I arrived in Argentina full of fire and passion; ready to take the country by storm. I had my immigration forms filled out and checked, and I had double-checked my CouchSurfing host while I was at the hostel that morning. With my notebook full of phone numbers and directions to her house I had boarded the plane with a feeling of invulnerability which lasted exactly up until I realized that I was fucked, completely and totally.
I walked into the immigration section of the airport, adjusted my bag, threw my jacked over my shoulder and walked into the line. Then, I reached for my passport and the immigration forms I had filled out earlier. Reached for, but didn’t grab. I had put them between my jacket and my bag, theoretically to keep them safe from being bent but in reality so that they could fall out without me noticing.
Yep, thats right. I was in a foreign country, not even past immigration, with no passport. Now, that doesn’t seem so bad on the onset, and I wasn’t too worried at first, assuming that it was on the bus or the pavement outside. I checked, not on the pavement. I checked the entryway, not in the entryway. I asked the guys nearby if they could call the bus back to check it, they checked and none of the buses had seen anything. Well… maybe its on the airplane? Nope, though the cleaning crews HAD gone through already, but they’d never throw out a passport. What they would throw out, however, was the folder that I had my immigration papers inside of. The folder that I also had my passport in. The folder that was now gone.
I knew that a passport was an important document, quite possibly my MOST important document, but what I didn’t know was that a passport is, in the eyes of officials, the only thing that can enter a country. The person is merely the vessel that carries the passport, and no other form of “identification” can substitute. After none of the folks who had helped me search for the missing document were able to help, I was assigned a rep from LAN airlines, the outfit that had flown me in. When I first met her I knew I was in trouble; she didn’t speak more than a few dozen words of English, and did not seem at all inclined to listen to me or try to help. Her only job, from the moment she met me, was to make me go away and leave them alone.
It turns out the solution to my stubborn existence was waiting on the tarmac, fueled and prepped to go and fly me away. My liason, excitement etched into her features, told me that she had finally contacted the main office, and they had set everything up for me; I was going to be flown back to Boston via Sao Paulo, the airport that I had just come from, and the airport that a plane was just not about to leave on. They handed me my checked luggage, put a tag on it, and the maintenance crews stowed it away while I got onto the flight. My liason even gave me a kiss on the cheek for good luck.
The flight back to Sao Paulo was actually the best flight I’ve had so far, thanks to one simple phone call I made while we were still on the tarmac. I had been keeping my mom up-to-date via text, so now that I was set I gave her a ring and told her the whole story, ending the call after a good 10min of talking and complaining about everything. I had been seated next to a fairly amazingly hot latina woman and the guy I thought to be her boyfriend, and he quickly asked me what had happened, apologizing for having overheard my rant. We then launched into a full-on chatting session, telling each other all about our trips so far.
- They’re from Portugal, and speak extremely good English
- They’re a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, taking two months off work to travel South America (a present from multiple family members)
- Bolivia is awesome, and they had pictures to prove it
- Europeans favor boring and simple wedding bands, unlike crazy-cool ones from the States
- Buenos Aires can be more dangerous than I thought, but the key is to be smart; Camera’s are the primary thing stolen on the street, from what they said
- Life without a passport sucks
After the first few hours of chatting we all sat back and chilled out; I spent some time reading and dozing off while they read some magazines and played what looked to be a rather epic game of sudoku. We finally landed in Sao Paulo and I was ready to face the world again; from what the LAN rep in Buenos Aires had told me there would be a person waiting for me as soon as I got out of the plane.
And, for once, everything went to plan. While there wasn’t anyone directly outside, I did find some people right outside the gate who were more than willing to help me out, though it did take a while since they were also boarding another plane at the time. After the boarding was done their supervisor came to talk to me, and we finally got down to the brass tacks of getting me back into the trip. He looked some stuff over, called Buenos Aires, and generally seemed to be laying it out and getting shit done. He asked if I had any ID on me, and if I had any information about my future flights, and I gave them to him on the assumption that he’d be looking them over and giving them back. And when I handed those over, I quite possibly made the worst mistake of the day, second only to not putting my passport back into my pocket. Welcome to my life in the airport.