swimming with sharks

This morning I went to Matara to find a lawyer/notary to certify a copy of my passport as a “True Copy”. I was told to go to the Fort where there would be loads of lawyers. As was so.

Found myself quite enchanted to be led in to a narrow enclosed two storey courtyard lined with tiny rooms, each with tiny, fenced verandah, a desk, a fax, a phone and a man in a white shirt. And they were exclusively men. Some rooms had a woman with a typewriter sitting on the verandah and one room contained a photocopier, “the” photocopier, presided over by a jolly, smiling matron who for 2rs (about a penny) photocopied my passport for me.

This is going to be easy I thought. Wrong.

I picked a doorway and went in to ask if the occupant would kindly look at my passport and certify the photocopy as a true copy.

“I cannot do this madam, I do not know you”

“I’m not asking you to certify it is me, I am asking you to certify that it matches this passport”

“I cannot do this madam, I do not know you”

“In the UK I can get this done by a complete stranger in any Post Office”

“I cannot do this madam, I do not know you. I cannot take risk but for 5000rs I will”

“Thanks but no thanks, I am not paying that much”

5000rs is about £25

In a UK Post Office document certification costs £8.75

Had variations on that conversation with a couple of others who gave lower prices but still at a level which made me think I was swimming with sharks.  I laughed to myself and mused that if at this point a man sitting inside an office with a neon “Better call Saul” sign outside had offered his services at the right price I would have accepted without a qualm.

Eventually, after my Sinhala speaking driver had had a word with someone who I think was the porter and who was absolutely lovely and super helpful, I was shown through the doorway of Mr Chinthaka Hewapthirana, a charming young man who without fuss and for a very reasonable 1000rs certified my copy for me.

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