Nine years later, it’s been stamped by 19 immigration controls — excluding US and Canada — and filled with Chinese visas. I even added 48 pages to it a few years ago. It’s been stickered all over, and tattered and soaked by at least two major downpours, which made the photo page all blotchy. Whenever I tried to cross a border, officials on both sides would do a double-take; sometimes they’d even say something:
- Exiting China: “Did your passport get soaked?”
- Entering the United States: “Phew. What happened to your passport?”
- Entering Thailand: “I can’t see your face.”
- Entering Vietnam: *Looks at passport, narrows eyes. Looks at computer. Looks at me. Moves passport around to look at it from different angles. Flips through pages. Looks at computer. Looks at me. Looks at passport. Mumbles something at me in Vietnamese. Looks back at passport. Sighs. This is actually quite fun for him. Sits. Looks at computer. Looks at passport. Looks at me. Smirks. Stamps passport.*
I didn’t care.* I flashed my battered passport like it was a badge of my travel cred. I’ve been places, yo. It didn’t help that I had to use it so often within China — signing leases, conducting bank account transactions, booking trains and flights, registering with police, even getting a local phone number. I began taking it with me wherever I went, despite all the travel advice not to. My passport number, issue and expiry dates are seared into my memory. I was one with my passport.
And now I’ve gotten another one, one with fewer 4s and more 5s :(
* This is a lie; I always got super nervous whenever I needed to present my passport because of the damage. But apparently it’s no big deal because my passport was never rejected.