I have been called many things in my life, including Wench, Granola Girl, Redneck, and Condom Hander-Outer, but Todd’s school still managed to surprise me with their name for people in my position: Trailing Spouse. I come from a land of oil production, and so this automatically makes me think of Tailing Ponds. In the school’s eyes, however, the term simply means that I followed my spouse to Thailand. It also means that I get to jump through some fun hoops before I can work at the school. The biggest of these hoops was a visa run that I embarked on this past week with the other members of the Trailing Spouses club.
The whole operation got off to a bad start – we were originally planning to simply catch a bus to the Cambodian border. After an extensive series of miscommunication that I will not describe here because it makes me weep even to recall it, it became clear that we needed to actually go to Phnom Penh, the capital. We were told by someone* at the school that getting a visa in Phnom Penh would be a painless, 2 day process. Submit your documents on the morning of the first day, pick up your visa on the afternoon of the second day. We booked our flights accordingly. The fun times started off at Bangkok’s newly reopened secondary airport.
The flight itself was straightforward, as was the process of obtaining our Cambodian tourist visas. When we were met at the Phnom Penh airport by the happiest Tuk-Tuk driver in Asia, we started to wonder if the whole trip was too smooth to be true.
He proceeded, between grins and guffaws, to drive us to the cutest, most feel-good guest house in Phnom Penh. You Khin House is beautifully decorated and is filled with the paintings of the owner’s deceased husband. All the proceeds from the guest house are used to support the NGO Montessori school for children located next door.
The whole thing seemed like a beautiful dream. It wasn’t until the next morning at the Thai embassy that we woke up. Rather than the 2-day processing time we had been promised, the clerk informed me that it would take a minimum of 4 days. This meant that we would miss our flights home, and that Kevdeep would potentially miss his flight to Vietnam on the following weekend. So we made a decision that I can’t say I’m proud of, but that I would probably make again. We gave our money and our passports to the Corrupt Clown sitting outside the embassy who promised us a quicker turnaround.
And then we waited. While you could do worse than getting stuck in Phnom Penh for a few days, it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience. We had no idea when our visas would actually be ready, so we didn’t want to plan anything big, in case we had to rush to the airport to catch our flight. Fortunately, Yim, our uber-happy Tuk-Tuk driver became our new favourite friend, and showed us the city.
He also took us out to eat at legitimate Cambodian places. I can’t say that my gut was 100% happy about this, but it warmed the cockles of my heart.
In the midst of this, we had many, many conversations with our Corrupt Clown at the embassy. “You can have it to us when? That’s too late! Can you make it any earlier? What!? You’re going to charge us MORE?!” We were all in a state of perma-meltdown.
In the meantime, we decided to visit the Killing Fields. It was a deeply moving, deeply depressing trip. I’ll go into it in more detail in a Ruminations post, but to sum it up, it simultaneously put our petty visa problems into perspective, and gave us a heavy dose of depression to go along with our stress.
As we sat at our guesthouse, trying to process our trip to the Killings Fields, our Corrupt Clown phoned: our visas were ready, and he would personally deliver them to us. He arrived exactly 30 minutes too late for us to catch our flight, and seemed surprised when our thanks was less than effusive as we handed him his outrageous payment.
The next day, we weren’t in the mood for taking chances, so we arrived at the airport 4 hours early for our new flight.
We finally arrived in Bangkok, much poorer, and hopefully wiser when it comes to dealing with Asian bureaucracy. One more step completed in our journey from Tailing Pond to Teacher.
* In the timeless words of Beyonce, “I’m not gonna diss you on the internet. Cuz my mama taught me bettah than that.”