Thursday, May 23, 2013

21 Years, 10 Months and 3 Passports

We were sitting around the other night talking to a friend visiting from Ecuador. Jason was telling us all about our friends from Tahoe that have moved there and the adventures they've been having. As we listened about how hard it is to get any official paperwork done there, the discussion turned to visas and passports. I saw Ernst get a look of panic on his face. I realized it then too - Did our passports expire? As he ran out to the office to check, I heard him say, "I think they're good til August!!" Nope, they expired in April and we had to get new ones.

My scary passport story happened in Kiev, Ukraine - 20 years ago this summer. We were in line at the airport to leave. We were hot and tired and, after one week in the former USSR, we were looking forward to getting back to Austria. It was the trip of a lifetime, but seven days in Kiev in 1993 was one day too long. We were standing around trying to look calm in front of the gun toting guards, longing to get on the plane and eat food that had been nowhere near Chernobyl.

I was fanning myself with my boarding pass and my passport - my essentials for getting on that precious airplane. Then I looked down and only saw my boarding pass. I started repeating very loudly "OMG, I lost my passport! OMG, I lost my passport!" Others standing in line started helping me look for it, including Milton Henschel and Theodore Jarecz. The OMG statement just kept coming out of my mouth like a mantra. The thought of having to go back to that sad city and find the US embassy and spend another night there - it was just too much to bear. A large man in the next aisle lifted up his foot and there it was! My little blue book had flown quite a distance with my vigorous fanning. Lesson learned - don't use important legal documents to cool yourself unless you're in a country that you'd like to get stuck in for a few more days.

Why the look of panic when realizing we had let our little blue books expire? Because this summer I'll be fanning myself in Ireland and then holding my passport close in Romania! We're going first to Dublin and meeting some friends in the Romanian congregation there. Then it's off to Bucharest to work in an area about 40 kilometers outside the city. Kind of a goofy European vacation, but it was the same price to spend some time in Ireland first as it was to just travel to Romania only. While waiting for our new passports to arrive and getting ready for the trip, I'll have to practice saying "ODM, mi-am pierdut pașaportul meu!"

Stamped in my memory.

Costa Rica is pretty, but don't go in July.

If you smile, the border agents give you more stamps than your husband.

Go to China, just go!

EU country stamps have little symbols of planes, trains and automobiles. Cute.
Polish is impossible, but Poland is pretty.
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Ein bisschen.
Prague was way better in 1993 before Rick Steves had to go and tell everyone about it.
I'll say it again, go to China!