Monday, November 5, 2012

Renewing the Passport

Joko in 1986.  Jakarta.
I don’t remember what my first passport looked like.  My parents must’ve gotten it for me as I first left the country as a high school exchange student in 1986 at the age of 16.  Twenty-six years later, it was time for me to renew my passport as a first step in my goal of traveling the world teaching English. 

One thing that is kind of ironic and/or fitting about me launching this new blog about paring down my life in preparation for a major change is that I have been inspired by the blog: Merikay’s Dream has Ten Wheels.  See, I can’t help but think that MY blogging history inspired Merikay’s blog (written by my mom) and that my preparation for leaving the country parallels their preparations for life as full-time RVers (I know I won’t be trying to store any of my stuff at the family homestead now!).

I recently went through some documents in my filing cabinets and realized I had stuff that dated back to the early 90’s.  I am capable of holding onto shit for decades.  One thing I didn’t have that I would need to re-new my passport was my original birth certificate. I wrote my mom and told her that I was now, at 42 years of age, ready to take on the responsibility and ownership of my own birth certificate.  May not sound like such a big deal, but I’d think that a birth certificate is just as much owned by the mother as it is the child.  I certainly don’t remember feeling anything arising from its issuance.

A few days later, I received via certified mail a couple packages which included not just my birth certificate but all kinds of other stuff that was “mine”, but I’d never really owned.  The original script from a movie I wrote when I was 11.  An elementary school ‘yearbook’.  Letters and pictures I’d sent from Indonesia when I was 16.  My high school diploma.  My official university degree.  It feels like a torch, my torch, has been passed.

When payday came and I had the resources I needed, I gathered up all my relevant documents, downloaded and filled out the forms for a ‘new’ passport (as my old one was more than 15 years old, I was ‘new’ again) and headed down to the US Post Office this last Saturday to file my application.  After waiting in line, I was informed that they didn’t do passport stuff at the Post Office on Saturdays.  Sorry.  But… down at the Lake Forest Park (the next town over) city hall, they did. 

Off to Lake Forest Park! (which, as an aside, is one of the loveliest names for any town I’ve ever heard)

At city hall, I sauntered in and signed up on the waiting list to be seen for my application.  There were only two parties in front of me.  The first was a woman with her 4 children.  Her husband joined her during her processing.  They had no paperwork filled out. No photographs taken.  Their application took 40 minutes.  Next, we had an elderly couple whom I am guessing came from “one of the -stans”.  They spoke next to no English and I got to listen to them agonize to one another over each and every box of the form as they filled it out in the waiting room.  It was somewhat interesting as the husband would read out loud each box of the form “PERMANENT MAILING ADD-ER-RESS IF DEEFERENT FROM ADD-ER-RESS LEESTED ABOVE”, then they’d  begin a dialogue in their native -Stani tongue, and audibly fill out the form  before continuing.  

The two parties in front of me took an hour before I got to the nice city hall lady in charge of taking my app.  Unlike the previous two parties, I didn’t even get to go “into the back”.  Everything was in order; it took me all of 2 minutes to file my passport application. 

I've been reading a lot lately about the inefficiencies of the Indonesian bureaucracy as it relates to passport and immigration issues.  Implied therein is that it's somehow better in the west.  No.  Here's what I've experienced: bureaucracy anywhere takes time & patience. You can educate yourself as to what is needed and what documents to bring all you want, but your time waiting will not be determined by your own preparedness, but by that of those in front of you in line. 


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