Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Passports That Almost...Weren't

Four weeks.  That's the current countdown to Cairo.  And before 0900EST today we didn't have our required diplomatic passports for State-ordered travel. Well, the hubby did. But he's been doing this whole travel under orders things a whole lot longer.  But the rest of us - that's me and our three darling munchkins - only had regular travel passports.

Way back in April...that's when I first become cognizant that I needed to light a fire under my bum and get things in action.  The kiddos and I had neither regular nor dip passports.  Meaning the furthest we could travel would be California. Or Maine. Or Florida.  You get the picture.  After my small meltdown, I finally got all the stuff needed to get our passports.  In late May, Jason and I took the kids to the post office and officially applied for the needed NINE passports for our family (regular and dip).  But I only had official birth certificates to send for one or the other.  Regular passports are processed at a different facility from dip passports.  So the postal clerk chose to send our birth certs with the regular applications and not the dip applications.  Not what I would have chosen, but it was what it was...

Two weeks later, I got a call from Special Issuance - they couldn't process our dip passports without certified copies of birth certificates.  HOWEVER, since the regular passports were in process, they could in fact process them as soon as the regular passports processed.  A mere week later, I received all of our regular passports.  I was feeling all confident and secure that our dip passports would follow behind.  Nada followed.

Fast forward to July.  Jason was one week out from arriving back Baghdad.  It had been seven weeks since our original application for all passports.  I called Special Issuance.  Explained that we had received our regular passports and wanted to know where the dip passports were.  Oops.  They forgot to contact us and let us know that the copy of orders for Cairo they had on file were preliminary and not official.  Thankfully, I had the official in my email, so I forwarded them that day.  I even made a follow-up call to make sure the email arrived.  The person I spoke with told me "I don't see them here, but I'm sure someone else in the office has them. Thank you." Umm...

Jason arrived home two weeks ago and I'll admit passport stuff was pretty much all forgotten.  It's been so nice just being a family, that actually, almost all has been forgotten!  But here we are now a month out, and talking about our move.  Figuring what days to packout.  What to take.  Double checking with the kid's school in Cairo, getting the stuff we need.  New bedding.  A mattress pad/cover (Thanks Jen and Becky!).  Visa stamps to Cairo.


I speed-dialed Special Issuance.  No answer (well, it was 4:00pm on Monday).  Jason called them the next day.  It was lunch time.  He called again in the afternoon.  Voicemail only.  Wednesday came and I called the office first thing at 0830 (the magic day for getting things done in government, I swear!).  I got a live person.  Who pulled up our files and said there was a note that the supervisor had denied the passports.  But didn't say why.

WHAT!? WHAT!?! WHAT!!!!  But we need Visa Stamps and we can't get them put on something like a napkin you know! We must have those passports and we need them now - it take two weeks for Visa Stamps to process, and we only have four weeks until we move, and I need an extra week cushion for my own sanity and for the governmental hiccups!

She calmly told me I needed to send an email to the generic address that she recited over the phone.  That I needed to put all our names in the email with our DOBs and departure date.  REALLY!?  This is what you need?  Because it's all in the computer - with our applications and travel orders!  Still, I frantically typed out an email that went something like this...

Dear Person-Who-I-Hope-Can-Actually-Help-Me,
I'm freaking out because we leave for another country in one month. I don't know if we'll be able to actually enter said country because although I was told that dip passports process faster than travel passports, I have yet have to receive them.  It's been 2 months since we applied for these.  Here's the information you requested, even though you already have it in front of you.  If you'd like, I will happily send it in a follow-up email should this first one mysteriously end up in the wrong department.  Enjoy your lunch.  Please contact me for any other duplicate information you might need.  PS I need these within the week.  
Sincerely, Psychotic Heather

Ok, obviously, this isn't what I wrote. (I'm not usually anywhere near this sarcastic, but at the moment, that was all that went through my head!)  I actually wrote a nice, desperate email pleading our case, with the requested info.  And followed up the email with a call.  That got me a different person - and I wish I could remember her name - who was very helpful and after putting me on hold (instead of asking me to call back!) told me someone was working on our applications and should have it figured out by the end of the day. She asked that I please call in the AM for a follow-up.  YES!  Thank you! I *heart* you!

This morning, I got up and planned to make my 0830EST call.  But Jason stopped me.  Because in his hands...he had the passports.  Our super awesome Special Issuance contact had Overnight Shipped them through FedEx and they arrived today!

Looking back over the two months...where I went wrong (can't blame it all on the system, now can I?)...I should have made a note in my calendar and made phone calls in late June, not mid-July.  We would have had them much sooner.  But all's well that ends well.

Really, had we known about the process way back in the day, we would have applied through FSI (here's A Daring Adventure's take on it) when Jason was training in D.C.  But hindsight is always 20-20, right?  At least we got them.

Now we just need to get our Visa Stamps...

A family of passports.


  1. I found the visa/passport process to be so stressful. I mean, most stuff: packing, classes etc, you have some control over, but with that you have to hand over your passports and cross your fingers that they get it all back to you in time! You just have to hope that they see the departure date on your application and push it through accordingly. (For the record, we submitted our paperwork a month ahead of time and got them back 5 days before we left. It was just a little too close for comfort.) Good luck!!

  2. I hope the visas come through quickly. You guys are so close!