Last week our little baby’s passport was finally ready, and my husband went to pick it up. As soon as I had it in my hand, I purchased tickets for myself and baby to go to Cyprus. No, not as in “Yay, vacation time!” tickets, but as in, “Next step in the paperwork process” tickets. You see, the Swedish embassy in Lebanon and Syria is located in Damascus, and for obvious reasons, this embassy has been closed since, you know, things got heated in Syria. Now, because I only have a Swedish passport and because next time I enter the US I will want to stay for more than the three months the regular visa waiver program allows, I have to apply for a visa before we can leave for the US, and to get a visa, I need a passport that is valid for the entire visa period. My passport is due to expire at the end of this summer.
In short; I need a new passport before I can get a visa, which I need before we can leave for the US.
And to go get a new passport, I had to wait for the baby to be born, because remember how I’ve basically been on bedrest since before Christmas? And then once the baby was born I had to wait for him to get a passport, because obviously, I could’t travel without him.
Once he had a passport I set up my trip to Cyprus, and then I went ahead and applied for a US visa, paid for the application and got my visa interview (which can’t be changed). You see, it will take up to three weeks for me to get my passport, and there was a three and a half week wait list for the visa interview, so I would have my new passport just in time for the interview- and then I would get my visa in time for us to leave for the US as planned. It was going to work out perfectly.
Until this morning.
Last week when we got our baby’s passport we asked the university to get his residence permit sorted so that he could travel with me. (I remembered from our time in Cairo that it was very important the baby had an entry stamp in his passport to leave, even though he was born in Egypt, because they had just had some problems with adoption fraud.) Our AUB representative said however that there was no time to get the residence permit sorted before our departure because of the holidays last week, but that I could just bring our baby’s birth certificate and passport, and that I would be fine to travel like that. So I didn’t postpone our trip and this morning I got up at 4:30 am, nursed the baby, changed my wound and took a taxi to the airport.
Check-in went well but I was stopped at the passport control and ushered into a smoky, 60’s style office. Bare dirty walls, and a big poster of Hariri with Arabic writing on it. They asked about the father of the baby. Did he know I was traveling with the baby? At first I thought, “Surely they’ll let me go in the end. I mean, I have the birth certificate right here, stating in very offical Arabic writing that I am the mother of this child.” Soon it became obvious however that they were not concerned about the baby being mine. The rules and regulations they were following were clearly designed to prevent women from leaving their husbands with their children. “Only the father can go with the child,” the security official told me. I was informed that there was a stamp that I could get at the general security building downtown, which would allow me to travel with the baby. I showed them the birth certificate, and explained to them that I really had to go – that I had been told I could. I would be right back tomorrow. They said that they had no problem with me leaving, but I couldn’t take the baby. This statement seemed just ridiculous to me. The baby would have to come with me, since I’m his mom, right? He needs me, if nothing else physically to survive. Literally. So what were they suggesting? That I leave the baby? I couldn’t believe they were serious. Oh but they were. At some point, I found that I had stopped thinking they were just giving me a hard time, and realized that they were not going to let me leave. I felt a little like Sally Field’s character in Not Without my Daughter in that dirty, bare security office – not allowed to leave the country with my child without the presence of my husband, the father, head of the family; the patriarch. My Sally Field moment. I still tried to argue though, but a superior and several pleas later, I was forced to go back through check-in, cancel my trip and return home.
Our perfect plan, our card house, has collapsed.