10 February 2006

Rain/Post Office/Work Permit

The rainy season, I was told, would end in November and then there would not be a drop for six months. It rained right up until New Years Eve. Then yesterday, there were some sprinkles. And this afternoon, there was a veritable downpour for over an hour! I had to ford the rapidly filling balcony, to take out the drain filter before I got internal flooding. We even had lightening. It does clean the air, but if it isn’t supposed to happen, it is a little worrisome.

This first week back, after the two week break, felt like three weeks. Aside from the work schedule, I was supposed to deal with bank, work permit stuff, as well as international post issues. Of the three items on my list, none has been resolved.

Way back in July, about two weeks before I left for Vietnam, I was informed by my first employer that I would need notarized copies of all my teaching credentials and diplomas, and a letter stating I was not a criminal. I then had to send said documents to the employer’s office in Los Angeles, and he contacted the Vietnamese consulate in San Francisco. Or something like that. I then had to go to the consulate and get my visa. I assumed that since I was given the visa, all was in order.

When I arrived, there was other paperwork to be done, like registering my residence with the police and getting the health check. All that paperwork was done by others, so I assumed I was in the clear.

Back in October, before I even started working at the new job, I went to HR to ask what I needed to do about working papers. “You don’t need to do anything for a year,” I was explicitly told. That sounded odd, but easy.

Then, right before the Tet break, I received an urgent email from HR telling me I needed to get my work permit papers in NOW. I went to talk to the women in charge and asked why, if she hadn’t wanted any documents in October, that it was now urgent. I didn’t get an answer. So, I brought in all of my paperwork that had been sufficient for the first job. She went through them and asked for my passport. I couldn’t give it to her because I needed to go to the bank, then go to Cambodia. I was about to leave when she asked for my “blue book”. Huh? Turned out to be a little blue notebook that is supposed to be in my possession at all times, documenting that I am registered with the police. My realtor was supposed to have given it to me within a week of moving in. The HR lady was quite alarmed that I didn’t have it.

After work, I went by the realtors and asked about the blue book. Apparently, a gal they had working there when I moved in had neglected to get it done and they weren’t even aware of it. However, within two days I got the book.

This Monday, armed with my blue book and passport, I went back to HR. When the woman checked my blue book, she saw that the date listed for my move to my apartment was Oct 2006, not 2005. I suggested she take white-out, and fix the date. No go. Before I could leave to take my book back to the realtors to have them take it back to the police, she said I was missing a document. Huh? Yes, I needed a document from the State of California stating that the notary, who notarized my documents, is registered with the State. I really tried not to scream. I think she mentioned something about a letter from Washington DC stating I was not a criminal, but I pretended not to hear. How could I need more documentation than what I had already given to the first job?

She did say that it all would have to be sent to the US to be translated and verified. I said that this had already happened, and couldn’t she just email the consulate in SF? No.

The situation to date: I still don’t have the blue book because the police are on vacation this week. When I went into HR yesterday, nothing was mentioned about the Notarization of the Notary, so I didn’t ask. Push comes to shove, I can renew my visa on my own in March, but would really like to avoid any government offices. The post office is already more than I can handle.

Every single item sent from outside the country, other than a letter, is opened and thoroughly searched. My bag of candy corn took three months to arrive, and then I got a notice to go to the PO to pick it up. Since the address was in the same district that I live in, I figured it would be a short taxi ride away. 30 minutes later, taxi meter running, I was at the PO, where I had to present my passport and pay a dollar in customs to get my melted candy corn. At least they hadn’t opened the bag of candy. Once I got home and dug in to my treats, I realized it had all been worth it, but was worried about the other three packages containing books that were due to arrive shortly.

At work the next day, I asked around for any post office tips. I turns out that most people get things sent to a Vietnamese friend, and they pay no customs. Or if it gets sent to the main PO, there is no problem. But if you live where I do, it goes to the PO in the South Forty and you get charged as high as they can get away with. This was becoming a nightmare.

But when I got home that day, I found two mailer-bags with my books form the US, waiting at my door! They were worth more than the candy corn, but I guess the post office didn’t see it hat way.

I probably shouldn’t even mention the nasty work schedule that I was given, (like it was a reward, or something), because I was one of the few teachers qualified to take that particular class. The hours are foul, the workload way more than any other class. But it I was assured that when it was over, in just 4 weeks, I would be back to a normal schedule. I am now not so sure of that. The icky class finishes next Friday, yet the boss lady tells me she will “try” to get me a class, but won’t know until next week. I have had one long headache all week.

But, hey, it’s Friday and I am hoping against hope that I will be able to get some Olympic coverage here. I am doubtful. Winter sports are not high on the agenda of tropical nations. Thank god for American Idol!