I'm writing from the plane, almost in San Francisco, after one heck of a journey. I'll recount the madness for you.
I had to travel back to Italy for my final flight home, so I said good-bye to Malta and took back off to Milan. The next day I took the train to the airport and headed to check in. I allowed myself 2 hours before my flight, just like you should for international travel. I handed my passport to the check in-lady and she said,
"Where's your Visa?"
Visa? I didn't have a visa. I had been traveling Europe with my Maltese passport and didn't realize I would need a Visa to get back into the US. I explained to the lady that I was a dual citizen and had a US Passport, but it wasn't with me. She looked at me oddly and commented,
"It's very strange for you to have a US Passport and not be using it."
I didn't know what to say- I'm not a terrorist, I just lose things. I didn't want to lose my US Passport during the 3 month trip. We discussed the possibilities, one of which being going to the US Embassy in Milan and applying for an Emergency Passport. I pleaded with her. I HAD to get on this flight. I had planned my return specifically to make it home for Thanksgiving since I haven't had Thanksgiving with my family in a number of years. She made some calls, the manager came over, I wifi called my parents, and all the while the clock was ticking down.
At this point, I had less than 40 minutes before my flight was meant to leave. I began to panic. I couldn't get stuck in Italy. I had no more money, and people here spoke very little English. Finding a hotel and getting this all sorted out could take forever. Finally, the check-in lady handed me the phone she was on.
"Hi Jenise, this is Shondra with the Department of Immigration in New York. How are you doing today?"
"Uhm, a little stressed but hopefully talking to you means things will turn around."
Shondra proceeded to ask me a number of questions about myself, and my family members- all meant to verify I was who I said I was. Finally I handed the phone back over the counter, and a few minutes later received the good news that I was cleared to depart for the US. I rushed to the gate, making it just in time to board.
The struggle wasn't over just yet. The plane had to land in New York for everyone to clear customs before continuing on to their final destinations. I unfortunately had to wait in the "Visitor" line since I didn't have my US Passport. The US Citizens breezed through Customs in about 20 minutes, while my wait in the foreigner line took closer to 40. When I finally made it to a Customs Officer and explained my situation, they picked up the phone, made a call, and said
"Wait one moment."
A few minutes later a man with a badge came up to me and told me to follow him. We entered a separate room filled with cubicles and I followed him to a desk.
Again, I went through the process of answering a laundry list of questions to verify my identity. The Officer was pretty friendly and I wasn't too concerned at this point. At least I was on American soil, my phone worked, and everyone spoke fluent English. He eventually let me go, so I went to recheck my board bag and head to my gate. Unfortunately I had to go back through security and the line was horrendous. Once again, I made it to my gate just in time for boarding.
All the stress should be over soon though because in a few moments I'll be landing in San Francisco and meeting my parents again. I'm so excited to lay in my own bed for the first time in three months!
Time to shut off electronics!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!