Wednesday, August 5, 2009

freedom to roam

copyright HMSO, via Wikipedia

For the last few weeks I've been without a passport. This situation might not worry most readers of AN but for me it's a real stress. Being a foreigner is sometimes difficult enough without finding myself unable to leave.

Renewing a UK passport as a US resident is a tedious, persnickety, and expensive process. Here, for example, are the very, very specific instructions for the correct photographs. Naturally I followed them to the letter--even took the letter to Walgreen's where the photos were taken. Naturally the UK consulate told me--two months into the process--that the pix were no good. (Though, naturally, they didn't tell me what the problem was.) I got them done again. Brought them home. Measured them. They were 1 mm off. I got them done again. Sent them back to the consulate. Settled in to wait. Again.

I hadn't realised how tense I was until FedEx showed up at the door with a brown envelope and my new passport. I ripped it open, checked it carefully, and clutched it to me. I don't care that the photo is ugly! I don't care that there's a RFID chip stuck on it! I don't care that it cost me nearly $300! Suddenly I'm a citizen of the world again. If Bad Things Happen, I can escape. Or, hey, if I win the Mega Millions, I can go on holiday. And, wow, the pictures of birds on the inner pages are gorgeous...

I wish there were a programme to get a new passport without giving the old one up. I loathe and detest being without one. It means I can't go to England. It means I'm trapped. It makes me feel like a stranger in a strange land. It creates horrible echoes from the past--a long story that I'm not willing to tell today about Kelley and I being stranded on separate continents for a while not long after we first met, a postal strike, a government passport office strike, illness... Shudder.

But, hey, that was then, this is now. I have my passport. I'm good to go. Paradoxically, all I want to do is wrap my arms around my life and stay put.

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