Documents, documents, documents!

Fr. Bernie (in hat) with other SCJs in Vietnam

Fr. Bernie (in hat) with other SCJs in Vietnam

Fr. Bernie Rosinski took a break from teaching in the Philippines to attend the inauguration of the first SCJ community house in Vietnam. Here, he writes about a few stumbles in his travels. Click here to read about the dedication itself, and click here to view an online photo album.

What not to throw away

Panic City. Stressville. Have you ever been in a foreign country and learned that you are missing a document that will allow you to return to where you came from? That happened to this blogger. And my visa for Vietnam was good only for one month. Visions of being jailed for non-compliance with Vietnamese law arose unbidden and I didn’t even know a good local lawyer. Panic City. Stressville.

After traveling to Saigon for the dedication of our first SCJ community house, I was preparing to return to the Philippines to continue teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Along with Fr. Rino, SCJ, my traveling companion, I presented my passport and Cebu Pacific Airlines return ticket to the desk attendant. She asked for one additional document: a copy of a ticket or airline reservation OUT of the Philippines before she would allow me to enter it by issuing me a boarding pass. This is the standard practice in a number of countries, I guess.

Wouldn’t you know that my reservation copy of that ticket out of the Philippines was the last piece of paper I dumped before I left the Philippines for Vietnam! I was perilously close to the weight limit and forgot the legal practice. To make the weight limit I got rid of what I thought I didn’t need, including paper.

What to do? The desk attendant asked if I had a copy of the e-ticket on my computer. I didn’t even have my computer. Well, did I have it on my cell phone? I didn’t even bring my cell phone. Did I have a copy in my camera? I didn’t even know that people did those things. Talk about being technologically challenged!

However, Fr. Rino had his computer with him and we ran around the airport seeking a Wi-Fi area (that much I understood. . . ) where we could go online and retrieve my confirmation email from my webmail files. Finding such an area, we needed the password. At midnight, finding the people who know passwords is another exercise that can stress one out. But we did succeed. After lots of false starts we managed to make a photo of the required document and show the photo to the attendant. And my boarding pass was duly issued.

Arriving in the Philippines, I presented myself to an immigration official. A pleasant, matronly woman took my passport while I fumbled with my camera to make sure my photo document was ready to show her. She asked if I was Russian and I told her I was of Polish descent. She said I needed an entry visa and she was prepared to issue one good for 21 days. I responded by saying that I had a multiple-entry visa. “Sure enough”, she said after checking my passport. She then smiled and stamped my passport and never asked for the documentary proof that I had a ticket out of the Philippines.

When I had calmed down and had time to reflect, I felt she probably acted in this way because she knew that I would never have been allowed into the country the first time without that ticket. Home. Safe. Secure.

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