I’ve lost things in various states of inebriation, generally little objects. A key chain. An earring. Knock wood to keep that good luck rolling. Hilariously, I’m more scatter brained sober than drunk. Call it survival mode, maybe even a heightened state of paranoia, either way this is factual proof, drunkenness can be a good idea. Now, Rosie Glam lost something very precious, having to face her fear of being rudderless in a foreign country. What did she do? Find out on today’s Summer Chick Tale.
It was around midnight when we pulled up to border control in a surprisingly flash taxi, after traveling the day in changing modes of transport across Albania. Passports were sleepily handed over, stamped and consented, then handed back leaving us free to drive into Macedonia and find a place to rest. In the morning we awoke in Orhid, looked out our window and were met with a beautiful view out over the ancient Lake Orhid. Over the next three days we enjoyed relaxing in the sun, meeting very interesting individuals and making as many orhid puns (sorry) as possible.
The next stop was the capital, Skopje. When we arrived at the hostel we went through the normal procedures with checking in, until I couldn’t locate my passport in it’s normal place. That panic feeling slowly swept down my body as my brain worked overtime trying to rationalize why it wasn’t there and started to work out where it could be. After rifling through my side bag, I attacked my pack, slowly pulling out item after item, hoping that my fingers would brush pass the tattered cover. When I got to the bottom, I was faced with an empty bag. Ah, fuck.
But for some reason I was calm. I’m not normally calm when faced with unexpected, really lame news. I normally head straight for those horrible conclusions, like having to live the rest of my life in Skopje and never see my family again. But this time I was cool headed. I don’t know if it was because I still thought my passport would jump out and yell ‘just kidding! ‘. Or that it wasn’t really happening to me, but I do know that my calmness freaked people out. All I could do was go to sleep and prepare for the day that faced me tomorrow. Which I thought couldn’t be much worse than finding your international identity proof missing, but oh, I was so very wrong.
I headed to a police station. Despite the language barrier I thought this was going to be quite straight forward. Little did I know, in Skopje, they are quite strict on going to the police station in the district where you live. But I don’t live in Skopje! Bah! So I was told the location of the other police station with a finger stab to my map and then was approached by a lovely Macedonian lady who could speak English. She wanted to help me. She had managed to get the border control number from the unhelpful police officer, then invited both myself and my friend Leo out for coffee. While drinking our pretty average coffees, she rang the border control who told us that they had us recorded as only three people crossing the border by foot! No taxi driver recorded and no vehicle! What the hell? Thanks guys for being trustworthy! Geez.
So with a big “thank you” we went back into town to collect Olivia who had spent the morning emailing the New Zealand embassy in Italy for me. Together we set out to find this next police station, only to be shuffled around for around an hour until finally yes, the correct police station was discovered. The policemen here were much nicer, I think they were more intrigued by us being from a land so far away. But thankfully, I didn’t get a Lord of the Rings comment; it may have put me over the edge. I filled out and signed a report and then was informed I had to go to another office (External Affairs or something along those lines) to get a copy of the report and also a passport allowing me to leave.
Yet another office, how not surprising and I had 30 minutes to get there. In Amazing Race style we ran, jumped, drove, climbed and sweated our way there to make it smack bang on 4 pm when it closed. We weaselled our way in and in my growing frustration, trapped the man leaving his office, demanding help. He proceeded to tell me wonderful news, he could give me a passport to get out of the country to head to the closest New Zealand embassy in Rome and also give me the copy of the police report. Yes, yes, YES! I was considering starting my happy dance when he decided to tell me the most important information last. This ‘Macedonian Stranger Passport’ (no kidding that was the name of it) would take seven working days to process and I would have to come back tomorrow to start it. Guts! Will nothing go right?
So I left defeated and decided to head to the British Embassy to ask the Queen to help me in my hour of need. She looked like a lovely lady, surely she will help. Well, that day, she scoffed at her loyal subjects. She closed her doors to visitors 10 minutes before I arrived. Apparently, her minions have better things to do, like sit on the other side of a huge fence doing paper work and ignoring me. So much defeat in one day isn’t healthy, and I was faced with one more.
Back at the hostel, I rang the minions who I had just sneered at through the previously mentioned fence, to ask about the procedure so that tomorrow I would be super prepared.
“So, you can get an emergency passport to a Commonwealth country.”
“Oh yay, Thank you! So I can fly to London?”
“No, The UK isn’t part of the Commonwealth, it is part of the United Kingdom. So you will have to fly to Australia or New Zealand.” (Which are possibly the furthest away of all possible Commonwealth countries.)
“I’m sorry, what? The UK is the head of the Commonwealth.”
“No, I’m sorry you can’t fly to London.”
I hung up after this thinking that I would have to stranger- danger –passport- it, but to my surprise, two minutes later she called back trying not to sound sheepish, saying that yes I could fly to London and come in the morning.
Finally, one point to me!
A joint decision was made to not return to the External Affairs office which made me slightly happy and I headed back to the British embassy. I was told I had to pay 80 euros, needed passport photos and had to book all my flights and it would all take one hour. So back I went into town, (if taxis weren’t so darn cheap my wallet would have suffered greatly), got it all sorted and headed back to sit and stare at a wall for an hour, then I was presented my emergency passport aka, a stamped piece of paper. Yipee! For once that was relatively painless.
I walked away feeling quite happy with myself until I remembered….Police report!! Damn! So I collected Olivia and we headed to the police station to get the report. I thought it would be a painless print and sign procedure, but like most things in the last few days, it was like pulling teeth! They told me it would take over 24 hours to process because they needed to get it translated and then officially stamped, which would cost me money. I had booked my flight for the next day at 6 am so there was no chance. I listed other possibilities including faxing it to the Macedonian embassy in London, but all my suggestions were met with a pitying look (which was horrible!) and a ‘no’.
Back at the hostel, Olivia and Leo packed up their things and left on a bus to finish our planned Balkan trip, while I stood waving a slightly teary goodbye holding my only savor, a Daim milk chocolate bar. It didn’t last long. So exhausted I headed for bed, knowing I had to get up at some freakish, inhuman time to make it to the airport.
The next morning feeling dead tired from the past few days, I handed my emergency passport paper over to the check-in assistant at the airport, ready to get away from that place. I was handed back the piece of paper within a minute and was told that this wasn’t a passport. No shit it isn’t a normal passport, but it does say here in Macedonian and English, EMERGENCY PASSPORT! Over the next hour, I had a group of six people, including police officers, security men, flight attendants and airline managers surrounding me asking question after question. Why I had this weird passport and where was my real one? I can’t remember much about it, except thinking ‘don’t cry’ repeatedly, and the sheer determination I had to not miss my flight. A mere five minutes before my flight was due to depart, they let me through reluctantly. Seriously, what was I going to do to them by leaving?
Off I flew to London where I felt I could breathe for the first time in over 60 hours. It was hell and even re-writing it for the first time makes me frustrated all over again. But this is definitely something that pushed me way out of my comfort zone and forced me to fend and fight for myself. Now when something happens unexpectedly in my travels, I often think back to that time and know if I survived that, I can survive anything.
Author bio: Rosie Glam left her homeland of New Zealand in 2009 with a strong travel bug to satisfy. Over two years on, it’s still not satisfied but Rosie is enjoying a new way of life in Berlin. Now that she has settled down for a while, she has decided to start a blog to document new things that come her way and also remember the things that have already crossed her path. Check out more of her travels on travelglam.com, or connect for a chat with Twitter or Facebook.
Photo: Steven Bohm
If you haven’t heard, I’m participating in the Ultimate Train Challenge starting in September. Part of the Ultimate Train Challenge is our commitment to raising $10,000 for charity, by partnering with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and the Da Nang Association of Agent Orange Victims. Each dollar will go directly to children at the center near Da Nang who suffer from the effects of Agent Orange to this day. You can help donate by purchasing Eurail tickets through my website or donate directly by going through the Ultimate Train Challenge site. I’d like to thank our European sponsor, Eurail for supporting this important cause.