Today is the day we apply for my spousal visa. The visitor’s visa expires on the 13th of September, and I’d really rather stay here in Sri Lanka with my husband. Gee, I can’t imagine why that could be.
We had to leave our place by 8 am to get to Immigration by 8:30. Fahim told me before we went that we would probably have to stand outside in line behind whoever got there before us as we wait to have our application processed, so we opted to bring my hat and a bottle of water, along with the camera, our books, sunglasses, paperwork, passports, spare pictures for the visa if they need it. Enter Fahim’s backpack to the rescue.
We arrive at Immigration – a 200 Rupee ride away in downtown Colombo – and we see a huge crowd of people standing around outside the building. We take a look around and find the door we need and walk in, past the armed guard. We find the room we need to go to for my visa, and approach the counter. No wait involved thus far, and no one in line in front of us.
We show the form we’ve filled out, and we’re told to go to room 2 or 3, one of the Assistant Controller’s offices, for a signature. We go, we give the man all our paperwork, including the visa application form we downloaded off their website that I already filled out. He takes a look at everything, and tells us there are two more forms we have to fill out, and could we please provide photocopies of the marriage certificate, passports, and Fahim’s national identity card. We go back to the original counter, ask for the forms, and fill them out.
The second form I filled out has the identical information as to the original form I filled out that we downloaded off the internet, but it’s in a slightly different format.
We fill them in, we get the photocopies, and we go back to the same Assistant Controller, who looks at all the documents – again, and makes notations on all of the forms, and tells us to go to room 4, where we have to present the paperwork to someone else. She’s not in at the moment, so we’re told to leave everything and come back in a while. How long is a while? Fifteen minutes? An hour? The lady hasn’t come in yet this morning (this is Sri Lanka, after all), and could we please come back. No one specifies a time frame – no one knows the time frame.
It’s now 9:15am, and most shops don’t open until 10 am. There’s a KFC down this street, and I’ve taken a picture of it just for you, my dear readers. We don’t go to the KFC. Instead, we hit a bookstore which is further down the street, about a block from Immigration. It’s not open yet, so we wait on the sidewalk. In this next picture, you can see the trishaws all in a row – the black rounded vinyl roofs. The sign above and to the left of them is in Sinhala. And at the end of the road, between the tree and the street, you can see ocean – the Indian Ocean. Which we still haven’t gone to, yet. I asked Fahim about going to it today for only a few minutes, but apparently, on the other side of this road, there’s a major road with no way to cross, and it’s not at all friendly to pedestrians, so no, dearest. Drat. (Fahim says: it’s actually a railroad rather than a paved road and I told Laurie that but she’ll claim that she’s got a poor memory :p)(Laurie says: again with the hallucinations. He said nothing about no railroads. He said road. Plain and simple. Perhaps he mumbled the “rail” part? He does tend to mumble at times.)
But when I’m more comfortable on the motorbike, we can do longer rides and it’ll be easier to get to places like the ocean. Perhaps Saturday?
Finally, it opens, we go inside, and we look around. This is a new book store as in not used books, and we know there isn’t much we’re going to buy here – we’ll buy the majority of our books at the used book stores – but we do need a book to help me learn to speak Sinhalese. We find a Lonely Planet Sinhala Phrasebook, and it looks like it’ll do the trick. There are other books there that are more for learning how to read Sinhala, but I’m more concerned with learning how to speak it well enough to get along in communicating with trishaw drivers, grocery clerks, people like that. I don’t need grammar and the like at this point. The phrase book also lists the Sinhala alphabet, all the sounds, and has a bit of a dictionary in it, so it’ll help me learn the basics of reading Sinhala should I wish to go there.
And yes, Sinhala is a totally other alphabet. Did I mention that Fahim is fluent in four languages and can probably pass muster in a fifth? Sinhala, Tamil, English, Hindi, and Arabic. All five have different alphabets. The guy’s a geek. I mean, really. I’d’a been happy to be fluent in English, French, and German, and they’re the same alphabet and share a lot of the same words or roots of words. Whatever. So we’ve established that Fahim’s a geek.
So this Sinhala alphabet – well, it’s nothing at all like English. It’s all pronounced exactly as it’s spelled. One sound, one letter. Not English, where the same letter combination can be pronounced in five different ways depending on the letters preceding or following it. One sound, one letter. I like this concept. This’ll make it easier for me to pronounce things, although Fahim will still laugh at me.
There are 12 vowels, 4 dipthongs, whatever the heck those are, 23 unaspirated consonants, and 7 aspirated consonants. Yeah, I don’t know about the unaspirated/aspirated thing yet. And there are some other rules involving other letters. I’ll get it figured out. Eventually.
The letters are all curly and cute.
I’ll figure out those eventually, too.
We’re happy, I have a Sinhala book, and now I can start butchering yet another language.
We leave and go to the nearest shopping mall – Majestic City – which is just down the street and across. Surprise surprise, a shopping mall. Okay, yeah, facetiousness aside, Sri Lanka has a few malls. This one is the oldest one and was, at one time, the premiere shopping mall. We go to the Optometrists to get contact solution for Fahim – our local stores didn’t have any – and then we wander around for a few minutes.
We head back to immigration, wondering if the lady will be in yet. She is, we see her immediately, and she’s just finished looking through my paperwork and binding it into a file. She tells us I need to be interviewed, so please wait in the chairs in the hallway.
While we’re waiting, Sharmini, Fahim’s boss, walks by. She’s there to renew the residency visa – for her husband, perhaps? Small world. (Fahim says: it’s actually for her son – she’s married to an expat and so her son has British residency, same as her husband .. or something like that :p)
About a half hour later, we’re taken into the same Assistant Controller’s room as before, and he asks us a couple of questions, like what’s my name? And when were we married? He continues looking through the paperwork, every slip of paper, which he’s already seen twice before.
Interview over. Yup, that was the extent of it. Pure formality.
He tells us that the passport will be ready in a couple of hours – it has to be stamped – and to come back then.
Fahim takes matters into his own hands and goes back to the woman at the counter who reviewed my paperwork and asks her, since she’s the one who’ll be stamping it. She says probably a half hour. She has to get the file from him, and as soon as she has it, she’ll stamp my passport and we’ll be done.
We go sit down and read our books. True to her word, a half hour later, it’s done.
It’s 11:30 am and my passport is stamped, allowing me to stay in the country for two years.
We leave, and on our way to get a trishaw to come home, we stop off at a halal restaurant – and I use the term restaurant loosely – to pick up a couple of food packets. We won’t have time to cook lunch if Fahim’s going to get to work in anything resembling good time. They’re literally packets – four inch square by about two inches thick packets wrapped in paper. We pay 70 Rupees each.
The trishaw drivers here have been lined up all day waiting for fares, and they’re queued in order of which trishaw goes next. We approach the next one in line, Fahim tells him where we’re going, and the driver asks 400 Rupees. Fahim says no, too much. The driver comes down to 300 after giving us the song and dance about how he’s been waiting for a fare since morning. Fahim says no, too much. Fahim tells him that we got here for 200 Rupees. The driver asks the most we’re willing to pay. Fahim says 250. The driver says no. We start to walk away. The driver says hold on, wait, okay. But if we get there, and you feel it’s worth the 300, then pay more. We get in.
When we arrive at our place, the driver again asks for 300, but Fahim refuses and pays only the 250. The driver is not at all happy.
We eat our lunch, and it’s not as good as at the Seven Plus. But we’re both hungry, and it’s still pretty good. There’s mango curry in it, which means that the big orange lump is a mango with a pit in the centre. I like it, Fahim doesn’t, so he gives me his. I’m happy.
Fahim went to work in the afternoon – surprise, surprise – and I stayed home and watched another movie. Have I mentioned that Fahim has a lot of dvds?
I also took a few sunset pictures from our back balcony today. I’ll take more later, of course – you all know that – but this is good for a start.