Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.Anais Nin
I have the attention span of an underslept goldfish and the ambition of, well, I don’t know what animal has the most FOMO, but I want to do ALL the things. I am an overthinker, an over-planner. I make lists of all the lists I need to make. I plan contingencies for my contingency plans. I like to be over-prepared for when things inevitably go sideways.
My favorite SME (pronounced Smee, like the pirate) taught me about SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) because she knows about stuff like that. I think everybody I know is a SME; it just depends on the Subject Matter. My SME for all things travel is a former travel agent with a great sense of adventure. He gave me a ranking of preferred airlines and airports. I couldn’t afford the top of the list, but British Airways was ranked fairly high, and I remembered that they made a very nice cup of tea on my honeymoon flight. I also narrowed my airports down to Heathrow and Madrid. He had other recommendations on his list, but I was keen on changing planes where I was functional in the native language.
I was feeling very good at the adulting, jumping through the hoops the school had given me: flights booked, travel insurance confirmed, orientation module complete, vaccine and medical requirements cleared, textbooks and funding secured, passport renewal… well begun. I was handling all of that and working and prepping for finals. Total boss mode. And the universe laughed.
Let’s go back to that passport thing. My previous passport expired in August 2020. August 2020 wasn’t a good time for handling non-essential government business in person, and I couldn’t do a straightforward renewal because I had my married name on my previous passport. Legally changing my name back to Torres has been a major pain in the neck. Doing it on my passport was no exception.
As soon as in-person appointments were available at the campus passport office, I made an appointment for early April. Then I discovered that I could handle it faster by mail. I canceled my appointment, and on March 25, I paid for Express Shipping for my passport renewal application and what I thought were all the necessary supporting documents (including payment for expedited processing). It wasn’t received until April 1st.
On Saturday, they contacted me, saying that the court order restoring my maiden name was inadequate for the name change. On Monday, I spoke to someone at the National Passport Center and confirmed that they needed all nine pages of the court order granting my divorce, not just the page relevant to the name change. That same day I mailed the original nine-page document (because I didn’t have time to go to FedEx and pay for copies and still make it to class, and I didn’t want to delay it to the next day, having already waited all weekend for things to be open) to the address given, One-Day Express, again.
The tracking number said the label had been created, but the package did not show up in the system. Persistence is my superpower. I mean, some people call me stubborn, but whatevs. I just know that I can move mountains when I need to. I couldn’t figure out how to move this one, though. The Study Abroad website said that I had to report to Ponta Delgada in Portugal on June 1, 2022, or I could lose my spot in the program. I could not stubborn my way onto an international flight without a valid passport. I didn’t even have my expired passport anymore because it was one of the many documents I’d sent in with my renewal application. I’m a fighter, a problem solver, and stubborn, I mean persistent, persistent AF. None of that was helping me here. My willingness to do anything was useless when there was nothing to do.
Getting a new copy of my official court order required going to the court that had issued it in person. On April 23, I reached out to my divorce lawyer. I had moved roughly four hundred miles away from that court and was preparing for finals and a summer abroad, and trying to get to the court in Barstow on a weekday myself seemed like a nightmare. My lawyer, on the other hand, frequents the place. Unfortunately, he was out of the country then, so that wouldn’t be a quick solution, and I was running out of time. My advisor from Berkeley Study Abroad was sympathetic, but of course, he had no sway with the Passport Center or USPS.
This was my last summer as an undergraduate. Studying abroad was a now-or-never proposition, and I had worked so hard to get so close, and it was slipping away, and there was nothing I could do about it. On May 13, my lawyer was finally back in his office, but the day before (just two weeks before I had to be in Portugal), the National Passport Center had confirmed that they had all the necessary documentation. The post office never did figure out what had happened to my envelope, but despite it all, I got my passport in time. I was going to Portugal!
Opportunity knocks once let’s reach out and grab it (yeah!)The Muppets
Together we’ll nab it
We’ll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!
Movin’ right along
Movin’ Right Along