China Ate My Passport

stolen passport

My passport was lost/stolen in Hong Kong this past Wednesday.

- Here’s how I fixed the problem the next day -

7:50 – up – check e-mail – say goodbye to my guma – out the door down central escalator to HK/Central station MTR – Commute to Mongkok – sooo many people. Exit station, reverse direction, right around the next corner – enter HSBC Mong Kong Branch. Ask receptionist about passport – check rooms used yesterday – inquire with a few departments – leave number for receptionist to contact me with after she finishes asking other departments. Return to MTR proceed back to Central Station. – Exit J5 towards peak tram – up hill to US consulate – bag double checked – cell phones left in consulate custody. Proceed to 3rd floor – received 2 forms to fill out after a 5 minute exchange @ window #1. Fill out forms and wait ~30 minutes. 10 minutes of talking later decide to get temporary passport and apply for full 10-yr in Guangzhou. Friendly onlooking sympathizer advises me on how to manage this situation – thanks dude ;) . Proceed to pay cashier – confirm payment is extracted from a US location with cashier and use US CC to pay bill.

Leave consulate to obtain photos across the street. 40HKD and 10 minutes later return to consulate. Submit photos and receipt of payment to window #1 on 3rd floor after double recheck of bag, rebsubmission of cell phones, and thorough metal wand scan (forgot to unpocket my keys… oops). Wait another 15-30 minutes. Proceeed to counter 5 to get verbally sworn in for statements made in new passport application. Return to sit for another 20 minutes. Called to counter 2 to obtain temporary passport. Verified information and signed passport. Exited consulate. Powered on phones. Time check 11:50.

Construction outside consulate makes phone calls impossible – moved down hill one intersection. Migrated Patrick (visa guys) HK number from China phone to HK phone – called Patrick. Patrick instructs me to proceed to immigration tower in Wan Chai to obtain sticker in passport verifying my date of entry into HK. Also needed to give passport to Patrick by 1:00 to make deadline for expediated visa service in order to receive the visa by the next day. Proceeded to run to MTR station. On train called Viola to inform of status + text message Mike + Dad about current status. Run from train to nearest exit sign – locate exit A5 as immigration tower exit – proceed to exit. Stop @ escalator to confirm building location on map. Continue up escalator and over footbridge at ‘people traffic’ limited speed. @Information board in immigration tower noted 2nd level for inquiries. Ran to 2nd floor. Proceeded through inquiry line. Counterman instructed me to proceed to the 5th floor to process my request.

Ran to 5th floor – receptionist informs of need to fill out 3 forms + copy of passport. Express dismay. “I just need a stamp! are you sure all these forms are necessary?” A few minutes later receptionist confirms necessity after conferring with counter-mate. Inquire where to get copies. Informed of location on opposite side of the room. Jog to copier – sign declares “lunch break – please use the machine on the 3rd floor” .. ugh. Off duty personnel inform me the 6th floor copier is also available. Run to 6th floor and copy passport + memo of police report. Fill out forms at breakneck speed on windowsill behind row of chattering phillipenas – “why is everyone in the building phillipeno?” – Return to 5th floor receptionist and call Patrick as I hand in the paperwork. Receptionist elastic bands my forms (minus detachments) + passport and hands me a number along with the detachments. Patrick asks me how long – I ask the receptionist – 1 hour – Time check 12:30 – Cantonese chatter on Patrick’s end. He tells me he can meet me @ the immigration tower in about an hour.

Move from receptionist counter to side-counter to call my uncle and ask about sleeping arrangements that evening – Negative – aunt has friend coming over – 2 people would be a problem. Call Viola to call off special delivery. Call dad to inform of progress – no answer – call Mike – inform + request a forwarding of my message to him should my father call him. Called Patrick again to confirm date possible to receive passport back with visa. Changed meeting time @ immigration tower for 2pm. Proceed out of immigration tower for food + internet. Spot Pacific Coffee, Starbucks, + another coffee shop below footbridge… internet… but food’s expensive… on staircase down from footbridge spot a delifrance – food! Select food + combo upgrade to iced lemon tee +$4HKD as opposed to $20HKD separately (woohoo)

Unload pockets on tray upon sitting. Change battery on China phone and consolidate pocket clutterinto change pouch. Tuna melt arrives – consumed w/tea with haste. Receive call from father – informed him of status. Moved two shops over to Pacific Coffee – purchased $18HKD sparkling Italian (bla bla whatever) water. Used internet for ~10 minutes – replied to critical e-mails – received another call from Jimmy (patrick’s coworker) – returned to immigration building 5th floor – verified @ counter that I still needed to wait. Time check 1:30 “hmmmm.. she informed me when handing it in that it would take an hour…”. 2:00pm – Jimmy arrives for pick up – informs me of 3:00 pm cut-off & price $1700HKD (WHAT!!) – Call father to inquire with Patrick about the pricing situation. Receive call back from father “the price is the price unfortunately..” I again inquired at reception desk – informed them of need of passport by 3:00 in order to get my visa for the next day. Go with Jimmy to get pictures for my visa application on the 4th floor. Returned ~2:20 again inquired at reception. Immigration officer personally comes to counter to ensure me he’s working on my case. Called Patrick to ask about pricing of non-expediated visa service + delivery date – $1200HKD/Wed.

Jimmy let’s me know if we don’t have the passport back by 2:45 there isn’t any way we can get expediated service in until tomorrow – meaning no visa until Tuesday of next week. Decided to used normal service if we don’t have my visa in hand by 2:45. ~2:39 tell Jimmy not to worry we’ll just do normal service. agree to meet him later to give him the passport @ his office in Jordan. 3:20 name is finally called – verify officers findings + receive instructions to proceed to pay a fee of $165HKD – should be a 10 minute wait. Call/text to re-initiate special delivery. Mike – to gather clothes, Viola to meet at our office to pick up, Sophie to deliver computer to office + call university to ensure I can get my money back on Wed. (that’s another story).

3:50 – name is called at payment counter – pay bill + receive passport. Message Mike/Dad/Viola of progress on way back to MTR – Subway to Jordan – locate Jimmy/Patrick’s office on weelong street after 2-3 phone calls to their office. Drop off passport and collect receipt + gather information from them on cheap local hotel in TST. Call hotel to inquire about rate – $350HKD. Field phone calls and texts from Dad/Mike/Viola. MTR to TST – locate hotel and inquire about rate + internet availability again. Time Check 5:10.

Aftermath and Conclusions

Don’t lose, or let anyone steal (pragmatically speaking) your passport abroad!

I was happy to find out the process at the consulate was pretty efficient if not cumbersome. After checking into the hotel for the evening I managed to passout for a few hours waiting for Viola’s arrival that evening. O, what i was referring to by “special delivery” was a bag full of toiletries, clothes, and a computer I coordinated via phone while bouncing around HK. I considered it “special” because it was being delivered on short notice as an act of kindness by Viola. It was the day before my birthday – still – I was very thankful for the assistance I received in putting everything together and delivering the “package”.