Oh Asia. How you taunt me so.
Asia has two times; when I need something it’s ‘maybe, possibly, eventually’ but when Asia requires information it’s ‘now, immediately, 5 minutes ago!’
On Monday I found out I had been offered a job at a university here in Saigon. (And sorry, Vietnamese Communist Party – Saigon is a much better name than Ho Chi Minh City. I’ve had Saigon Beer at the Saigon Cafe, I’ve yet to have a Ho Chi Minh Spritzer at the Ho Chi Minh Wine Bar).
Tuesday I received an email informing me of what was required to gain the position of English Lecturer (and even if I only do it for one day, you damn well better believe University professor is going on my CV). The university required; a photocopy of my passport, 2 passport photos, and… authorized photos of my documention.
After some back and forth with my new employer, they need a notary public stamped copy of my TEFL certificate and university degree… by Thursday.
Oh fer feck’s sake…
Here’s the thing. Somewhere between Vietnam, Canada and South Korea I’ve misplaced my degree. It’s 14 years old (now I feel old) and I haven’t really used it much and it doesn’t mean that much to me. I contact UVic to discuss my options. Some help from the Records Department leads me to spend $15 on a Certificate of Degree Completion, a fancy way of saying ‘yes he did this’ without paying for a new degree. The person in the department then emailed me a scanned copy of the Certificate. Cool.
(She’s going to get a postcard from Vietnam for her prompt assistance.)
To Thursday! I leave the house at 11am, headed for D1 to get some stuff stamped.
Cue the hoops.
The first place I go, won’t verify anything but the originals. Well balls.
They do direct me, vaguely, to a place that should be able to stamp the copies I have. Only, I don’t have the copies yet, not quite. When I find the place, it seems to be the People’s Party Place for Bureaucracy I am informed I cannot gain entry without long pants.
Well… pants to that.
I said to the young man though, “Okay, we’ll deal with that later, I need to get something printed off first.” (That UVic Certificate.)
He directs me, vaguely, somewhere.
Do you know how hard it is to find a printer, in a foreign country, when you don’t speak the language, where every place and its moto has wifi? Try it sometime, it’s horrific. Getting online proves easy, getting something printed off, not so much.
Eventually, after a lot of direction and misdirection, after walking past a cool fountain round-a-bout I’ve never seen before in all my time in Saigon (literally a block way from where I regularly wander) I ended up at a shop that photocopies and prints off and binds pretty much anything a person could want. Sweet!
Now for those pants.
Stupid pants. I spent over an hour wandering around the ‘rich area’ of D1 trying to find affordable pants. The two highlight were, finding a pair of suitable pants and pulling out the pricetag to read 4 000 000 Dong. I laughed in the face of the salesperson. $200 for a pair of pants, in Vietnam? Bwahahahaha.
The other was in the lovely InterContinental Hotel (home to the crappy Hard Rock Cafe) where the concierge station tried SO hard to help me. I wanted to borrow some long pants for a few minutes. They actually called a tailor to see if it was possible, then they said it was a 5 minute taxi ride to the tailor and…
Stop… just stop. I can tell when I’m nearing my breaking point. And I was. What made it worse, these two conciergii were being so helpful, so sweet, so polite I almost wanted to smack them. They offered me water. They offered me a wet wipe. I just had to walk away.
I head back to the ‘long pants required stamping office’ and the guy just waves me over to where I need to go. Really?
Fine…. Whatever. I get into the office and eventually get a chance to talk to the bureaucrat behind the counter. I fucking hate bureaucracy. They are weakest minded of humans.
Whenever confronted with something outside of their rules or regulations they flex their modicum of power to say “no”, there is no compromise, no negotiating. I could see the spectacled Vietnamese civil gleefully salivating over denying me her stamp.
I wanted to punch her. So hard her cross-eyed children felt it.
But no, I walk away, hop on the (wrong) bus (but thanks to being way more travel savvy than most) and end up at the university to sign my contract…
which was all in Vietnamese.
Just another hoop to jump through.