Friday, February 15, 2008

Persona non grata

I am alone. I am home. I did not go to Prague.
Why? The answer to this question is twofold. The rational explanation is that we though the Czech republic was already a member of the Schengen area… and it is, since December 21, 2007. Many of you might be wondering what this has to do with my trip (or lack of); well, let me explain…
As a member of the Schengen area the Czech republic is a nation that does not require visas from/to other member countries (in my case Italy.) We did our research when we bought our plane tickets and hotel reservations, and we were very happy that we did not have to deal with any more bureaucracy (my fellow expats in Italy know what I am talking about.) Well, when we arrived at the airport (dog left at doggie care, house closed and alarmed, car under friend’s care, suitcase packed, camera ready) we found out otherwise: “the Czech Republic abolished checks at its land borders at midnight from 20 to 21 December 2007; border checks at the international airports on intra-Schengen flights will come to an end on 30 March 2008.”
Both my husband and my son are American citizens and they travel with an American passport. They were not required visa to the Czech republic, I, on the other hand, am still a Colombian citizen with American residency and I am required a visa. There was nothing we could do; the tickets were non-refundable, as was the hotel. Fernando and Nicolas did not want to go without me, so we tried to exchange the tickets; we learned that the penalty we had to pay was higher than the tickets themselves. I convinced my two “gringos” to go ahead with the trip and to enjoy it, they only had to promise me that neither one of them would wear any of my clothes (we had packed only one suitcase, you see.) They left and I took a taxi to retrieve our car to go home and fume!
Fume I did! I started writing this post several times, but I just couldn’t find the appropriate words to express what I was feeling. So begins the second part of my answer… I did not travel because I am Colombian. I know that I could have applied for a visa and after a minimum of two weeks and some expense I would have had a visa. I need a visa to travel almost everywhere in the world. I feel like a third class citizen of the world, an unwanted piece of the puzzle. I am upset, I am a proud Colombian, but I will be happy to travel with a blue passport, an American one (Colombian passports are burgundy, if you are curious to know) a magical key that opens all doors. I do not like this, I want to travel as a Colombian and not have to worry about being unwanted.
I won’t bother you with more of my ramblings and frustrations, I just needed to let it out so that I can focus on my next task… getting my permesso di soggiorno.

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