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Travel woes on the way home from Iraq

Well, as nice as it would be to just get home without any problems, that just isn't happening. First of all, my passport: as I was leaving Israel for Kuwait (from a media trip in July that I attended on the way here), I was informed that my passport -- which went through the washer about five years (and a few dozen countries) ago -- was in too poor condition to depart Israel. After explaining that I hadn't had the time (nor the knowledge that I needed) to replace my passport while in Israel, the very stern lady at the exit counter begrudgingly agreed to let me sprint through her station to catch my Royal Jordanian flight (which, despite showing up at the airport over 3 1/2 hours early, I only caught because it was delayed, as nearly four hours had been taken up by security disassembling, scanning, reassembling, disassembling, scanning, reassembling, and disassembling, scanning, reassembling every piece of equipment and gear that I had brought with me for Iraq). However, the catch, she told me, was that she put my passport in their computer system to be denied entry upon my return to that country (which my return flight goes through). I told her that I was going to the middle of nowhere, Iraq for the duration, and asked how she thought I was supposed to replace it; her response was, "I don't care. That's your problem." Had I not had to run to make a flight, my Indian and Viking sides may have dangerously combined to cause an explosive scalp-taking, pillaging situation. Luckily I had to hurry out to make my plane.

Anyway, when in Baghdad for a couple days between missions, I went to the passport shop at the embassy to get a replacement...only to find that they can't take pictures, and don't know of anywhere in the country that can. Apparently the passport office at the Baghdad embassy (which no American can get into if not under military or diplomatic escort -- so much for serving as a piece of American soil in a foreign land where Americans can seek refuge and assistance) is only there to cater to those travelers who have happened to brign passport photos along with them to the combat zone that is Iraq.

So, my eggs are all in the Kuwait City basket. I arrived here three days ago, and found myself at the beginning of a weekend -- apparently a of the four-day variety. Thus, Monday (from 9-11am) is the first day that the embassy will be open since my arrival (if they are actually going to be open on Columbus Day, as they claim), and I am scheduled to fly to Tel Aviv (by way of Amman, Jordan) that afternoon.

I had heard anywhere between a few hours and three days to get a new passport in Kuwait City until yesterday, when the press liaison here informed me that his checking around had determined that it was a two week process and that, since my embed was finished, I couldn't stay on this base any longer while waiting for the new passport. I go to the embassy Monday to see just what - if ANYTHING - I can do abou the situation. If I can't get through Israel, or if I have to change my flight, then I'm out over $2,500 (between the flight through Israel, the hotel for the night between connections there, and the purchase of a new ticket). I, of course, do not have $2,500.

Oh, and it costs $97 to get a new passport -- not counting the photographs, which I still have to figure out how to get ahold of, nor the $60 expedited fee.

THE OTHER pressing matter is the fact that one of my bags went missing somewhere between Baghdad Airport and Ali Al Salem, Kuwait. The last time I saw my green Kelty backpack -- the one that I've taken everywhere with me for almost ten years, which I've climbed Ranier and a pair of Swiss Alps with, which I've hiked through northern Arizona and Southern Utah with, and which had my running shoes, workout clothes, wallet, memory stick, flashlight, 2pr of sunglsses, flip flops, Harry Potter book (the only literature I brought, and a book which I have read over six times on this trip in its entirety), and digital SLR camera inside -- was when I set it on the baggage pallet at BIAP, where they seal up the baggage, take it straight to the plane, and we get it on the other side. In toto, it was to be out of my sight - but under complete control - for three hours (you can only carry on a very small bag, as in a C-130 you sit along the sides amd down the middle of the plane crammed up against each other and two feet away from the person across from you, so almost everything goes on the pallet; that's just how military air works). However, when I got to where the baggage pallet was dropped off here in Kuwait (after 45 minutes of trying to figure out the passport thing), the bag was not there. I've been to every lost and found place here - repeatedly - and have talked to the baggage folks at Baghdad Airport, and nobody has seen it.

FORTUNATELY, I have my ATM/Credit/Debit card and old passport on me, and have some (not many) clothes and my laptop in my other backpack that I carried on with me. However, I have had to drop hundreds on replacement towel, razor, socks, and running shoes (the cheapest at the PX were $80, arent really my size, and I'm never going to wear them again once I get home), extra bag, etc., etc. So, things could be better. Hopefully the passport thing works out so that I can at least get home. I'm pretty unhappy about that bag though (it's well over a $150 bag, and I've been using it since 1998), as well as the fact that I lost my good workout clothes and, of course, my new camera).

So, prayers for assistance and for patience would be appreciated. I'm a pretty calm guy, but my temper -- a very, very dangerous one, if I may be so bold -- is about a thread away from its fuse being consumed.

Ah well. That's the way the ball bounces, I suppose


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At 11:27 AM, Blogger said...

Hang in there! You are in everyone back at home's prayers!

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Cole Gardner said...

My prayers and thoughts are certainly with you, sir. Please let me know if you need any financial assistance to get you home. I mean that seriously.

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't surprise me about your experience at the US Embassy. I was a US Soldier there waiting to get a passport so I can go on leave [to another country] and they informed me that I would have to provide my own photo. Not to mention I wasn't from the area, so flying form the north to fly south to the IZ, then north again to find out no pictures taken there either was quite a headache. Needless to say, I got my passport at another embassy abroad in a much orderly way. Good luck on your journey... I am glad to be back home from that place.


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