“The last shall be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:16
That’s certainly how it was when we went through immigration and customs at the Saipan airport shortly after midnight last night.
Almost 30 hours into the very long day that took us from Edmonton to Seattle to Tokyo to Saipan, Richard and I both fell asleep on the airplane. While we were snoozing, the stewardess handed out the various forms that would be needed upon arrival. Assuming that we were American citizens, she left only one form for us to fill out when we actually needed three. We awoke as the airplane began it’s descent into Saipan and I suddenly realized that we had not done the necessary paperwork yet! Yikes! The steward on board responded to our call but he was hurried and unsure of which documents we needed. We ended up with the correct ones but they were in Japanese rather than English which wasn’t of much help to us! By this time, I was feeling a little panicked and sent a silent prayer upward asking the Lord to smooth our path. His answer was nothing short of miraculous.
As we deplaned, we exchanged the Japanese forms for English ones but that meant that we had to stop to fill them out after we entered the airport putting us at the very back of the long line of people waiting to go through immigration. In our very tired state, we were also unsure if we had filled them out correctly and were definitely feeling a bit intimidated by the whole situation. It was at that point that one of the immigration officials noticed the family with a small baby just ahead of us in line. He took them aside so that they could be processed more quickly and be on their way. As he did so, he asked where we were from and when we told him Canada, he turned the family over to another official and dealt with us himself. He was friendly and courteous and we were through in no time leaving everyone else still standing in line!
As soon as we knew that we were coming to Saipan, I began to research visa requirements. As far as I was able to determine, we would likely be issued a 30 day visa on entry and then, because we’re actually staying longer than that, we would have to have it renewed for another 30 days. We had been advised, however, that we should try asking for a 60 day visa at the airport. I thought it was worth a try. Imagine my surprise when the agent told us that, as Canadians, we are actually eligible for a 6 month visa! Though we don’t plan to do so, our passports now say that we can stay until December!
Passing through customs was just as quick and easy. Within minutes, we were out the door of the terminal where we were met by Helen Ann, her daughter and her son-in-law who welcomed us with beautiful floral leis that smell absolutely heavenly. Our Saipan adventure had begun!