Jeff and I took a ferry from Singapore to the Indonesian island of Bintan on Saturday. So did my passport, which is due to expire in January and has been my faithful companion over nine years and five continents. Unfortunately, all its recent adventures pushed it to the breaking point - I showed up to the Indonesian border with no totally blank pages (my own fault for not getting pages added before this trip, as Cambodia and Vietnam both required full pages for their visas.) I hoped, though, naively, that it wouldn't be an issue and the Indonesian visa could fit on one of the nearly-blank pages. Denny, the Indonesian immigration official "helping" me, disagreed, though.
This disagreement led from his immigration counter to his colleagues' counters and then to a private back office where he told me that I would need to return to Singapore to get extra pages. However, he also alluded to an "administration penalty" that could be worked out, if he put the visa on top of something else. Seemed clear enough, but this took 15-20 minutes of back and forth, while Jeff had already cleared immigration and our ride was waiting. Not wanting to get right back on what was a fairly bumpy ferry ride, I was finally able to get Denny to tell me what the "penalty" would be... in Singapore dollars. Telling him I was out of those, he quickly changed it to US dollars, though not the same exchange rate (although his error was in my favor.) Finally, I paid the penalty, and, at Jeff's insistence (I'd gotten him into the office at some point during this), he hand-wrote a receipt for me.
Shady dealing or not, it was worth it, though, as our rustic little hut on stilts over the water in Indonesia was unlike anywhere I've been before and was a picture-perfect way to ring in Valentine's Day. And, I will get those pages soon!