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The Perils of a Temporary Passport

INDONESIA | Tuesday, 2 February 2016 | Views [260]

As I approached the passport check, I realized I was scowling. I’d been up since 3am with only two cups of coffee and I felt grouchy. Simultaneously, I realized grimacing wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I’ve been operating with a temporary passport for several months now and these passport checks usually turn into an interrogation. The temporary passport is a flimsy thing with only a few pages. It looks fake. I’ve been relying heavily on the perpetually sunny disposition and friendly nature of my boyfriend, Chris, in these situations, while I sulk in the background. But now, Chris is on a plane back to the US and I’m alone at a passport checkpoint in Bali, Indonesia.

 

So I put on my best smile, beaming at the officer with remarkable cheer for someone just off a 5-hour flight. He smiled back, looking a little startled. (Perhaps I’m out of practice.)

“Why is your passport like this? It’s not normal,” he says.

“Yes, it’s a temporary passport. I had to get it because my permanent one was lost,” I answer, trying to sound perky.

“Where did you get it?”

“Bern, Switzerland.”

“Where?”

“Switzerland. At the US Embassy. In Bern.”

“You were in Switzerland?”

“Yes.”

“This passport is from Switzerland?”

“Well, yes. The US embassy in Switzerland.”

He fiddles with the passport, turns some pages.

“How long are you in Bali?” he asks. The beginning of a typical series of questions from a passport officer.

“9 days.”

“Only 9 days?”

“Yep. Only 9 days.” Sorry we don’t all have unlimited vacation time, bro.

“Where are you staying?” Another common inquiry at a passport checkpoint.

“Ani’s Villas, in Ubud.”

“Ubud?”

“Ubud? Ubud. Ubud?”

“Ubud.” (This exchange was a matter of pronunciation. For the record, it’s “oo-bood.”)

“Any friends in Ubud?” he asks, expressionless. I’ve never had this asked of me at a passport checkpoint, but it’s a question on the visa application for Indonesia, so I’m still game with this line of inquiry.

“No, I have no friends here.”

“Would you want to go out to dinner with me while you’re here?” He asks this in the same tone he’s used for this entire interview, without a smile or a nod or a wink, just a question. As if my answer somehow impacts whether or not I get to enter the country.

“Um, what? I’m sorry - um, what?” I stutter. I was totally thrown and thought surely I had misheard him. Isn’t there some rule about hitting on people in these scenarios?

He hurriedly stamps my passport and hands it over.

“Have a nice trip!”

Tags: awkward encounters, discomfort, emergency passport, mishaps, passport check

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