Wow it was great to be away, but I was certainly punished for trying to come back. Of course I will have to spend the next several weeks sorting through the 2000 photos I took, give or take. And you, my dear readers, will be forced to look at each one I post very carefully for insight. There will be a test.
So here is my one piece of advice when traveling outside the US: try not to leave with only a canceled passport. It is not looked upon favorably by any official, or semi-official bureaucrat from here to there. How can you tell if your passport is cancelled? It will have holes in the cover. Seems simple, right? Only one has to remember to look at it after it was returned by the passport office after being rejected as not good enough to get more pages. I thought, well screw them and their no more pages rules, I'll just keep using this one and they can stamp those weird back blank pages that I don't know what they are for. Holes in the cover? That is an incidental and trite detail that my very delicate eyes are not in the mood to notice.
So what happens during these special times of code oranges, especially when departing a country that is well known for their biggest export of white powdery goodness? Well, in my case, they scanned my passport and emailed it to the Embassy and waited an hour to get confirmation that I was neither a known criminal, terrorist or drug exporter. And by that time my flight had flown and we were put on the next one that gave us a quick tour of four country's airports and deposited us at home at 4:00am, without any luggage to weigh us down.
But a couple quick stops. First, in San Jose, our luggage decided to see the sights and enjoy those little poison frogs that grace the cover of every Costa Rican catalog, but not one person asked for a passport or identification when changing planes. Then in El Salvador, our carry on bags were rifled by a man who was literally not looking as he touched. Two airline employees argued heatedly about my passport and luckily the check in woman was on my side, and won. The theory being - let them deal with me in New York. They showed the same movie on two of the three flights. Ghostwriter. It did not in any way match the demographic of the plane, 50% of which was below age 10, the other 50% wearing brand new Yankees caps. A British political Polanski thriller was not in the cards for this crowd. Plus that movie sucked.
I'll bet you are all wondering what happens to those people they pull off the immigration line and into that mysterious back room at JFK. I can now tell you. First of all, the officers are all drinking loads of coffee, each cup from a different airport eatery depending on individual desire, eating sandwiches and exchanging stories about cigars and the headaches caused by a good one, the kind you have to bite the tip off. Second, they are joking loudly, guffawing about who works the least. Third, they are reviewing the records of those in the room, and yelling to the detainees sitting across the room with questions such as "How many months were you in jail that first time?" and "Were you convicted in the Bronx or New Jersey?" and "When you say four months, was that your total jail time, or just the first time." And "How many babies did you say you have?"
The best part was that even though it felt like I was in there for hours, avoiding the creepy, greasy man sitting next to me whose leg shook the entire row of chairs and asked me in Spanish if I had a cigarette (or maybe if I was smoking hot, something about fumar), I got out of there with an admonishment to get a new passport, and before the first piece of luggage had come off the belt And yes, I will absolutely have to do that because I subsequently lost said passport in the taxi coming home as it fell out of the pocket of the jeans I wore for more than two weeks and were so stretched and baggy they barely stayed up.
So, clutching a piece of paper that wound up literally having not one iota of correct information about how to find out about the whereabouts of your missing maletas, we fell into bed around 5am wondering what exactly had just happened to us. The luggage just arrived tonight. I am afraid to open it as it has been closed up with that smelly smell for several days now.
On the bright side, I am happy to be able to flush the toilet paper in the toilet, to not have to carry a roll of toilet paper in my purse, to be able to wear a clean pair of pants and to eat lettuce without wondering if it will be my death.