My passport is maxed out. No more blank pages. Well, there are two or three pages in the back that are blank but I didn’t realize until today that these are special pages only for amendments or stuff to your passport. I’ve got no more blank pages for visas/stamps. Normally this would be an awesome thing – a fine accomplishment for a world traveler. But today it helped make my morning a huge pain in the ass.
I’m heading to Qingdao, China next week. I was planning on going to the Chinese embassy last Friday to get my visa, but I realized that you have to already have your roundtrip airplane ticket and hotel reservation made to apply. I didn’t have that, so I booked them over the weekend. This morning, I headed to the embassy to apply for the visa. They’re only open from 9AM-12 noon, and the place is about an hour away from me, so it’s already a little inconvenient. I planned on getting there at 11-ish, and to play it on the safe side I grabbed a taxi from the station since I didn’t remember how to get there and didn’t feel like wandering around lost in the cold wind and rain. As an added bonus I found the long-lost sixth Great Lake separating me from the taxi, which I discovered by using my foot as a measuring device. The depth was “knee.” The taxi was also far away enough that I needed to step into the water with my other foot too, which ensured I would be squishing my way around town the rest of the day.
Got to the Chinese embassy, waited a while, then presented my finished paperwork and passport, at which point it was explained that I’m an idiot who should have read the actual passport text: the last two pages are for special amendments only and NOT for normal visas or stamps. So my passport hasn’t had any fully blank visa pages since July, and I find this out with less than 7 days before I’m supposed to go to China. Chinese embassy can’t let me apply for a visa with no blank space, so I’m referred to the US embassy who can add the necessary pages. Went into the hallway to call the US embassy, with a nice receptionist who transferred me to the passport department. No one picked up at the passport section, even after I navigated through 3 levels of their phone menu system, with each stage having what seemed like a 10 minute message of instructions, menu options, and probably the entire United States Constitution. The long menu at least let me know that the passport section is only open from 9-12 and 2-4, which is 2 hours better than China.
Either way I figure I should get out of there and head over to the US embassy, in hopes of getting helped during that 2 hour afternoon window of service. I already know I’m going to have to come back to Tokyo at least two more times this week. At this point I was getting pretty pissed off, walking back out into the pouring rain down the street screaming obscenities and making other weird noises. Probably not the best of choices since I was walking past Chinese guards who were likely armed and looking for an excuse to shoot someone cursing in English and growling like a dinosaur.
Finally got through to the US embassy, was told that they usually require a web reservation and all reservations for today were full. I explained my situation and they told me I could come and wait, but there was no guarantee they could help me. Chinese visa takes 4 days to process or 2-3 days with the extra 3000 yen rush charge, so I figured I needed to try and get my passport fixed ASAP. Grabbed lunch and entered the US embassy at 2, waited in line for about 45 minutes before I got helped, which wasn’t really that bad. During my waiting I got to observe some military wife who reminded me how annoying people can be, as she seemed unable to shut up. In between her sentences she spat out a constant stream of “OK”s and “yeah”s, and even when she was walking out of the lobby to the passport photo booth she was talking to herself the entire way. There was also what appeared to be an American guy with his Japanese wife and their kid applying for a passport. The kid was maybe 14 and had the rattiest rat-tail I’ve ever seen, going all the way to his waist. I hope he gets refused entry into the US – we’ve got enough of that kind of people as it is.
At first they were going to mail my passport back to me in “5-10 days” but I told them my story and they said I could come get it tomorrow. Of course it only takes 1 day; all they’re doing is putting a few extra pages in the passport! But I was at least grateful they could do it for me. I’m going to go back tomorrow morning to pick up my passport, then head back to the Chinese embassy. It doesn’t help that there’s a typhoon on the forecast.
But yeah in short it’s pretty sweet that I filled up my passport. But if anyone else is getting close don’t make the mistake that I did in assuming the last 2 pages are just normal visa pages. You can apply to get extra pages for free if you’re getting close. At least I didn’t find this out trying to get back into the US for X-Mas or something.