The downside to “bling, bling”, high-falutin’ international, cross-continental, nearly fanatical travel: the filling up of those sacred passport pages.
In other words, my passport is full.
Way back in January of 2008 (when I was living it up in Monterrey, Mexico) my dear passport was due to “perish”, i.e. about to expire four months later. My trip to Argentina and Uruguay in March 2008 required a passport that was valid at least 6 months beyond my departure date. No bueno.
I was already pissed off because the Canadian passport (unlike its American counterpart) only has a validity of 5 years (as opposed to 10 years in the States) and is bloody expensive. And you also have to essentially jump through hoops to procure one (even if you are a Canadian citizen and have already had a number of passports in your lifetime).
So I marched myself to the nearest Canadian consulate and paid a hefty sum for a new one. I not only had to pay the standard fee of $100 CDN, I also had to pay an additional sum because I was applying for a passport from overseas, $30 CDN to fed-ex my passport to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City, AND another $75 CDN for an administrators at the Canadian consulate in Monterrey to verify my identity (typically, this is done by a “guarantor”; someone in a position of authority who has known you for at least two years and can vouch that you are indeed you, and that your application is legit).
My visa for Kenya.
My current passport is ugly. The picture is horrible. In the year and a half since its procurement, the passport has changed hands so many times and has been in so many time zones, languished at the bottom of a suitcase, dropped so many times in various unsavoury places that its dog-eared pages are moist and limp. But it was functional.
Until now. I don’t have any pages left. Extensive travel (about 25 countries since I got my passport in 2008) has worn my passport out. Travelling in Asia is deadly for a passport with limited space because nearly all the countries here (i.e. Vietnam, China, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, etc) require a tourist visa, which basically eats up a whole page of your passport. I also got a full-page visa when I went to Kenya in December. Sigh. The Canadian government does not allow you to purchase extra pages either.
I am kicking myself for not having the hindsight to pay a little extra to get a 48-page passport instead of the standard 24-pager. Now I have to go through the rigamarole of getting a brand new passport (even though my current one doesn’t expire until 2013). And even worse, I must do this under very tight time constraints.
Because, you see, I was going to apply for a passport here in Hong Kong, got my application filled out and pictures taken, but realized just last night that I need to submit my original birth certificate to prove my Canadian citizenship. Now, ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem, for I have three (!) birth certificates. But guess where they are? Not here in Hong Kong of course. I left them in Canada, like an idiot.
But why three birth certificates? I have two small birth certificate cards because years I thought I had lost the original that had been issued just months after I was born in 1982. I ended up finding the original shortly after I had the second in hand. D’oh. The third birth certificate is a long-form one that I needed when I moved to France because French law specifies that one is needed if a Canadian is applying for a residency care. So, after much money spent, blood, sweat, and tears, I have three birth certificates. That just happen to be in a drawer somewhere at my mom’s place in Canada. Argh!
And hence my source of woe. I can’t apply for a new passport in Hong Kong because of the birth certificate issue. So what to do? Apparently I can get a rush-order for a new passport when I go back to Canada for 10 days in June (normal processing time for a Canadian visa is about 3 weeks), but an express order costs an additional $70 CDN. I’m hoping that they (Canadian immigration officials) can squeeze in one more stamp when I touch down in Toronto on June 19th.