I’m not stateless, I only feel stateless. My identity has been taken, my permission to travel has been confiscated, and I am now a prisoner within the Schengen zone. Granted, only for one week, but it still feels terribly wrong.
I went to the Vietnamese embassy this morning to apply for a tourist visa. I had got information off the internet and my secretary had telephoned to confirm that information so I knew – amongst other things – that to get the visa would take one week and cost CZK 1500. What I didn’t know was that the Vietnamese would be holding onto my passport for the duration of that one week.
I was only at the embassy for about 15 minutes. I asked for a visa application form, I filled it in, and I went back to the window to wait for the little man to come back. I guess he had gone off on a cigarette break. When he came back, I tried to hand him my form, a photo, my passport and a CZK 2000 note. He rudely ordered me to glue my photo onto the form, which is when I finally noticed the glue stick on the counter. He then took everything from me, gave me CZK 500 in change, and wrote out a receipt. When he handed me the receipt, he told me to come back in a week. He then turned to put my passport and application on a table behind him.
When the little man turned again to face forward, I was still standing there and now looking at him in bewilderment.
“Come back in a week,” he repeated.
“I have to leave my passport here for the entire week?” I asked.
“You want a visa?” he shot back rudely.
“Ok, ok,” I said, and backed slowly away from the window.
And now I can’t go anywhere. I’ve got no plans to go anywhere between now and next Friday, but that’s not the point. I can’t even pick up a package from the post office. Not that I’m expecting one, but that’s not the point either. I can’t do anything at the bank and I can’t go to a notary. The point is that as a foreigner here – especially as a non-EU national – I need that stupid little US State Department issued book to do absolutely everything. And those civil servant communist motherfuckers, without a second thought, have just deprived me of my freedom for 7 whole days.