Well, I’m not sure exactly what I must have done in my past lives to cause so much travel heartache in this one, but I sure hope it was worth it!!!
I’m at Bada’s house tonight where I can use her internet, US phone line and Japanese cell phone, as well as resources at the Air Force Base to jump my newest hurdle: an “ugly passport.”
So ugly, in fact, that J and I had to cancel our trip to Hong Kong – and Thailand is hanging in a delicate balance (I am not letting that beautiful itinerary go without a fight!!!)
Now, my passport has suffered some water damage (aka it got thrown into a washing machine with my jeans when I was living in Mexico 6 years ago). Still, it is totally legible and it scans without a problem in the passport readers, so neither Canada, Mexico, various islands in the Caribbean nor Ireland had any problem with me using it to visit. I was a little nervous about it though, so I asked a Customs and Border Patrol Officer I used to work with if I should get a new one before this trip. He said it would be fine even if it didn’t work in the scanner, as long as people could read the numbers. He made me feel like a Ninny and wished me a Bon Voyage. I packed my passport away, out of sight, out of mind, no worries. I told myself not to be a Ninny as I jumped into my new adventure head first.
This Ninny was turned away from the China Eastern Airlines ticket counter at Narita International Airport this morning for having a “damaged” passport. The attendant said her biggest concern was our layover in Shanghai and that it was likely the immigration officers would deny my entry, impose heavy fines on me (starting at $1,300 USD) and then make me go back to Japan. However, if I was willing to sign a form stating I had been counseled on my “damaged” passport and that I would pay all the fines, the airline would let me board.
I thought it over as all the blood drained from my face and I started to feel sick to my stomach.
$1,300 + a ticket back to Japan + any other incidental fees to which I may find myself subject was too great a risk at this kinda-sorta-unemployed point in my life.
I took a deep breath.
J said, “So basically, her passport is just too ugly to travel with.”
The attendant laughed and said, “yes.”
My emotional side started to fire up, but my cool logic won out with the argument, “Eh, their country, their rules and nothing I can do to change it.”
J added, “Unless you wanted to try and spark a world war….”
I wouldn’t waste any tears for Hong Kong. I decided to focus on another country.
Our next stop was the Delta ticket counter to ask if flying into Bangkok was going to be just as difficult as flying into Hong Kong via Shanghai proved to be. I was hoping that Thailand would be a little more lax than Shanghai….unfortunately, the Delta attendant wasn’t able to help us much and suggested we go talk to the Immigration Officers – who, since they were located just past security, were inaccessible to two travelers who were not holding boarding passes.
My trip was unraveling before my very eyes. And it was all my fault. Emotions flared up in my brain juices, but logic won out again. I just reminded myself that it wasn’t the end of the world, it was just me not getting my way.
I started looking on the bright side:
Luckily, we got our tickets to Hong Kong refunded without too much pain.
Luckily, we were in Japan where I had a safe haven to come sort all this out.
Luckily, even if I can’t make Thailand happen, there is plenty to see and do in Japan. It’s not like I’m trapped in Siberia. I’m sure J and I can find plenty to amuse ourselves here.
Luckily, Milk Tea has become my new “comfort food” and there is no shortage of it!
Luckily, I have a friend like Bada who took me to get my passport pictures today just in case we can make something amazing happen with the passport people tomorrow morning.
J booked a fancy hotel in Tokyo so my logistical issues wouldn’t take away from his sight-seeing. I felt horribly guilty for being such an ill-prepared traveler. Especially since I had thought about this being an issue before I left and dismissed it.
Hopefully, I will have everything figured out and a new plan in place tomorrow and we can let some of this stress melt away in one of Japan’s onsens.
I guess Thailand isn’t going anywhere…