Up a creek without a passport: A chronicle of despair, perseverance, and redemption. (Part 4)

The next day, I gather all my pertinent documents and walk to the US Embassy, where a crowd of 75 or so Ecuadorians has gathered. I suspect that I’m about to encounter an Iraq War protest or burning American flags, but instead it’s just a bunch of people in line for visas. I cruise right by that line and into the building, probably receiving a number of death glares from those left in my wake.

The woman at the desk helps me after ignoring 15 minutes of my staring at her. When all my papers are finally turned in, another woman appears to verify that I am, in fact, a US citizen.

“Where was your passport issued?” she asks.

I tell her St. Louis, and then she asks me what agency issued it. “New Orleans, I think.” She frowns. There is, she says, no record of my ever being issued a passport, possibly because of Hurricane Katrina. I consider asking if she is fucking kidding me, but worry that saying “fuck” to a government official might give them grounds to arrest me as a terrorist. I offer to answer some US history questions to prove my citizenship, but she suggests I produce a driver’s license instead. I do so, and that is proof enough for her.

She glances at my license, and that, along with my white skin and unaccented English, is presumably enough to grant me a US passport. With such tight security, I really can’t figure out how those planes were ever hijacked, I really can’t. Anyway, I’ll apparently have my passport in a week.

I am told that it will be available on Tuesday, but when I show up they tell me there’s been a problem, and that I need to come back the next day. I return on Wednesday afternoon, lay eyes on the prize (finally!) and see that my new passport expires in less than a month. Apparently, because they had no record of me ever being issued a passport, they don’t want me traveling around outside the US. Which means that this whole process, with American bureacracy in place of Ecuadorian, gets to be repeated in a month’s time. Hurrah!

New passport in hand, I take a taxi back to Immigration to obtain an entry stamp and a 30-day visa extension. As you can guess by now, that ordeal was far from painless– it took four hours. Never lose your passport.