Today was the day we went to visit the South African High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. A little mis-adventure.
As you may or may not know, I was married before, but am now divorced. Since March 2006 or something like that, it’s quite unimportant. What is a pertinent fact though is that I got married here in Malaysia in 2000 – consequently when I returned to South Africa, I had registered the fact with the Department of Home Affairs there.
After getting divorced, I haven’t been back to South Africa yet and thus, if you asked the South African Department of Home Affairs, they will tell you that I am still married. This bothers me a great deal, so I thought that because I was in Kuala Lumpur anyway, I would visit the High Comm and register my divorce. Sounds quite simple right?
This morning, and I’m still not sure how we managed it, we dragged our sleepy bodies out of bed at the very repectable hour of 8.30am, just in time for 9am when John picked us up. Originally from Taiping, John lives in Kuala Lumpur when he’s not in Sabah and thus he has transport here – he graciously offered to explore with us, first task being the small mission of getting to the High Comm.
We went to Lake Titiwangsa, which is where the South African High Commission in Kuala Lumpur was the last time I needed them – uhm, that was in 2000 when I had to visit them to do an affidavit that said I wasn’t married. John had studied the road-map of Kuala Lumpur for a bit and practically drove straight there.
We arrived there nice and early, before 10am still, ready for the wait if there was any. Low and behold, the house / high comm was deserted and it was clear that the South African High Comission of Kuala Lumpur moved. They were, however, nice enough to leave their new address and both Julia and John knew where this was – in the centre of town, not too far away from where we were.
On the way out of Titiwangsa, we drove past the Eye of Malaysia, but it would be a while before they started operating for the day. We stopped and had a brief pre-breakfast snack in the form of something peanutty that John had bought the night before, whilst John was on the phone to directory inquiries making sure that he knew where we were going.
We had a brief discussion about the merit of waiting for the Eye of Malaysia to open, but in the end, having inspected it close up, weighed the flight time against the price and what it was, we decided that the Eye on Malaysia wasn’t a must-do tourist attraction and deemed it not worthy to wait for. We continued on our quest.
First we had to get food, as by now we had hunger pangs. John knew just the place: Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang, literally translated to Market New Hill Star, or the idiomatic translation is the New Star Hill Market, or just the wet market for short. We got ushered to an available table in the very busy eating area of the market before John and Julia took care of ordering the food.
Curry featured prominently and I declined a full meal, and instead nibbled on bits and pieces of what they ordered. I also got what was supposed to be famous coffee, only to find it nearly undrinkably strong. I had some anyway, and was on a coffee kick for the rest of the day.
A Chinese gent from a stall nearby where we were sitting spotted my shiny dome. I was the only foreigner in the market, which is quite tucked away and probably doesn’t see that many tourists. He felt he would do some PR and sent me over some food from his stall. It was good stuff, but I can now not remember what it was 🙁 Anyway, if you’re ever at Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang, please look him up and order some of his yummy food.
After breakfast we headed over to the Menara HLA (or HLA Building if you want), which is where we found the South African High Comm again. We zipped up to the 22nd floor and into their new shiny offices with the service desk behind the bullet proof glass.
Behind the glass I saw a familiar face and my heart sank. Komotie is the not so friendly Malaysia Indian girl, which has worked at the South African High Commission in Kuala Lumpur for as long as I’ve been going there – the first time, as I said, was in 2000. I remember not having too much joyful interaction with her then either, as she was short and unhelpful then too.
Seven years later Komotie is still looking hot, but is still as unhelpful and short as ever. I walked up to the bullet proof glass with a smile dripping with low expectations of solving my issues. “Hello,” I started with a killer opening line and briefly explained my scenario ending with, “so all I need to do is register the fact that I’m not married anymore”.
She looked at me, having formulated the answer the moment she saw me walk in the door and now delivered it with a sickly sweet smile, “we don’t have the forms for that, you have to go back to South Africa to do it.”
I was floored, because I knew whatever next I would say, the answer would be shorter, but the same. “But”, did I say trying anyway, “I’m not going back to South Africa soon, surely there’s a way to do something this simple”. “No”, she said firmly standing up and crossing her arms, making sure I could see what I was dealing with. “The High Comm can’t do everything, you have to go back to do it”.
“I phoned here before I came”, I said challenging her knowledge, which I was sure was lacking, “and that person said I could do it”. “Oh”, she said cocking her head a little, “who did you speak to,” ready to go and whip the person who told me such rubbish. My mind, of course, let me down at just that moment and I was unable to remember. “I can’t remember”, I said defeated, thinking in my head ‘but I bloody well know it wasn’t you’.
She had this look on her face of bratty little girl who had just beaten her brother for something she said he did wrong, but shouted for daddy before the brother could beat her back for actually being innocent.
“But”, did I try again, “what if I’m never going back?” I asked hypothetically. “No“, she said again like somebody repeating herself for the 3rd time, “doesn’t matter”. I despondently looked around at John and Julia who stood in amazement of the little interaction, not believing how unhelpful and stern Komotie was being. I was thinking of how else to phrase the question, but “no no no” kept echoing in my mind. We left, none the wiser.
I had phoned the High Comm in November to find out whether or not I was able to do this and the person, who’s name I conveniently forgotten, told me that I could. Once we got down stairs I phoned the high comm, sort of knowing that Komotie wouldn’t be answering the phone.
A South African named Jacki picked up the phone and suggest that I gave the High Comm Secretary, one Mr. Kruger, a call – she said he would be available at 2pm, and it was now around 11am.
We looked around for something to do in the vicinity whilst we waited, hoping that we would be able to solve this issue still and spotted the newly opened Pavillion Shopping Centre.
We headed on over…