07 August 2009

Day when they discovered the wrong birthdate in my old passport

Result was more than one hour in the customs office (was only 2 minutes before I was sent there, to the 'interview' room).

Well, the story goes that, back in 1997, I was 17 by then, as Portuguese I needed a visa to go to the United States. My parents and friends decided to go to Hawaii to run the marathon (my family often has this excuse for traveling) so I needed a passport (old was expired) and there was not much time and we requested a urgent one. It come after 3 days with the birth year of 1972, which is 7 years before than the correct year. At US embassy, because I was "25" years old they gave me a 10-years visa, which was great (compared to 3 months one if I would have 17 years old).

No problems traveling back and forth all around the world during 10-years always being much older in the passport than in reality. This beloved passport I had to give back two years ago when it was about to expired and I needed a new one. Here when I cried about it.

I even came in 2003 to South Korea and I was here when there was the London bombing, flying next day to Sydney. In the airport, that day, they asked me a second identification and I gave my "Swiss card" but fortunately the australian officer did not spot the mismatch of the dates.

But today, here comes finally the story you are waiting for, the officer in the immigration at Busan port found strange that I did not wrote in the "Adress in Korea" field of the immigration card (lesson learned - always fill, even if with bullshit, as Eva did afterwards). I told him I did not know where I was going to stay. He asks if it was the first time in Korea and I think if to stay yes or no. In Russia I said "yes, first time in Russia" (I was there with the old passport also) and was fine. Here I said "No". "When?", "Around 2002/3". He searches on the computer for my name and the year and there it is BUT... the birthdate does not match. "Why?", "Don't know", I say. "Boss!". And here I go to the "interview" labeled room.

On an old sofa I try to keep calm. On my way there I told quickly Eva what the problem was, she goes to the immigration office and "enters" Korea and then waits. First boss is some guy waiting for getting retired and took some minutes before he decided to close internet explorer and reading the news to take care of me. Try to use the computer to find the same information about my previous stay but he is not skilled enough to do so. He goes to ask the immigration officer that spot me and then comes with another boss. This one grasps some more english and has more computers skills. I kept saying I did not know the reason for it until they showed me the scan of the 2003 immigration card, signed by me, where I stated with my horrible hand writing that I was born in 1972. Glup. "Why?" he asks... Silence from me... Seeing things not going further and more people looking through my passport against light to see any sign of falsification (fortunately it is the electronic one, very new, difficult to falsify, but they did not have even machine of ultra-violet to see the contrasts), I decided to tell the true - "I remember now...". Meanwhile I showed my Half-tarif card from the Swiss trains, which had my birth date.
He goes back to another computer, checks, re-checks. Comes with an officer speaking more english. I explain all the story, "I was 18 at the time... is world of a mess re-doing a passport... it is expired anyway... I can show a scan of my portuguese id on the internet". I found I had my driving license in the backpack and also gave and showed. I think this helped. "The girl outside is your girlfriend? Are you travelling together?". They also asked Eva's passport then. The english speaking officer translates all I say. The boss says "I don't know what to do with you, you see, dates do not match...", "but the other passport is expired", I reply.

At this point I had understood that they only had the information about my stay in Korea, my old passport information but not its expiring date. No information about any other country traveled with any of the passports. If it there was no scan of my previous immigration card filled and signed by me I could say that its a coincidence of someone else with my name, but even...

He goes back to the computer outside the room and the "waiting-to-be-retired guy" says "Go. You enter Korea. Take baggage and leave.".

I go out to the smarter boss on his computer and he writes, writes, asks again my driving license, my swiss trains card, asks another guy to make photocopy of everything. Now Eva was also with me and we kept talking an laughing in French. He asks "where you staying?", "I don't..." but Eva interrupts and says "Blue backpackers hostel" and picks the paper from him and writes down on my immigration card. Then takes out the guidebook and shows him the name and description. It was the only name she remembered. The boss writes more and more on his computer, I believe on my file and also on Eva's file.

Meanwhile another boat has arrived, all people went trough and officers leave to home. The "interview" room is already closed as well. This boss also wants to go home. Stamp on the passport and "please go".

Still to make customs check. "Why you took so long?" he asks Eva. "Problem with passport?" asks me. "With old passport", I said. But is mind was already driving home and just did not care and let us go.

Tourist information was already closed, taxi driver tries to take us but we refuse and we go to find the metro. We decided to give a chance to the Blue backpackers hostel but only dormitory was available so we end up in a motel with round bed, dim light option, free condom and kitch furniture for a want-to-be princess kind of person. Welcome to Korea.

2 comments:

  1. ollala'! This is a story... Miguel, I could not believe it when I read the title. Oh gosh, that must have been a moment when you got interviewed... Anyways, well done guys for getting throught it with minor damange.
    Anne's parents arrived yesterday, cool, first time Anne's father comes to visit us. They'll stay for two weeks, we'll go to Croatia via Bergamo for a few days after mid August. Still have to catch up with your Japan posts. Hug you both. Rainy weekend here. Love, Gio

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  2. PS:
    by the way, Miguel, how often do you write stuff like this
    http://marimekko.anjo.com.pt/2007/03/passport-my-friend.html
    ?
    You fado wirter hidden behind an oracle expert in HEP :-) ;-P ?

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