Thursday, December 15, 2005

Passport to Summer

What a difference a cup of coffee makes.

I woke up at five to color comics books, and I read my email. Turns out that my friend Jessica is turning 40 tomorrow.

Any news of the big 4-0 sends me into an emotional tailspin as my own is due in April, so I was miserable for a while and then went back to bed. Without blathering on in detail about why this occurs, I'll just have to say that I'd rather not write about it where total strangers can read it, that it has to do with tragic events that occurred in Uganda, and that I had accepted the idea of being in a certain place in my life on my 40th, and now I'm not going to be anywhere near that place.

So. That's confusing and obscure and unhelpful.

Anyway, I'm back awake now and a massive cup of coffee has set me straight. I have to finish cleaning the house (I gave up a few weeks ago) so that I can host Michael Kraiger's birthday dinner tonight. It’s also my mother’s birthday. I need to rise to all these occasions and quit feeling sorry for myself until the next time I succumb to sadness, which should be in about a week.

And I've got to deal with Kuwait.

I’ve encountered some setbacks. The New York-to-Kuwait airfare is ridiculous, and while I know all the airfare tricks, I can’t get around paying at least $950 round-trip. Even strategic use of Arabian budget airlines doesn’t get me there cheaper. Why? Because of &^@# Saudi Arabia. Anyone can transit across Saudi Arabia on a bus to get to Kuwait. No big deal.

Unless you happen to be female or Israeli, that is. (I'm the former.) If I were traveling with my husband (no one’s asked), brother (don’t have one), or father (he’s never left the US), I’d be allowed. And I’d have to prove it. Can't just borrow another passenger and say “doesn’t he look like me?”

I'm stuck paying the ridiculous airfare. And because Kuwait is a country that caters to business people, I am also stuck in expensive accommodation when I get there. My choices are limited to:

-stay a year and sign a lease and get a good rent
-rent a corporate-style apartment with gym, parking, internet, pool for $1000 a month
-find a flatmate.

The latter is hopeless. A quick look at online newspapers revealed ads such as these:

"Accommodation available for a Muslim Tamil bachelor."

Er… quite. Anyway, having a gym and pool and included Internet—hey, there are worse things.

But I might not even get to go. I have a big stumbling block and it is out of my hands and in the hands of the Passport Agency.

It's my passport. It’s got the dreaded I$r@e1i visa stamp. You know, the one you’re not supposed to have when you want to go to the Gulf or to Sudan. I know the score… get it on a separate piece of paper. Transit in and out of the West Bank from Jordan and no one will know. Of course I’ve done this before. But this time it wasn’t going to work.

During, there was an incident some of you may recall in which some misguided men decided to get pilot licenses, fly planes into some buildings, and change the world in a dreadful way. This meant the ship picking me up in Egypt to take me to Europe quit going to Egypt, but was willing to pick me up in the aforementioned unmentionable country. You can’t get the Egyptians to stamp you out on a separate piece of paper at the Taba border, so there’s the evidence. Was I then transported into the sky? No, it is obvious where I went.

Plus, I left from Ashdod. Again, no way to hide that. Did I swim to Italy? Obviously not. I had much too large a backpack.

I figured it was no big deal as my 48-page passport was almost full anyway. I'd just get a new one. A clean one with no stamps from anywhere.

Wrong again. They just sewed in more pages. I have a super-sized passport.

It's a well-kept secret that in certain circumstances, a qualified individual might potentially be eligible to carry more than on American passport at a time. One circumstance is when someone needs to get visas in one passport while traveling on the other. I had two for this reason in 2001.

The other reason is the situation I now find myself in. I sent in all the paperwork and I got a letter back asking for my expired 2001 spare passport. I think that’s what they wanted anyway. To be on the safe side, I sent in any passport I could find and I am now completely passport-less.

My winter is in the hands of a bureaucrat in Philadelphia. I’m hoping to avoid shoveling the walk all winter, but we won’t find out for a week or so.

Happy birthday to everyone. I’m going back to color comics now.

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