torsdag, marts 16, 2006

An elegy to the past, cancelled

Yes, it's true. I'm starting afresh, totally against my will. The event which triggered this? I went today and picked up my new passport. I'm gutted...well, that's an exaggeration, but I am horribly disappointed with this new, shiny, crisp, thin, empty identity document.

This is my third passport. My first one I wasn't ever that attached to, even though I made my first overseas trip with it (to Paris), and became an ex-pat with it (to Lisbon). But my second passport, ah, it was my eternal companion. We had adventures together. It brought me amusement; it brought me annoyance. I adored it. As an exercise in total self-centeredness, I would like to share a few selected memories, fond and otherwise, with you.

1) A story of beginnings. I used to be early. Really early, for everything. Then I got to Portugal, and found that not everyone was as prompt as I was. So, in order to evolve, I determined to be, no not late, but not so early. This is why, when I realized half-way to the bus station that I had forgotten my passport, I didn't really have time to go back and get it. Which wouldn't have been a problem except that the bus was to take me to visit a friend in Switzerland. In the end, I brazened it out, and made it past passport control on the border from Spain into France (not a problem as I wasn't stopping there anyway), and from France into Switzerland (I presented my California i.d., which got me a rather scathing 'you come to Switzerland with your...driver's...license?!', but which also got me into the country).

Then, I started to worry. On the return journey, I was to arrive back in Lisbon just a few short hours before having to go back to work. Any passport related delays would be very bad. So, I made a day trip to the consulate in Bern (this was the day after my friend and I made a trip to the consulate in Zurich...to find that it no longer existed) to get a new one. At the consulate, the guard at the entrance told me, 'You can't get into Switzerland without a passport.' Then the woman behind the window counter told me, 'You can't get into Switzerland without a passport.' She had more to say:

Counter woman: We cannot issue you with a temporary passport. You should have brought yours with you.
Me: I didn't leave it on purpose. But in any case, I don't have it, so what should I do?
CW: Well, you'll have to get someone to send it to you.
Me: But I'm only here for a couple more days.
CW: Well, then you should have thought of this before.

This is the condensed version. At some point, I decided to give up gracefully and just leave, as I clearly wasn't getting anywhere.

CW: But you can't travel without a passport!
Me: Well, I got here without one, didn't I? So, I'll just have to go back without one.
CW: Wait a minute. Please fill out this form, while I check with a consular officer.

The consular officer was friendly and chatty...'Oh, so you live in Lisbon? Great city, Lisbon,' etc. I got to present some passport photos, pay some money, wait around a while and show proof that I was me (the driver's license, of course). And then I got my genuine Swiss-issued U.S. passport. The old-fashioned kind with the number stamped onto the front. As I couldn't prove my citizenship without my old passport, the new one was only valid for one year. When I got back to Lisbon, I went to the embassy there with both passports, had the old one cancelled, and the new one extended to the full ten-year term.

And, for what it's worth, I encountered not one single passport check on my way back from Switzerland.

2) A story of amusement. My passport's humble beginnings provided a good test of who's really paying attention to what they should be paying attention to. This because instead of the expiration date on the main information page, there was a 'see page' reference, to guide the reader to the extended date. No, actually two 'see page' references, the first for the original 1-year limit, which was crossed out and replaced with the reference for the extended limit. It's scary how many airport personnel and customs and immigration personnel clearly didn't look. Even more amusing are all the people who couldn't seem to figure out where to find the expiration. At some point right before moving to Denmark, I had to have extra pages put in...you'll of course kindly ignore the fact that 90% of the stamps that had filled up the original pages were from Lisbon, London or Copenhagen, and just think of me as a world traveller, yes? Thank you! Anyway, the extra pages were put in so that they cut off the page with the new expiration from the back where only the old expiration page could be seen. I have gotten such great quirky joy out of trying to guide middle-aged men behind glass in airports to where they could find that magical date...'no, it's not expired, the new date is on page 22...no, not so far forward...it's before the extra pages...no, no, the page before that....'

3) A story of annoyance. As my passport was issued same-day, it is not the usual cookie cutter format. It's what I believe is called a 'foreign issued' passport, which I'm not sure is done anymore, or maybe just for cases like mine. This was never a problem...except when I went to open a bank account when I first got to London. Apparently, it's difficult to do this in England, especially if you've just arrived and haven't set up residence yet. I could only go to one bank, because I had a letter from my new employer to that one bank (and in fact to that one branch of that one bank). Everything was done, and I was ready to move money into the account...and then my bank advisor made one final telephone call, about my passport. Not to check on me, but to check on the format of the thing. His end of the conversation included things like, 'no, the information is on the third page...typed...the photo is underneath, on page four'. After the call, he turned to me and said, 'I'm sorry, but we can't proceed because we are unable to verify your passport.' Excuse me? His final words (final because I couldn't stand to hear anymore): 'We're not saying that it's not a real passport, because it probably is.' In the end, I went in with my driver's license...well, it worked in Switzerland, didn't it...and made the very logical case that 'If I can't open a bank account, then where am I supposed to put my money?', which quite worryingly seemed to impress the person helping me...but got me special bank manager approval to open an account.

And now, it's time to start anew. I don't want to. I want to keep my old passport, and add more and more pages to it until it no longer fits in my carry-on luggage. But of course that's not possible. So, my new task is how to bond with this thing, which is so fresh it really appears fake to me. The bottom line is, it's time to travel. I've set my plans for the summer (July studying in Lisbon, and most of August travelling in the Sichuan region of China), but that's too long to wait. To anyone reading this, be prepared, I may show up on your doorstep at any time, ready to show off my first stamp in my new passport.

image credit: http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Image:Gov-us_passport.jpg

26 kommentarer:

Vesper sagde ...

I've added you to my links.

What's my fortune?

;)

kimananda sagde ...

Vesper, welcome to the House of Fortune. Please accept this virtual cup of soothing herbal tea. Your fortune will be ready soon...

'Your obvious good taste in blogs will be rewarded. Your obvious blogging talent will be even more rewarded. Fortune will find you, whether inner, outer, or a combination is not totally clear.'

Hey, that was fun. Do you know it took 8 months of blogging for someone to ask about fortunes? I'm impressed!

Devil Mood sagde ...

Girl, you sure have travelled :) And I'm certain you'll have a lot more to fill the pages of the new shiny passport. But I understand that it must be frustrating to lose the living proof of those memories...

Diana sagde ...

hi, i came across ur blog while browsing through jewel rays blog. a large blog!!i havent gone through all ur posts bt whatever i read, found it interesting. Good work
keep blogging

kimananda sagde ...

Bom dia, Ms. Mood! Thank you for your kind words. But, don't worry about lost memories...I did get my old passport back...it just has some holes punched through it, and a big stamp on the information page which says 'CANCELLED'. So, I won't miss having it; I'll just miss using it.

Hi Diana, thank you also for your kind words. :-) You are welcome here anytime, and I suspect you'll be seeing a lot of me at your blog as well. But I must ask...who is jewel ray?

Helen sagde ...

I know exactly how you feel - I had a new passport in January, it was all neat and new with no visa stamps, or wrinkled edges from spilling water on it and no photos and notes about my residency permit from the Swdish immigration office :( My new passport is slowly starting to feel more familer - hope you're doesn't take too long! Have a great weekend! Helen

kimananda sagde ...

Helen, thanks for a taste of what I can look forward to...hopefully a couple of stamps, and my passport and will start to get along nicely.

And have a good weekend as well!

B sagde ...

My, but this is an interesting account of your travels. And most impressive. Admittedly, I'm a little envious of you - I've always wanted to visit China. Enjoy your continuing adventure.

marybishop sagde ...

I don't have the opportunity to travel very often, but I do have a beloved and expired passport in my top drawer.

I love my passport photo. I am wearing dark-tinted glasses and a black leather motorcycle jacket. I look like a terrorist, yet it is my favorite picture of myself.

Can you frame a passport photo? As you can see, you are not alone in loving your past passports...

BTW, I'd love to find such an interesting, intelligent person appear on my doorstop!

Simple American sagde ...

Can't you just jump across the border real quick to Germany and break that passport in. hehe

You must post its first stamp. Seems kinda like baby pictures.

China. Ooooh. Wanna go there too. Have fun with the new passport.

Vanessa sagde ...

I got my first passport last year but have yet to break it in. I'm hoping that will be remedied this year though. I've been pseudo-planning a trip to Ireland, pricing airfare and guest houses, and researching what I'd like to see & do while there. Now I'm just deciding if I'd like to find a travel buddy or if I'd prefer to do this trip solo.

Daphnewood sagde ...

my daughter was born in Berlin and I had to get her passport so I could bring her into the states. Her passport looked very different from my own and flimsy. The experience I had with the judgemental worker across the counter from me still haunts me to this day. I will tell you about it sometime. I do laugh about it now but know people like her still exist.

I know you will bond with your new friend in no time. Just a few more stamps and getting caught out in the rain on occasion will make it seem like an appendage, just like the other one.

Morningdew sagde ...

I know that feeling, the sweet silly attachment to that little book called our 'passport'. I share the same sentiment.

Love your new layout! Squeaky clean!

portuguesa nova sagde ...

Oh man, this is totally painful. There is no possession more prized than a stamped up passport. Back in my days at the international charity we had people in the office who had three and four passports at once all rubberbanded together...I loved them.

Chloe sagde ...

what IS it with green? it's the time of season. It's very nice and clean. I like it much much better than the previous one and it loads faster.
xx

kimananda sagde ...

Hi Bryan, and welcome. I'd recommend China...we went there a couple of Christmasses ago, purely because we could get cheap tickets...and loved it. That time was to Beijing/Xian/Harbin and a few other places. This time, it's to a different part of the country and promises to be completely different.

Mary, your old passport picture sounds great! And thank you for the compliment! I've always said one of the reasons I would go for a career in academia is so I could go to conferences in all my blog friends' cities, so you never know....

Simple American, if only it were that easy. The EU is getting looser and looser about these things, and there aren't any checks on passports at that border at all. Actually, a lot of my trips these days don't include passport control. But I like the idea of posting the first stamp. I'll try to remember to take a picture of it when I get it. And come to China. We'll be in and around Chengdu and Chongqing for most of August.

Vanessa, Ireland is beautiful and fun. I encourage you to go...really! You'll love it.

Daphnewood, I'd love to hear your story sometime. It's good to know that it's not just me.

Dew, I'm glad it's not just me who bonds to such things. And thanks for the kind words about the new layout. I was so unhappy with the old one, and everything I did to shake the old one up, I hated it more. So, finally, I decided I had to start from scratch. Look for it to change again a few times before it settles.

Senhora Nova, three or four passports rubber banded together...wow, I'd love that, but might need to get a different kind of job for that to happen.

Chloe, as you said, green is soothing! I like it a lot better than the old one, too. The problem with the old one was that I tried to customize it, and it just didn't work. I have this idea that I want a template that only I have...but don't have the wherewithall at the moment to design my own. And I'm glad to hear that it loads faster.

Devil Mood sagde ...

No, you changed your template too?! lol I guess that's what people call Spring cleaning ;)
The colour is very Easter :)

kimananda sagde ...

Yep, Ms. Mood, spring cleaning is right. I hadn't thought about the colors being Easterish, but they probably are. Look for more template changing over the next few days.

Vesper sagde ...

You rock! Thanks for the fortune! That WAS fun! ;)

Simple American sagde ...

We were going to go to China this year but my father-in-law thought it would be easier for him to come here since all but one of his children lives in North America. We will be going on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate his 80th birthday.

China should be on the iteniary next year.

kimananda sagde ...

Vesper, thank you for the wonderful compliment. I don't normally rock, but it's nice when I can manage it.

Mr. American, now Alaska...there's a place I'd like to go. Maybe it's genetic...my mother has been there a number of times, and my brother worked for two summers packing salmon, and also travelled a bit. I will get there eventually. What a wonderful way to celebrate such an honored birthday.

True Blue Guy sagde ...

You have guts ! I am terrified of traveling without my passport

cheers

kimananda sagde ...

Blue, I was quite nervous for the whole bus trip! Actually, I don't think I would have been so bold today. But then I plan ahead more today than I did then, so I'm less likely to be in that situation in the first place....

xsparklerx sagde ...

I just got my first passport awhile ago and became an expat to the Middle East with it... I can't wait till mine gets to the point yours was at. I can't wait to travel all over.
Thanks for stopping by my blog, yours is really cool, and I can relate to what it's like living outside your country...

Likalicious sagde ...

Cheers sweet ******'s à sombra. =). there's some funny coincidences with the stuff you write, and what's happening in my ya here places... Johari's windows amongst others... lol I also have a brand new passport, the first since the one i got at 4 months. I think it´s lost somewhere. I´ve always travelled within the E.U. so i didn't have the need for a new one. But now as come the time to return to the roots. The chance came unexpected. I'm problably not gonna be around here in july, it would be funny reseeing you after all this time. But i was supose to have left by now, so who knows, maybe i'll be around here. I don´t have much time nowadays but i´ll come peeking here whenever i can. Until then ************'s visados e carimbados

kimananda sagde ...

xsparklerx, thanks for the visit, which I've only noticed now! Yikes!

Likalicious, if you are around, I'd love to take a coffee, but otherwise, happy travels!