July 11, 2008

places and spaces

Posted in paris tagged , , at 8:48 pm by Malia Yoshioka

for a traveler, a passport is a badge of honor, a collection of fond memories, a source of pride. today as i headed to the US consulate to have additional pages added to mine, i reflected on all the places my passport and i have been this year and what adventures we’ve had.

memories

i’ve never filled up a passport before, not even close. my very first passport held a mere three or four stamps when i had to give it up. the passport i have now is only eight years old, but before 2008 had only two lonely stamps, representing just one trip to london in the year 2000.

last year when we were planning our around-the-world trip, i looked forward to collecting more destinations in my passport, in the same way a child collects marbles or baseball cards. at each immigration port, i clutched the dark blue plastic cover and stepped proudly up to the line to claim a new stamp for my collection.

six months and ten countries later, standing in those stupid immigration lines became more of a chore, but each stamp was still exciting. after leaving the line, i’d reflexively check to see what the new stamp looked like – some are round, some oval, once in a while i even get a triangle. sometimes, the immigration officers would stamp them in order, but most of the time they’d end up skipping a page here and there, leaving me with some pages entirely empty, sometimes wasting a page by stamping a large crooked area rather than sticking to one of the prescribed quadrants of the page. occasionally a country would require an entry visa, usually a large sticker, exotic with foreign writing that would take up an entire page. before i knew it, my passport was almost filled.

this year i’ve been to a total of 11 countries and counting. so there i sat at the US consulate, waiting for my number to be called yet again in order to receive my newly expanded passport, like a carnival prize. the waiting room around me swirls in chaos. i clutched my ticket and watched the numbers flash on the screens above. the well-dressed man next to me muttered “yes!” under his breath as his number came up, and rushed to get to window #13 before they’d skip his turn.

the embassy’s website gives tips for a smooth visit, including: “bring something to occupy yourself, your visit could last for hours.” i chuckled when i first read it, but as the minutes ticked by i realized that they hadn’t been kidding. good thing i brought a book. my watch had been held at security along with my water bottle, camera, and cell phone, so i had no idea of how much time had passed, but i was sure that i was getting into those visits that last for hours. the waiting room got more and more crowded and i silently patted myself on the back for getting up early to beat the real crowd.

“miss yoshioka to window #16 please,” the voice said in heavily accented English over the loud speaker as my number flashed on the screens overhead. the woman handed me my passport. “that’s it, you’re all set,” she said and i flashed her a smile as i walked away and instinctively checked the pages. there wedged in between macau, thailand, and myanmar was a whole new set of blank pages, just begging for some crooked foreign stamps and stickers. i’ve got two more years before my passport expires… i wonder if i can use up all of these new pages?

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4 Comments »

  1. oMan said,

    I have 3 passports full of visa stamps – in a safe 🙂

  2. Mom said,

    Glad you got the extra pages!! Now, to decide where and when to use them?!

  3. Brianne said,

    my sad passport only has a few stamps too…hoping to fill them up with more!

  4. jasmine said,

    miss yoshioka…this is a very cute story! good job on getting up early. i laughed hard very softly to myself (sitting here at my desk at work) as i was reading the part about the man that that said “yes!” as his name was being called. too funny! anyway, yay, i’m happy that you got more pages =)


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