Wednesday, September 10, 2008

a tale of a butterfly

Once upon a time there lived a grrl named Butterfly (not her real name, but if you have to imagine, a fluttering butterfly bears a close resemblance). She had been living and working in the Bokyo metropolitan for almost a year now. It was the year 2008 and the economy was not doing very well. It was not as bad as the year 1998 when the great recession hit many countries, but certainly not as good as the previous year. Even though it was not doing well, she still managed to survive.

Butterfly was an industrious worker with many talents. So much so that sometimes she had to dumb down her intelligence and slow down her working speed in order not to do too much. She enjoyed the challenges of her work and the rapport that she had with her colleagues. In fact, the whole working environment was almost like a dream come true for her. She raved about it to all and sundry, family and friends, in the Bokyo metropolitan and back home where life was much slower. Indeed, she couldn't believe such a job existed in a metropolitan such as Bokyo.

Since Butterfly was only a contract worker, her visa coincided with her tenure at work. She reminded the Head of her workplace that it needed to be renewed. However, the Head requested for the lawyers to do the paperwork, and that Butterfly pay for half of the fees (For such a service in a metropolitan in the year 2008, it could amount up to Y50,000). Poor Butterfly, she was only a contract worker with a meagre salary and minimum benefits. She was already trying to save all she can to survive in a metropolitan such as Bokyo by eating at home and watching downloaded movies.

Since she also had to send money back home to her parents who had high hopes on her, she decided to renew her visa on her own. Butterfly managed to get the necessary papers and documentation so that she could go to the Immigration Department by herself. The Head had tried to persuade her from doing so, saying it would take too much time and hassle. However, being strong-headed and quite determined, Butterfly insisted on doing it herself.

One hot summer day, Butterfly took the train downtown and arrived quite early in the morning at the Immigration Department to get her number. She was excited as the line was quite short. However, her happiness quickly turned to disappointment when the Person At The Immigration Department informed her she had the wrong form. On top of that, the information about her workplace was outdated. Butterfly was dumbfounded as the forms came from the lawyers.

Imagine, having to pay the lawyers for a wrong form, and outdated information. She was sorely disappointed. Downstairs to the ground floor she went, where she got the right form from another Person At The Immigration Department. Much time was wasted in filling up the form again. She rushed back upstairs to try to get a new number. Alas, she was greeted with a longer line this time. All she could do was shake her head with disappointment, wondering to herself what was the Head thinking when he suggested to use the lawyers.

After taking half the day to submit her application, all Butterfly could do was wait. And wait she did. Many days went by. A week went by. A week and a day went by. And then, a postcard arrived at her house. It was a notification from the Immigration Department. It was faster than she had expected. Some of Butterfly's friends (they could be Spiders, Grasshoppers, Snails, Ladybirds, Ants, you know, that sort. Again, not their real names) had warned her it might take weeks, and even months just to process a renewal of visa. She was getting worried. She didn't want to be deported. She had done nothing wrong to deserve that. She didn't want to return to her homeland as a Deported Illegal Immigrant. In fact, she thought things like this would normally be taken care of by the workplace.

As Butterfly made her way a second time to the Immigration Department, she dare not even put any expectations. Just in case, it wasn't as good news as it was supposed to be. Her heart was pounding. And all she could do was hope and pray. She went upstairs and took her number. This line was shorter than the other line the other day. The only thing that she could dare hope for, was that this would not be longer than the other day. Still, she brought along a book to read. That's how industrious Butterfly is. She doesn't let her time go idle.

After about 15 minutes, a batch of numbers were called. A group of about 9 people made their way to the counter. As Butterfly walked slowly to the front, she allowed the rest to walk past her. Standing last in line, she looked at each person as they inspected their passports. Soon it was her turn. The Person At The Immigration Department asked her to confirm her identification before showing Butterfly her visa and re-entry permit.

Butterfly couldn't believe her eyes. There, in front of her was a brand new visa, stamped for 3 years. Next to it was the re-entry permit, valid also for 3 years. She almost wanted to cry. She wanted to shout for joy. She almost wanted to do a cartwheel, if only she was more flexible. She couldn't thank God enough. It was a prayer answered.

Just that night before, she was reading through her contract. In one of the points, it had mentioned that the workplace was to pay for the costs of renewing the visa. As she recalled the meeting that she had with the Head a few weeks before, where she asked why she had to pay for the costs of the lawyer to renew the visa and not the previous one, he told her that the first year was a "bonus". Not knowing legal terms very well herself, despite being very industrious and very talented, she could not say much as she desperately needed to get her visa renewed then.

With a 3-year visa and re-entry permit approved, and a clause in the contract in her favour, all Butterfly wanted to do was shove them in the Head's face and say "Eat this, you... you..." Being a very modest grrl herself, Butterfly's vocabulary is understandably not so colourful. However, a plan is hatching in her head at that very moment in the year 2008. She may appear to be outwardly modest and unassuming, but make no mistake, Butterfly is one heck of a smart babe.

*Any resemblance to real-life characters is purely coincidental. Excerpts from this story may be reproduced by acknowledging the writer.

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