Every so often......
....just to shake shit up and scare people and impress the populous by providing the illusion that they're taking a hard-line stance on immigration, The Powers That Be here will start sending out rumours ("OH NO!! There's gonna be a crackdown on visas and foreigners working here!! Heavens to Murgitoid!!") and making strange policy changes.
Before September 2009, one could grab a visa for Vietnam for 6 months or a year and get it renewed rather easily. However, there has been ranting and raving from several quarters (and, rightfully so) that illegal Chinese workers have been coming in and working and taking jobs (which is strange - because the Chinese are saying thee same thing about The Vietnamese).
So, like the Transportation Security Administration puts up a presentation of "security theatre", The Powers That Be put up their own production, which I'll call "immigration theatre"! Basically, in the TSA's security theatre, nobody is truly genuinely protected, but it makes certain segments of the population feel better at MUCH inconvenience to another segment of this population (the flying public, in this case).
In the play called "immigration theatre", it also makes certain segments of the population feel better (unskilled Vietnamese labourers), to a great inconvenience to another segment of this population (namely, E.S.L. teachers and other skilled foreign workers). I say this is theatre because, simply, the lone, solo Chinese worker may not get in and/or may be deported, but most of these MEGA-projects are built with Chinese Yuan Renminbi.....therefore these Chinese conglomerates who develop these projects want THEIR PEOPLE building them!!!! So they just simply bring their people from China in with them to the construction site!!
The Powers That Be here will then go to the building site, scream and holler and threaten and try to kick these workers out....then the Chinese developer will threaten back to A) - Stop the project entirely B) - Call in the Chinese Military or C) - pay a big 'ole bribe.
After A, B or C occurs, life goes on as normal!! So it's theatre, nothing real, nothing concrete, just a show!
Except that foreign skilled workers (especially free-lancers) and E.S.L. teachers don't quite have the same sort of influence as, say, the Chinese Yuan Renminbi - so because of the visa changes imposed though "immigration theatre" (NO more 6-month or 1 year visas AT ALL/THREE-MONTH VISAS ONLY), above-mentioned foreign skilled workers (especially free-lancers) and E.S.L. teachers have three choices:
- Pay a thousand-plus dollars and a lotta ass-kissing and get a three-year green card/residency permit/work permit
- Get the three-month visa RENEWED INSIDE VIETNAM through someone who, ahhh, "...has a good relationship with The Powers That Be....." - usually at $200 or so per three-month renewal
- Fly out to Thailand or China or any nearby FOREIGN COUNTRY and fly back in and get your NEW three-month visa over the Internet and pick it up upon arrival - THIS costs, like, sixty bucks not including the cost of the plane ticket. But ya GOTTA FLY....can't cross land borders for the three-month visa (cute, huh?).
Had THOUGHT about (and actually BEGUN the process of) getting the green card....but after having my baby (well, no - actually, my wife had our baby, but still), I was NOT big on the idea of remaining in Vietnam long-term, soooooo.......I stopped the green card procedure and decided that 'll just hop in and out every three months until my family and I move permanently to The States!
Sooooo, my visa was almost up and I hadta figger out where I was gonna fly to forra few days! No way for Bangkok - GREAT city, but I'd been there enuff times. WAS gonna go to the Uyghur region of Xinjiang in far Northwest China and party with the Muslims there (and these people DO party), but connecting flights were a nightmare and it wound up going over $600USD, so I nixed THAT idea.
Instead, I pieced together some HYPER-CHEAP flights (with a couple long-ass layovers [30 hours in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and an overnight in Singapore] and a 3am wake-up call to ride the 40 miles out to the airport in Kuala Lumpur to catch a 6AM flight) on a couple of rock-bottom budget airlines and decided to head to India!
So, on Turkey Day, I got to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, another place I've never been to before, and begun my 30 hour layover.....
Hell!! I'd never been there before, and given that I'm a big fan of stamps in my passport, I got a cab to my hotel and began walking around the town....
The cab driver didn't say a word for the first five minutes, then he asked me where I'm from.....
"America" I replied.
"Ahhh....Bush" he said in a flat tone of voice.
"Not anymore" I stated. "I can't fucking stand that guy"
The cab driver's face lit up - "AH! I am wrong! Obama! Obama! Yes. He is a friend to Muslims"
"Well, shit, so am I, Ace!"
"Naw, I just said that I like Obama" (hadta lie a bit here).
"Muslims are friend to America"
"I know they are! And most thinking American are friends to Muslims"
Sadly, we reached my hotel before I could chat further.....but it was kinda sad that his guy hadta try to explain that main-line Islam presents less of a threat to the safety of the United States than some Christian elements do.
Still, while Malayia IS a predominately Muslim nation and there ARE flare-ups (like this) from time to time, it seemed reeeaaalllly diverse and peaceful there - Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Whites, Arabs, People from India, Asians......kinda a neat place all in all......
My hotel....not a bad place at all! $20 per night, clean and easily accessible to lotsa cool stuff.
Malay is kinda a weird language....a lot of it looks like phonetically-spelled English. Like, for example, "Immigration" is spelled "Imigresen" and the above are just a couple more examples.....
ALWAYS remember to leave a can of Guiness to the Altar of Santa!
Woke up at The Crack of Noon starving.....got up, walked around the city, and I saw this! REAL FUCKING DONUTS!! Now, I will eat a donut every ten or twelve months back in The States, but since we have nothing like them in Vietnam, I was gonna dive in......except that I could NOT find SIMPLE, NORMAL Glazed at this place......
So I got these potato thingys soaked in curry and then wrapped in fried dumpling batter.....GOOOOD stuff.
Proceded to walk around some more until I encountered what seemed to be thee world's largest mall (it's called Times Square, and it actually is the world's third-largest mall), complete with an indoor amusement park! WAS gonna ride the roller coaster, but it was all pay-one-price vs. separate tickets for each ride, and time was running short. Now, IF I had another four hours to kill, well.....
Shortly before this, I had gone to what must be thee world's largest computer geek mall and just drooled! LOTSA neat gadgets, with most of the computers being cheaper and faaaaar newer technology than what we can get in Vietnam (except the digital cameras were priced about twice as much as what you can get them for in The States)......basically, it was a lotta fun window shopping, but after a while, this wasn't the exception - it seemed to be the rule in terms of the city's landscape! Kuala Lumpur basically seemed to be one huge-ass crass commercialism site.....it really wore thin after a while....and, while it's helped develop the nation at breakneck speed, there really seemed to be very little in the way of urban character......
One thing that Vietnam inadvertently got right was taxing thee living shit out of automobiles!! No automobiles are manufactured in Vietnam, so they are subject to a 100% duty and tariff upon import......thusly doubling the actual cost of a car. Traffic in this town is a nightmare......
The Monorail here was cool, and, unlike Seattle's, it A) - actually GOES somewhere and B) - goes faster than ten miles an hour!
"Is there a chance the track could bend?"
"Not on your life, my Hindu friend!"
(I sooooo wanted to say that while I was in Kuala Lumpur)
Finally, it was just funny to see that what I thought was easily thee best film of 2010 prolly got more advertising in Malaysia than it did in The States! Still, though, again - being a predominately Muslim nation, I'm kinda surprised that they showed this flick at all.....
Off to bed - I got four hours of sleep before I gotta git up at 2:30am and head off to India.....
More in a couple days!