I have to renew my passport.
I got this passport in November 2005. At the time, I was sad to renew because the previous one was my first solo passport and it had my Australian Student Visa in it. I mourned the loss of that first passport, though I was able to keep it in my possession.
This time, I am even sadder to renew my passport. It has been with me through the last five years and those five years have been my most travelled years: of the 24 pages in the passport, two and a half still have space for stamps. Yet I have to renew. It expires in November and I am due to travel internationally in November/December. Before I travel, I need to get a visa and before I get a visa, I need a new passport. Reluctantly, I begin that process…
To pay homage to the places I have been, I photographed each page of the passport. I plan to go through them all and share one or two funny/strange/awkward stories relating to the stamps on that page.
Today, from the first two pages: Germany and Austria 2006 and French Polynesia 2007.
In 2006, Natalie and I travelled to Europe for three months. On arrival in Copenhagen, we both used our EU passports (her: British, me: Dutch) because the line was much shorter and, as it was late at night, all we wanted to do was get out of the airport to my friend Nina’s house. This was fine, except we did not get any European entry stamps.
Fast forward to crossing the border out of Germany and the Euro Zone and into the Czech Republic a month and a half later. I am on the train and am awoken from my daydream/nap by the customs agent demanding my passport. Assuming they also want my train pass (not valid with a European passport), I hand over the Canadian one. The boarder guards demand to know where my entry stamp is. I do not have one and all I can muster in my dazed state is “They didn’t stamp it.” That must have satisfied the guards because they eventually stamp my passport and I am in. These are some of the only stamps I received in my three months/10+ countries in Europe.
French Polynesia was the first “foreign” port of call on Offshore. Yes, we had stopped in Hawaii after leaving Victoria, but the United States of America does not qualify as foreign in my books, even if it is the Hawaiian Islands. We landed first, and cleared customs in Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands. Despite the fact that the islands are made up of a majority Polynesian population, all of the customs agents or “gendarmerie” are Frenchmen from France who come over to work in the Islands. They came aboard to clear us in and, in keeping with being good hosts, I, as cook that day, brought up a basket of tea, coffee, and biscuits to offer to the gendarmes.
Understand that everyone in the South Pacific wears the simple outfit of a sarong/lava lava/pareo and a t-shirt. Everyone, that is, except the gendarmerie. Instead, they wear their tight blue button up short sleeved shirts with navy short shorts and knee socks. They were quite the sight. I, in my awkwardness of two weeks at sea and rusty French, addressed them with the informal form of “you.” I am so sorry, Madame. I did learn something in French class but the short shorts and long socks shocked it clean out of me.