Monday, October 02, 2006

Tidbit of the month - sort of

This is a story which I'm not including in the book. Although it has points of interest, it takes a long time to get across and, I'm afraid, sounds a little whiny.

A ten page passport extention doesn't last long in the Middle East. Since getting ten more pages inserted in Ethiopia, the next country Sudan took up two pages with their stamp happiness, Saudi Arabia had taken up another three, Jordan had taken two pages, and, after a month in Egypt, the extention had taken up their second page. I had one blank page left.

With the passport in hand, I headed to the Canadian embassy. The marble-floored, white-walled room, had glass barriers protecting the employees; probably more for safety from irate Canadians than from terrorists.
A woman behind the desk explained the procedure to get a new passport. "You need your birth certificate, your social insurance number, this application, and..." she pointed to a section on the application. "This needs to be filled in and signed by an Egyptian official stating that they have known you for two years or more."

"But," I said. "I already have a passport, why would I need all that. I could return to Canada with this passport, see, there's still one page left. It doesn't make sense to have all those documents."

"Those are the rules," she said. "That's what you need for a new passport."

I had two problems. First, my birth certificate was at my parents house in Canada. My parents were in Florida for the winter. Second, I had barely known any Egyptian person for more than a couple months. How was I to find an official who'd known for two years?

It wasn't until the sixth month of my stay in Cairo before I managed to obtain my birth certificate from overseas, which had been lost and needed to be reordered by my sister. A dentist friend of Selim's signed the statement that I was in fact, Daniel Sturgis.

While my new passport application was being processed, I met an American at one of the pubs I frequented. He worked with passport control and immigration at the American embassy.
"I was wondering," I said, "What are the conditions on issuing a new passport to US citizens at the embassy?"

"That's easy," he said. "We just interview the person in and ask them a few quick questions like What US highschool did you attend? What street did you grow up on? What was your zip code in the US? If the answers come quickly," he snapped his fingers, "we check a couple facts and issue them a new passport. It's usually pretty obvious."

"What if the answers don't come quickly?" I asked.

"Well, then we double check the facts to make sure they aren't lying, and if everything is alright, we replace their lost passport."
"Oh, their lost passport," I said. "What if they have there old passport and its run out of pages, or is going to expire."
He looked at me as though I was stupid. "No questions asked," he said. "We make sure the passport is genuine and issue them a new one."

"Right," I said.

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