P has successfully reconstructed her life, M’s situation remains unchanged, and my work here in Vietnam is finished… 

Which is fortunate, as I’m being forced to leave the country. 

This time, it’s nothing personal. Yesterday I discovered that, for reasons known only to themselves, the Vietnamese government is not currently granting visa extensions, and I have less than 48 hours to cross the border. 

The agents I spoke to suggested there might still be a chance of an extension if I was to go to the immigration office in person. I was given the address in Hanoi, and went there today – or, at least, I tried to. 

I found the street easily enough. I’d been told by multiple sources that the immigration office was at number 34. 

When I located number 34, I discovered it was not one but ten separate addresses, each distinguished by a letter of the alphabet. 

There was, in order: 34c, 34b, 34a, 34d, 34a (again), 34f, 34g, 34a (for a third time), 34h, and 34a (yes, really). 

Most of them were small shops. One of them was a government building whose staff, in response to my queries, nodded and waved me vaguely back along the line of shops. 

One of the staff members spoke English, understood what I wanted, and seemed to know precisely where it was located. Having walked along the line of buildings twice already, I insisted that he accompany me.

I then followed him, somewhat dubiously, into 34b, which was a block of apartments. 

The lady behind the desk told me, quite rightly, ‘Here is apartment. Not immigration office.’ 

Everyone involved seemed just as perplexed as I was. 

There are many things I love about Vietnam. 

One of them is the fact that, as a foreigner, I am not dependent upon the efficiency of its government for my survival. 

In 48 hours I’ll be back in Laos which, although it may not be any more functional, is at least more pleasantly so. 

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