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Published: March 21st 2018
Very USSR in Saigon
My last post just to fill in some detail around leaving Vinh Long and a final hiccup in Singapore.
I was travelling in Vietnam on a tourist visa and was living in the language school, actually a 5 storey house but empty apart from the school on the first two floors and a couple of staff sleeping in two bedrooms. That was me too.
When you stay at a hotel in Vietnam your passport is recorded and you are then registered at that address for the benefit of the immigration authorities. The language school shoiuld have registered me when I arrived but didn't and it didn't occur to me I had to do anything.
The night the Immigration Officers arrived en masse they were agitated because I hadn't registered and then became more agitated because they thought I was also working (teaching) without a working visa. Technically I was but it was an informal arrangement between me and the owners where I wasn't on a payroll; they were giving me a small stipend to cover costs and I was staying rent free and gettting fed in return for teaching speaking classes. So, I was working as far as
the authorities would have been concerned but I didn't admit that, neither did the owners as it would have meant a massive fine for me personally (the owners would have paid it), deportation immediately and the business being closed down and/or receiving a crippling fine.
The follow-up interview at Immigration HQ was to delve into why I hadn't registered an address and to find out if I had been working - and it was a serious thing. The chief interrogator spoke (and jabbed his finger) only at me and through an interpreter grilled me on what I was doing, why would I stay in a language school if I wasn't working, how long had I known Eric (part-owner), why I would stay with him when I had only known him a short time, and on and on. The NZ Embassy, which Lyn had contacted once this blew up, had advised me on no account to admit to working so I just kept denying it and justifying why I was staying at the school. I could tell he didn't believe a word I said but in the end he had to accept it even though, if they had really wanted
Life is an airport
to, all they had to do was interview some students to find out. I think Ms Cuc, who was there with me, made a difference as she had been a former teacher of my inquisitor and she mollified the situation somewhat as far as I could tell.
Eventually he consulted upstairs with his superior and when he came back downstairs I was mentally prepared for a big fine for not registering my address. Instead, he told me that because I had been unaware of my obligations there would be no fine but I had to move out of the school (according to him it is illegal to live in a language school - not sure I believe that) and do so within a few days to live at a registered address. Ms Cuc offered her address and they accepted that but made it clear to me that I'd better not be seen anywhere near a teaching class, or else! And with that my reason for being there evaporated and hence my leaving early for home.
Eric apologised to me at length for me having to go through it all and admitted that he had stuffed up by cutting
corners and doing things in a hurry. He said he had taken a calculated gamble that the work visa issue wouldn't arise because, as he said, it hardly ever does! He said we were unlucky that the Immigration Ofiice was feeling toey that week. The non-registration of my address he also accepted as his shortcoming. Thanks for that Eric!
He was the loser as well because my presence there was mainly to free him up for 5 weeks to travel to Indonesia to follow up opportunites he had been cultivating there. Now he couldn't as he would have to teach. So we all missed out.
There was one other wrinkle - I got to Saigon Airport on Monday evening expecting to fly to Singapore then Canberra, Wellington, that same night, checked my bags in and asked for them to be checked through to Wellington; can't do that Sir. Why not? Because it will be longer than 24 hours Sir and I can't check you right through if it's over 24 hours..I didn't understand until he pointed out that my flight from Singapore wasn't until midnight the following day. There had been a cock-up with my ticket. So I spent 25 hours in Singapore Airport before I got on the plane to Canberra and arrived back in Wellington last night at 5.00pm.
An interesting experience all round!
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