Delightful Ning Back In Farangland 2 – Arrival 2
A heavy steel-glass door leads to the National Border Police on the southern wing of the airport. Is my Ning behind the door? I press the buzzer. A tone signals I can open the door. The heavy door closes behind me. I notice I stand inside a tiny porch,
more like a cage actually, or a gateway into a spaceship or nuclear power plant.
Through a second door of steel and glass I see a policeman behind a counter. He observes me interestedly. Then, leisurely, he presses a button. Another buzz tone indicates I may open the second door. What a heavy thing! I heave it open, slip inside, storm to the police counter.
— Police Bunker —
The National Border Police are my special friends. I travel a lot, and I invite friends from non-Euro countries. Living in the most xenophobically governed province of a xenophobically governed country, a talk to the National Border Police is my pure pleasure this morning.
But shock: I get a friendly welcome from a jolly young officer with blond curls. Nobody could be more relaxed and accommodating than him.
Yes, he says, Ning does sit in the back room, and they have a few questions for me. Haha, he wants to see my ID, and I don't have it on me – that's against the law here. Anyway, my driving licence is enough for him. He takes it to somewhere else, obviously shows it to her. Then I have to spell her name.
"WHY do you hold her here", I ask? See, I argue: She has been in my country before, and she left orderly as required, which can easily be seen from her passport. She has what she calls an "invite letter" and what my dictionary calls "letter of commitment". She paid the 45 USD to apply for that tourist visa, which is non-refundable if the visa is not granted, but no, she has the real tourist visa in her passport. She answered all the dull questions at our embassy. Upon request, she will be able to produce a three-month health insurance policy issued by a well-known company. And just in case you wondered: I am sure she looks like she always looks – decent, respectable, not blood young and not adventurous.
Yes, says my relaxed National Border Police friend with a smile – yes. But: "She says she has a business in SE Asia – how can she leave that alone for three months?" – "Oh, she has a big family, you know, and over there all the family members help each other, that's the Asians, you know." – "Ah, and so YOU signed that letter of commitment for 'your friend', right?" – "Yes, I did!" – "Do you have a photocopy of that letter of commitment with you?" – "No, I had no idea I needed that. I have a photocopy at home." – "Where do you stay? How big is your place? How about your monthly income? Can you really accommodate her for three months? Does she plan to work here?"
We drool on and on with obsolete questions. He wants to see the letter of commitment, but how should I know I had to bring my copy?
(Insert 1: As I learn later, Ning does carry the original letter of commitment in her handbag. The embassy told her to bring it, because National Border Police might ask for it. But they ask me, not her, for the paper.)
(And insert 2: Having that official letter of commitment automatically means that my local government checked if my housing contract and my monthly income allow me to entertain foreign guests; the five minutes procedure is charged at 31 USD.)
And then I see – HER: Only now I realize that behind the police counter there is a tinted window, looking into a tiny room. And there, seemingly in half darkness, surrounded by three African men in striped shirts, sits – M Y N I N G !!!
"Oh, she sits there behind you", I stammer, "please, let me talk to her."
"Yes, but wait one moment. You can meet 'your friend' now and bring her to your town. But you cannot go out from here together. She has to go back through the transit area to the baggage claim and then through passport control. For you, you walk back through the administration zone. You meet her in the arrival hall, at the gate, just where you came from."
Then Ning arrives behind the police counter. She has a tired smile for me. But she has to stay three meters away from me. – "NING!!! Are you ok? Everything ok", I gasp in neon light over the distance? – "Yes, dear, no problem." Another tired smile. – I tell her we can meet soon in the arrival area.
— Car —
We are on the highway back to my place. The hold-up at the National Border Police has cost us about two hours – and a monthly income in airport parking fees.
Looking back, I didn't see her awkward entry into my country as a bad omen for things to come. She doesn't complain about police either, even though she was clearly uncomfortable sitting in a tiny room with three silent black men.
"My dear! You have been on airplanes for 13 hours! Did police offer you restrooms, food or drink?"
"Why didn't they call me on the mobile?"
"I don't know!! They always asked for your home number. I told them it makes no sense, as you wait for me at the airport. I asked them to call your mobile, but they said they wanted your home number!"
She says that first they just dropped her in the cabin with the African males, and no further comment. Nobody spoke a word there. Then she left the box and followed the blond-curled policeman into his own office. She urged him to call me by handphone. Only when he refused to call my mobile number, she suggested he might page me through the PA. According to her, the policeman did not get annoyed over my insisting Ning, but duly followed her requests.
“You know, Pothole – this is the second time we meet here in your country. Now I know you a little bit already. Luckily this didn’t happen on my first visit. If this happened on my first visit, I’d thought you play some very bad game on me.”
Next time I'll invite a black-bearded male straight-flight specialist on a gay marriage visa. That may be easier than bringing in my harmless Ning.
— Home —
Finally at home – for her second time in Europe. She happily notices that the bathroom tiles now have a carpet. Otherwise, nothing much changed since her first arrival, so we don't need to tour the place like on her first time.
In the bedroom, she carefully sorts her things into the slim wardrobe I prepared for her. She still knows her way around. She opens a drawer and takes out a pack of tissues. They are where they always are. She puts the tissues on the bedside locker.
She has a shy smile.
I have a shy smile.
Reader – she's back!
For a youngish Asian woman, this sort of thing would be a real ordeal. A great little story, this one!