Things expats like: comparing the amount of stamps in your passport to everyone else.
It is terribly true; i take great pride in every whacked-on circle or rectangle of ink splattered across the pages of my passport. Sure, they’re aesthetically pleasing to the eye in the mismatch of overlapping geometric shapes and all, but the comparison of who-has-the-better-Ugandan-Visa question runs a little deeper than simple visual pleasure. It’s rollicking in the memories of voyages well-taken, swapping tales of motorcycle rides through East African cities or night-time wanders through the North East corner of London. Opening your passport is opening an invitation to adventure; the blank pages entice and beckon in the exhilaration of the unknown while remnants of a journey past remind you why the dust never really settles.
I’ve had my current passport since i was fourteen, having acquired it for my first sojourn to Uganda in 2007. In fact, it arrived literally at the last possible minute for our departure – despite having been sent for in February of that year, my ticket to international travel and proof-of-citizenship arrived no later than the morning of our flight to Uganda.
As in, mid-July. Our passports took five months to process, when we’d been told it would take no longer than six weeks.
My mother and i had packed our bags in a tense, forcibly optimistic atmosphere the night before, hoping and praying that we would be able to go on the trip we’d been needing for, well, our whole lives. When she’d called me from the post office (she drove over prior to the mail folk leaving on their morning rounds because we couldn’t afford to wait around for the mail person to deliver) i, quite literally, dropped the phone and fell onto the couch. I don’t deny i’ve got a bit of a penchant for the dramatic, but it was the kind of turning point in my life that – even without the suspense of the vacant passports – called for the utmost of performance from my adolescent self.
And to compound the ease and emotion-free departure, my Great-Grandmother passed away that same morning. So maybe the crying out and collapsing was more to do with the extreme conflux of emotions running rampant in the household than just my first international embarkment. The morning i first left the country, the morning i woke up to the first Proper Adventure of my life, a light went out.
Needless to say, opening up my passport opens my memory to considerably more than the stamping of a visa.
This morning, though, i bid a bit of a farewell to my first passport. It expires this July, and as there is an incredibly-slim-but-incredibly-awesome chance that i might be leaving the country for a bit this summer (i don’t quite want to say any more just yet, in case it jinxes things) i needed to renew my documentation. And while i know i get it back – hole-punched to prevent double identities and whatever – a part of me was sad to bid farewell to its creased pages and outdated logo. This passport carried me across my first international border, it was with me all the time in South Sudan, it allowed me entry into England, and served as a holding place of a marker for each journey in self-discovery. Call me over-attached to the material, but my passport means far more to me than a terrible picture and birthdate information.
But, then again, a new passport comes with new promises. Tantalizingly blank pages beckoning to be stamped, inked, and otherwise blotted with the marks of a thousand boundaries to be crossed. A new, equally as appalling, photograph to forever remind me of this snowy slushy, hair-in-an-untamed-afro day. Perhaps a sturdier cover for the more, shall we say, aggressive-purse-packing voyager.
Most of all, though, a new passport brings with it the possibility of new adventure – and few things in life are more exhilarating than such dreams.
current jam: “smooth criminal” naya riviera & grant gustin
best thing in my life right now: the impending weekend. and its promised fifty, snow-melting, degree weather.