Order Tara's Bicycle Touring Cookbook Today!

Passport Lost

by Going Slowly

11:30 AM / Tyler

We're checking in at the reception desk of a dermatologist's office (an appointment to have some questionable moles evaluated—healthcare is cheap in Bangkok), and I am happy in the knowledge that this is the last major errand of our trip.

After we've filled out the requisite paperwork for our visit, one of the hospital staff asks for our passports. In response, Tara rifles through her backpack, grabbing the case where we keep our important documents. Shooting a slight look of panic in my direction, she pulls out just one passport—mine is not here, in its place where it belongs.

While on the road, the sudden and unexpected loss of an essential item would be cause for serious, immediate alarm. Today, however, I am mostly unconcerned. After all, we've been stationary for two months—how far could it possibly have gone? As I hand over my driver's license instead, I am confident the important booklet is somewhere in our hotel room, probably in Tara's handlebar bag.

2:00 PM / Tara

One mole-lasering later, we ride our bicycles back to the guest-house, gliding through the clogged sea of cars and tuk-tuks and clouds of exhaust that make up downtown Bangkok. Returning to our room, I make a bee-line for my handlebar bag—the sturdy carrier that's been our 'round-the-world-junk-drawer for the last two years.

Rummaging through riding gloves, random electronic cables and individually-wrapped coffee-flavored candies, I search. My hand feels under and around the hard plastic lining, pushing business cards and pens, cheap metal Chinese spoons, and crumpled receipts out of the way. When every nook and cranny has been probed, the truth is revealed, confirming my fears: the passport isn't there.

I'm honestly surprised, but not overly panicked—after all, we have the entire room left to search before we really need to worry. Still, the fact that we're leaving in less than a week causes me to waver a little as I break the news to Tyler: "Uhh, honey? Your passport isn't here."

2:30 PM / Tyler

We've turned the entire room upside-down at least four times by now, picking through each and every one of our material possessions, and yet still, the key to my safe passage out of Thailand and into the USA is nowhere to be found. Yet, I'm feeling remarkably calm given the situation unfolding before us: we've been here for two months, we're leaving in less than a week, and neither of us has the faintest idea when we last saw my passport.

Suddenly, I remember that guest-houses often keep a passport as collateral. We checked-in so long ago that I can't remember if they wanted mine, but I have a murky memory of handing it over at 4am. Bolstered with a sliver of hope, I jog downstairs to check with reception, feeling sure they'll have it tucked away in a drawer somewhere. When I ask the young woman working the check-in desk, she coolly informs me that they don't keep passports. I ask if she can check anyway, and she does. Nothing. *sigh*

3:00 PM / Tyler

It's time to call the only place either of us can think of where we might have left my passport: the dentist. I'm pretty sure we didn't even bring them to our appointment, but it's worth a shot. So, I call with our spotty Skype connection, prepared to be greeted by one of the receptionists there who speaks basically no English.

Sure enough, no matter what I say or how I try to say it, the only meaningful response I can extract from the woman on the phone is: "You want appointment? You want appointment? When you want appointment?" After some time battling a crappy internet connection, dropped calls, and poor attempts at communication, I give up.

With a heaving sigh, I finally accept reality: my passport is gone. As this truly sinks in, I feel a twinge a sadness overcome me—that little blue booklet was just about the only souvenir I cared about bringing home. Inside it was a record of all the countries we've visited, all the visas, all the stamps, with scribbly, blocky writing writing from around the world. Where on Earth could it be?!

3:30 PM / Tyler

After a few minutes of quality sulking, I sever the emotional ties I had with my now estranged passport—it's just a few pieces of paper after all. The only thing left to do is call the US Embassy and see what our options are. It no longer matters where the passport is or if we'll ever find it. What matters is that we set about trying to get a new one. Thankfully, that call rings through loud and clear, and the response is short and sour: "file a police report and come in on Monday." They hang up before I have a chance to tell them that our flight leaves on Tuesday.

3:45 PM / Tyler

While Tara stays behind to get organized, I head downstairs to acquire directions to the nearest police station. To my relief, it is only a few kilometers away. Hopping on my bike, I hit the road, sprinting into Bangkok once more, hoping against hope that I'll be able to communicate what I need, and that the station will be open long enough to help.

4:00 PM / Tara

With my own heaving sigh, I resign myself to our circumstances and get mobilized. This is the last thing I want to be doing right now, and the enormity of our predicament makes my brain feel like taffy, but no matter how I feel about it, the passport situation must be taken care of or we won't be able to go home. So, tearing a sheet out of my sketchbook, grabbing an enormous permanent marker meant for labeling our bike boxes, I begin to take notes.

I have approximately one million tabs open in my browser as I research all of the rules, regulations, and paperwork. Slowly, my checklist is filled in, outlining all of the steps we have to complete to fix this problem, every hour we must be at what office, and every single piece of paper we must have filled out when we get there. The enormity of what we lays before us, what we must accomplish so we're able to fly home, is positively mind-boggling.

4:15 PM / Tyler

Walking into the police station, I stop the first officer who passes by, showing him a photocopy of my passport, miming to explain that I don't know where it is. Without a word, he points to a glass door on my right, behind which there are several rows of crappy plastic chairs, populated by a dozen or more dispassionate-looking Thai people and a few foreigners like myself. Glumly, I take my seat and wait my turn like everyone else.

4:45 PM / Tyler

I've been here for thirty minutes now, and a grand total of one person has been helped by the one uniformed officer at a desk in the front of the room. I'm not sure how late the station is open, but at this rate, chances of my receiving a police report in the next decade are not looking promising. Meanwhile, as I fidget impatiently, fearing the office will close any minute, the people I am waiting with look like deactivated robots, slumped in their chairs, heads down, hardly moving.

5:00 PM / Tyler

While the minutes tick lazily by, I feel like I'm in detention, needlessly wasting my time being quiet, being still when I need to be getting stuff done. Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I inch towards the edge of my chair, poised to cut in "line" the moment the next person stands up. I'm sure all of these people have just as good a reason to be here as I do, so I've rationalized my plan of action with the eight-year-old justification of, "you snooze, you lose!"

When the officer sends the person he is helping on their way, I bolt up to the desk, offering my best hands-folded bow and sawadee kap. Much to my surprise, it works! As I take a seat and pass the official my photocopied passport, I feel a fire on the back of my neck which I'm sure is the guilt of 20+ eyes that must be glaring at the back of my head.

Putting guilt out of my head, I turn my attention to the situation at hand. Happily, there is little I need do, for the police officer understands my plight immediately. Grabbing a piece of carbon paper, he slowly begins to hand-write a report. In ten minutes or so, I have the passkey to starting the process of getting a new passport. Phew!

5:00 PM / Tara

My research has been turning up some unfortunate information. Replacement passports take two weeks to process. Emergency passports take (very hopefully, if everything goes well), around 24 hours. It's Thursday right now, and the Embassy, being the government organization that it is, is already closed for the day. And, as I find when I read in fine print, they are also closed on the third friday of every month. Which just so happens to be tomorrow. The weekend is out of course, which leaves us with Monday and the 7AM appointment I've made to be there.

If Monday works out, then what follows will be a dizzying marathon of events. We'll return on Tuesday morning, the morning of our international flight, and Tyler's passport will, fingers-crossed, be ready to go. And then we'll have to hussle twenty kilometers across town, which will take quite a long time in Bangkok traffic, to the immigration office, where we'll need to get the passport stamped, or we won't be able to leave the country that evening.

I want to curl up in a ball and cry, but I don't. I want to call my mother for help, but I don't. Instead I sigh, feeling weary. I take another deep breath, and shake my head in an annoyed "you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me" sort of way, and ask the universe for the strength to cope with a raging, hectic whirlwind, come Monday. Very hopefully this will be the last trial by fire of our journey.

5:30 PM / Tyler

Back at home, I am filled with a deflated sense of triumph. I've succeeded in getting a police report, but the fact that I even need to have one, and the knowledge that getting it was only the first step has sapped any joy I might feel about the success. As I show Tara the all-important document required to start the avalanche of paperwork we'll be weathering next week, she shows me her computer.

My eyes bug out of my head. I am simultaneously shocked and unsurprised by the sheer number of documents we'll have to prepare. Feeling vaguely calm and detached, I save each of the files to a PDF and head out to the nearest copier shop to print them.

6:30 PM / Us

We now have a quarter inch high stack of papers printed and filled out as completely as we can manage. For the moment, we've done all we can. Our minds are blown by the insanity of the Amazing Race that we're going to have to complete on the day of our flight home.

How is this even going to be possible? We breath a simultaneous sigh of relief when we double-check our flight confirmation: our flight departs at 11:30 PM. We should be there at 9:00 PM at the latest, which means we need to leave here at 7:00 PM at the latest, which means we need to be packed and ready at least by 4:00 PM or so.

If all goes as smoothly as possible, we should have just enough time to complete the checklist that covers Tara's sketchbook page in thick, black marker. Here's hoping everything miraculously proceeds according to plan.

Lost Passport Recovery Checklist