Turtle's Progress

Thursday, June 26, 2014


My new passport came in the mail last week.  The next day the cancelled one was sent back as well.  This set me to wondering if I still had my other cancelled ones and how many there were.   After a quick search through a couple drawers I had them all gathered together.  As I lined them up, six in all counting the new one, I began thinking about the places I'd been that had required their use and wondered what memories opening them up would bring back to me. 

The first one was issued in my maiden name on August 1st 1973, exactly three months before I married my first husband in Nicosia, Cyprus.  The young woman pictured, barely 20 years old, looks hopeful and in love.  There are Cypriot arrival and departure stamps, and a  "Temporary Resident Permit" stapled in the back that is valid "for so long as her husband is employed with the State Department agencies functioning in Cyprus."  That turned out to be only six months.   But during those six months we married, made our first home together, traveled from one end of the island to the other, visited ancient ruins, drove on the left, came to love the Cypriot people and celebrated my 21st birthday shortly before we left. 

In January 1975 my husband was on temporary duty with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.  Still using this first passport, I joined him there for a short time on an entry visa "good for two journeys and six months stay".  This visa cost me $5 and stated I was not entitled  to work in Lebanon.  This visa is from the "Consulate General of Lebanon in New York" and is stamped over a beautiful green Cedars of Lebanon Stamp.  (It's the prettiest thing in any of them!)  I nearly missed the entry notice back in to New York from that trip.  It is stamped ever so lightly and seems to say I was hardly gone long enough to warrant one at all!  But my time in Beirut was a grand adventure.  I roamed through the city, in and out of the tiny shops, walked along the seawall down to the Embassy, spent an afternoon in "The Souk" (a giant outdoor marketplace full of anything you would want to buy and oozing with the big smells of Mediterranean spices).  One day I got too close to a Palestinian refugee camp and was sent on my way by a police officer.   The Charles Hotel where we stayed for those six weeks was right in the city center with walking access to the main area of downtown Beirut.

My second passport was issued in 1976 shortly before we departed for Misawa, Japan.  Though my first passport would not expire until 1978, this new one was issued in my married name.  It also, as well as the two following, was valid "only for use in connection with the bearer's residence abroad as a dependent of a member of the American military...."  The picture shows a slightly older young woman, more serious than the first, and looking somewhat unsure about where this passport would take her.  My first child was born while we were there, and the second one on her way before we departed.  I like to say both of my daughters were "Made in Japan."  We lived in a small house just outside the gates of the base and chose not to move into base housing when our name came up on the list.  Vendors specializing in all sorts of wares would visit our neighborhood during the week.  The basket man, the plant man, the sweater man, the vegetable man, and the trinket man all made their rounds.  Our neighborhood consisted of both Americans and Japanese citizens and these older men pulling their wooden carts sold to all of us!  Winters were brutal in this part of Japan!  We arrived in February 1977 and 36 inches of snow fell during our first  24 hours in country.  This California girl was in shock!  There was a traditional Japanese hot bath in our neighborhood where I would sometimes walk and enjoy a good soak with my baby in tow.   It's interesting that this passport has a departure stamp from Japan in September 1979 but no entry stamp back in to America.  

Less than a year later in August 1980 this second passport also took me to Athens, Greece.  My daughters were three months and 21 months when we arrived.  They each had their own passport with a baby picture attached.  My time in Greece was full of babies and motherhood.  I remember well the small apartment where my daughters grew from babies to toddlers and preschoolers.  They were four and a half and three when we left.  Our apartment building was in a Greek neighborhood but filled with American families.  We became good friends with one particular family and our daughters loved to play together.  We survived a fairly strong earthquake during our time there and thereafter lived with a quick-exit travel bag filled with passports and other important papers located close to the door.  I came to love the smell of Greek food cooking at outside tavernas and the open air market that closed our street every Tuesday morning.


During our time in Greece my second passport expired and the next one was issued by the American Embassy in Athens.  The picture shows a harried mother of a newborn and toddler.  I remember the day that picture was taken and it is not a pretty sight!!  The lone entry in this third passport is my departure from Greece.  Again, there was no entry stamp back into the US. 


The fourth passport was issued in 1987 shortly before my family departed for nearly three years in Coco Solo, Panama.  My girls were seven and eight when we arrived and my passport picture reflects a more relaxed and pulled together mother of school-agers!  We lived in old WWI era housing on  a beautiful waterfront area loaded with little girls all nearly the same age as our children.  They had the freedom to roam the waterfront (I could look out the front window of our second story apartment and see exactly where they were) and play with their friends all day long!  They both still talk about this time as the best of their childhoods.  I enjoyed my time there by putting my newly acquired degree in Early Childhood Education to good use by opening a small preschool for our neighborhood children.  I located it in the bottom of our building, using the garage area and a room that was the "maid's room" when this housing was used by high ranking Naval Officers in the early part of the 20th century.  (I've often wondered if this is where his family lived when Senator John McCain was born on Coco Solo Submarine Base in 1936).  This passport contains entry and exit stamps from the Republic of Panama and an entry stamp into Charleston, South Carolina.

My international travel days were on welcome hiatus for 15 years until 2004.  By then I had divorced, and remarried.  Almost as soon as we married Tom started talking about wanting to travel abroad.  We planned a British honeymoon which required a new passport!  This one, issued in 2003, and showing what looks like a mugshot of my 50 year old self, has had more use than any of the others.  Two trips to England and a tour of Ireland during its ten years of validity.  This passport was used strictly for vacationing!!  I have wonderful memories of our times in England.  On our first trip there in 2004 Tom met and exchanged business cards with a British police officer.  He and his wife have since become good friends and we have had the pleasure of traveling with them through California and down to the Gulf.  Our time in Ireland was jam-packed full of information from our tour guide and made much more fun by traveling with Tom's cousin and his wife.

And so this new passport sits on my desk ready to be broken in.   Comparing its picture to the 20 year old in that first one, I see the resemblance.  I also see the life that face has lived during the past forty years.  I see the airports, the suitcases, the homes, the children, and the heartache that face has borne.  Most of all I see a life well-lived and ready for more!  This new passport will take me to England once again this September and on a quick side trip to Paris.  It is valid until 2024, expiring 50 years after the first one was issued!  Let the adventures begin!!