Up a creek without a passport: A chronicle of despair, perseverance, and redemption. (Part 1)

I am on a bus moving from the south of Ecuador up to Quito. Soon, the bus drops off some passengers, myself included, in Quito, and proceeds on to God-knows-where. I hail a taxi, tell it the name of my hostel, and off we go. On the way, the cab gets into a little fender-bender with a pickup truck, but I remain unfazed– hey, it’s not my car. Suddenly, I am apoplectic, and not about the car accident. I realize that I’ve forgotten my jacket on that bus that just pulled away. Big deal, you say. Who cares?

I do. My passport was in the coat pocket. The realization hits me like the stabbing of a knife: surprise– then nothing– then pain.

After a frustrating trip to the bus station, in which I can’t remember the bus number or even the bus company of that fateful ride, I soon come to the conclusion that I will need a new passport.

As I am always occasionally one to turn lemons into lemonade, I’ve decided to chronicle my efforts at obtaining a new passport. I am confident that this excruciatingly bureaucratic process, combined with the formidable language barrier, will test the limits of human endurance and patience…

Of the numerous documents I need to scrape together, the easiest are passport photos. I decide to walk, here in Baños, Ecuador, to a place called Quito Photo, and I try to explain what I need. Though I am brutally hacking the Spanish language to pieces, the man understands. He can’t help me, so he directs me to another photo place that he thinks will have just what I’m looking for. I only partially understand his directions– the fact that I need to first exit his store, the verb “go”– but I arrive at the next place without a problem. There, the scene in Quito Photo repeats itself. They don’t do passport photos, but they think the place down the street does. Two photo stores later, my picture is taken and my photos are printed on the spot. It is telling, perhaps, that I consider this process to have been unexpectedly efficient. Later, I discover that these passport photos are in fact the wrong size, so I repeat essentially this same ordeal in Quito.

I go to the Baños police station to try to file a report about my lost passport, but the station is closed. Of course, it’s Sunday.

[Coming tomorrow, part 2.]