Day 252 of 366: Blog Challenge 2012

Hello all

My neighbours left for an overseas holiday early today and after Geoff dropped them off at the airport, I received a frantic and heart-wrenching phone call from my neighbour saying she could not find her passport which she had put, together with her husbands passport, in her bag!

Had she left it at home? Could I look in her house? Well … after turning her house upside down, phone calls back and forth and many prayers, the passport was finally handed in at the Lost Property Office at the Airport. Thank God! It had taken about an hour for all this evolve. My mind began to boggle at what would have happened to her if it had not been found just before her flight left Brisbane.

Oh the joy of having an Australian Passport!

Thank goodness it never got that far. I wondered how I would feel if I were in her situation? It got me thinking about PASSPORTS ... and what they mean to us. I remember the excitement of receiving my first passport in 2005 when Geoff and I went on a cruise to the South Pacific Islands.

I’d never had a passport before and coming from a blue-collar family we accepted that we would never be able to afford to travel overseas. Oh how things change folks!

It didn’t matter that my photo on the inside cover showed a faded older woman who looked like she was on the brink of topping herself  (smiling was not allowed) and my middle name was spelled incorrectly.  Well, it WAS correct … technically! The fact was it was incorrect on my new birth certificate and my passport had to agree. Since then I’ve  learned to lead a double life folks. I use the correct name in my every day life but when I travel I change to the incorrect one. It’s hilarious!

But when we do travel Geoff guards our passports as if they were his ‘babies’. They never leave his side day and night. He keeps them in a special travel purse attached to his body (not a money belt) or if he is wearing his jacket, he has a hidden pocket especially for this purpose. He will not leave them in the safe in the hotel either.

When we were overseas in Europe for six weeks in 2008, we found ourselves in all kinds of situations. Take the time we were on the Italian cruise ship from Venice to Istanbul. One of the stopovers was Greece.

Investigation needed for going to Olympia in Greece

We received advice that the Greeks wanted the passports of all the English speaking passengers on board two days before we reached Greece. This would involve 10% of the passengers, the rest were Italian and they could do what they liked. The rest of us would have to be investigated!

Geoff and many of our American friends on board declared this a travesty and told the cruise staff exactly what they thought. Geoff was refusing to hand ours over, but in the end, we were told we had no choice. No passport … no Greece! I can still see Geoff reluctantly handing those passports over and insisting that he wanted a photocopy taken and a receipt.

Oh how I felt for the staff on that Italian ship trying to get all our passports! However, all proved to be above board and our passports were duly handed back to us – complete with a stamp – after we had visited Greece.

Don’t ask me what it was about but all of us English speaking people felt a lot of fear at the prospect of not having them returned. What would happen if they got lost? How would we fare then?

A strange experience in Florence

Another time in Florence, the lady in the hotel asked for our passports  (perfectly normal when checking in) but she did not return them. Instead, she locked them in a drawer under her desk and said “I will return them tomorrow.” She had not reckoned on Geoff however; he got so vicious that I thought he was going to reach across her desk and strangle her! But no, he just insisted “I would like them back NOW please!”

Well, she had to get the manager didn’t she? She had no authority to write down our number NOW. No. She had to leave them for the lady on the night shift as this lady had nothing else much to do. It took time but eventually the Manager came, recorded our passport numbers, apologised and returned our passports but not before Geoff advised him to change his procedures. Fancy, trying to take Geoff’s ‘babies’ away from him!

Yes, losing your passport whilst overseas has to be the scariest thing that can happen in a foreign country. One hears all sorts of stories so it is best to guard them with your life folks.

Another time Geoff and I were in Spain returning a hire care to Barcelona. It took far … far longer than planned (this is a story for another time folks) and we missed the last train home to our town 2 hrs travel away.

What to do? Stay in Barcelona overnight? No, eventually Geoff came up with a better idea. Why don’t we catch a train and keep going to another town 4 hours travel away and see what happens? It was crazy … but my sense of adventure kicked in and I agreed. What was ahead of us? Could we catch a taxi back? Could we travel on the trains all night?

An unexpected visit to Costello de la Plana

Well no, in fact when we alighted off the train at 11pm at Costello de la Plana we saw several hotels across the road. Next minute,  we are checking in (with no luggage I might add) for the night. When the girl, knowing our plight said: “You realise you have to have your passports to check in?” Geoff promptly retrieved them from his secret pocket inside his jacket.  The look of surprise said it all.

And so began an adventure we have never forgotten. We couldn’t have picked a better hotel to arrive at with no luggage. For there was every single implement one could need including toothbrushes, toothpaste, a razor, comb and so much more.

Yes, thank God for Geoff and his obsession with passports!