but I happen to live in Bali and therefore reserve the right to rant about services here.

About a month ago I visited our friendly local consulate to apply for my daughter’s first passport and, knowing the way things work here, I wasn’t especially surprised to find I had the “old style” marriage certificate and needed a sworn translation of it.

“Anything else?” I made sure to ask. “No, that’s all,” the nice lady behind the Perspex replied.

At the time I was told by the very same lady that I should rush because the next week the price of sending the application would more than double from Rp70,000 (US$7.70) to Rp150,000.

This not being the biggest deal in the world, and having no time to get back to the consulate, I just made it back last week to hand over what I thought was a complete application.

However, after proudly handing over the envelope of goodies, my bubble was rudely popped. Where were my husband’s birth certificate and its translation into
English, the smiling lady asked.

Obviously if I had been told it was necessary it would have been in the envelope along with all the other documents and corresponding translations, I replied through clenched teeth.

Swallowing down anger, I agreed I would pay and send my husband in with the documents the next week, only to be confronted with my next challenge.

The receipt showed the price of the passport and then an additional Rp650,000, which I was told was the price of the postage from Bali to Jakarta and then on to Hong Kong, where it would be processed.

Almost in tears, I handed over a large chunk of the salary I had just received the day before and mentally started budgeting for the rest of the month, erasing any sushi dinners I was planning.

I know I’m not the only one in this boat. My husband Ongky will have to make a one-day trip to Jakarta next month just to drop off his visa application and have his fingerprints digitally scanned. This enrages me, but he seems to deal with it quite calmly, as much as he hates it.

In the compound it’s a bit of a joke how much time and money we spend on visas, passports and travel, but it’s an unavoidable part of our life.

When I try to express the stress we face in various government offices I’m met with blank faces and laughs because no one in the compound has ever really had to deal with such matters.

Most of our family members’ official documents include a KTP (Indonesian ID), birth certificate and Kartu Keluarga (family card). They haven’t ever had the pleasure of visiting Bali’s tax or immigration offices and I hope for them they never have to.

The village census is done by one of Ongky’s numerous aunts, who comes around with a notebook and pencils in the names of any new children and crosses off the departed.

Thinking about it, though, the situation isn’t much better in the British Isles. When applying for my daughter Lola’s registry of birth in the Isle of Man we
visited the office five times and had to dig up grandparents’ birth and marriage certificates and £400 (let’s say Rp5.6 million).

Admittedly my situation isn’t one they have to deal with every day, but you would have thought someone would know what to do. At that point I did wonder why
I hadn’t moved to Wales and married a nice man called Dafydd, as my mother often jokes.

But, alas, here we are in the middle of the immigration battle once again. The problems we face now will probably chase us for the rest of our lives.

If in 40 years you see a grey-haired old lady waving her walking stick in the air shouting about immigration documents, rest assured it’s only me.

Filed under: My Compound Life

2 Responses to “Bali’s Magic, Except for the GRRRR Factor”

  1. Shelby Ottman Says:

    Thanks very much, I’ve found this extremely nice!

  2. steve Says:

    Hi Hannah.I too, am lucky enough to be married to a lovely balinese lady Ayu, (were married in Singaraja 2008) and I find you articles both interesting and imformative ,and mostly brings a smile to my face, as the lifestyle of the balinese is so different to anything I am used to and I am learning so much everytime we return to bali. We plan to settle in bali in the next few years,so I love to here about both the ups and downs of living permanently in bali!Keep up the great work ! Goodluck

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