PART 3: Back on the road - South East Asia.
Jakarta, Indonesia, June 30, 2010
Finally my passport-run came to a stop in Jakarta. Normally you hear about visa-run in these countries, but I had to run to get a new passport. Most advanced countries have passports valid for 10 years, and driver's licenses for life. It's because it's the 21 century, people travel, the country is trying to make their people happy and simply - it just makes sense. But in Canada, where life is 'so easy', you get your passport for 5 years, and driver's license equally for 5. When your license expires and you are late to pay the fee, you loose it and you have to do get a new one all over again, just like if you never had it. I know, because I lost mine. This time I also have to go through the whole process of getting a new passport, because mine has been valid for 2 years only. Yes - two years! A one with a note that I can't renew it. I need a new one, all over again. This is what you get when you are traveling and your passport gets stolen - victimized again, by your own Canadian government. Because just like the thieves, they are not there to help and assist you. They are there to make money, rip you off and victimize again, just like the thieves did. But with a smile - because Canadians are oh, soo nice.
In the mid nineties, in Japan, when I needed a new passport because mine was going to expire, I had it done in a few days and was given a new 5 years brand new passport. Years later, just last year at the beginning of February 2009 in Buenos Aires, I had my passport stolen. Asking for a new one, I was told that just a week earlier the government invented a new way of dealing with passports - it will be printed in Canada instead of locally, so it will take longer and cost more. Also, because I didn't have my citizenship card with me, which I am not supposed to have on me while traveling because passport is THE document identifying who you are. If your citizenship card gets stolen you are in deep trouble - it is a very long and difficult process to get a new one. You are supposed to keep such documents, like your birth certificate, safe at home. Not on a bus somewhere out there, in this 'wild and dangerous' world you read about in the travel advisory on the government web site.
To get a new passport in Canada, you have to go through all kinds of proving who you are: guarantors, friends who knew you for years, documents like your driver's license, another document confirming that it's you. And the main one - your birth certificate or citizenship certificate. But when you are abroad, and don't have your citizenship card with you - you get punished. You end up with a 2 year passport only, and you can't extend it. Since most countries require you to have a passport valid for at least 6 month upon arrival, less than a year and a half later you need to apply again for a new one. The two years passport becomes a worthless piece of paper.
Another thing is the guarantor. It has to be a lawyer, a doctor, or a police officer (like if they are more trustworthy than another person), and have known you for at least 2 years. When you travel, of course you don't have anyone there like that available. So, instead of one of those people the consul will sign it for you. Of course for a fee - it used to be 30 dollars. Now, as I just found out, the new fee for this useless signature is 50. Useless because all the documents that you have, your old passport proving that you already went through this once before, your driver's license, provincial ID, health card, social security card and any other document issued by the very same government are useless in proving who you are. But a signature of someone who has never seen you before, for a 50 bucks, does.
This is one way of how the Canadian government is making money - inventing new and completely stupid, fictitious requirements and laws, and attaching fees to them. Which I bet happens in other countries too. But since, according to them, Canada is supposed to be this 'best place to live in the World', multi cultural, democratic and protective of people's rights, hearing that 'it's everywhere like this' leaves me less then convinced that it actually is. It makes no sense from the logical point of view. But that's how the local logics work - one way. It's something repeated over and over again, crafted to make other nations believe that it is true and to blindly go to Canada. I think British Columbia, Vancouver, are extreme at manipulating and creating this illusion. They are really good at using big deep words and fool you how sweet they and their place is, but in reality they are pretty shallow and superficial. They don't like constructive criticism there. It's a place standing on it's head compared to a lot of the rest of the world. It's a nicely packaged but it's just a cheap shine, hiding what they are about - catering only to themselves and money.
Back to the passport..
The waiting period for my new passport is 15 working days, as I just found out. Today is Wednesday, and they don't count it. They count Thursday. Then it's Friday and a holiday, so they don't count it. Then Saturday and Friday - weekend not counted. On Monday, the sixth day after submitting the application, I will have another 14 (working) days to wait. If there are no other holidays in the meantime, I should be getting my new passport on the 22 of July. That's more than three weeks later. And I have to leave the country on the 23 - that's when my visa expires. This is how considerate of travelers abroad Canada is. They don't care about your time and money. All they care about is about making some off you. Oh, but there is an alternative option of course, so people can't complain they are left without help. An 'emergency' passport done in a few short days. At extra fee of course, I think around another 160 dollars. If you get one, it will be valid for one year only, then you have to get a apply again for the regular again since this one, just like the 2 years passport, is not extendable. Wow - what a great service! Thank you soo much! So, it can be done in three days instead of three weeks after all. But unfortunately it takes extra three weeks to type '5' instead of '1' year. What a scam. I bet the people on their high chairs at the government are figuring out right now how to squeeze even more buck from this. Why not to make 3 year passport. Or require a consultation fee? I bet this will happen eventually. Because they care about their people, and want to make sure you are well taken care of. Thank you very much.
While on the subject of scamming, there is another one going on at the Canadian Embassy in Jakarta (and I am sure not just this one). You can't pay in Canadian dollars for the passport! The Embassy is located in a very modern high rise building complex, the World Trade Center I, sharing it with corporations and banks on various floor. They told me that I have to pay in local currency, because the bank doesn't accept Canadian dollars. A cool sum of 1,410,0000 Rupiah (yes, I am a millionaire here, haha). So I asked how to get it, and was directed to a small crappy money changer in the basement! I was speechless, and asked if they accept Canadian currency. They said yes, no problem. So I went there, but didn't like the exchange rate. So I went to the HSBC on the first floor, but it was already closed. Then, I got the money from one of the row of ATM's.
Here is the break-down of how Canada is making some extra buck off their citizens applying for a passport abroad. Yet another completely legal rip-off by the people whose houses are paid by with your tax money. They asked for 1,410,000 Rupiah, that's 100 dollars for the passport and the consuls signature another 50. The official exchange rate is 8536 Rupiah for 1 Can dollar. At this rate, the passport will cost 165 dollars - not 150! Even by the money changer's rate it would be better, since they offered me 8800 Rupiah to a dollar. The exchange rate for the US dollar is 9105 Rupiah. But the Canadian Embassy has their own side business, buying Canadian dollars at a very inflated rate. Basically, taking advantage of travelers abroad with limited choice, they make about 15 dollars extra on each new issued passport.
The government in Canada is working very hard on making a cut, and fill their friends pockets. Like with changing names of some government agencies. There had always been WCB (Workers Compensation Board), but they changed it to Work safe BC. There had always been UI (Unemployment Insurance), so they changed it to EI - Employment insurance. Of course all this was paid with taxes and invented new fees. All the forms, brochures, stickers and so on, had to be redone and printed again. I wonder who in the government had a friend with a printing business.
Observing Canada, especially from a perspective after being away from it, I am amazed to see how this country works. It is a carefully, meticulously over the years crafted system, sustained with tax payers money and hard work of the new immigrants, continuously perfected to make more money in the easiest way and legally get away with it, never accounted for any damage, incompetence, any form of money grabbing. Really sneaky, heartless, dishonest. Nicely packaged to sell, but it's a fools gold. Only those 'on top' really benefit from it, just like in a pyramyd scheme. An illusion, a trick, where ordinary people loose their lives trying to catch up paying others salaries.
My life has always been about freedom and I shall continue to walk this path.
Safe travels ! ........... Stan
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