Here’s a problem most people never, never, have to deal with – running out of pages in their passports. Me either. Until now. While I still have four blank pages for stamps, you can sometimes have problems if there are fewer than six pages, and you certainly shouldn’t get to two pages. With having to go over to Singapore occasionally, the pages can fill out fast. So thus begins the quest for additional pages for my passport, which doesn’t expire until 2015.
The first step was to go online to find out what my options are here in Indonesia. So I did a search for “us passport additional pages” and found the U.S. embassy site (http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html). Good information here. One option was/is to fill out and print a form and then mail it, with my passport, to Philadelphia. Along with more than $200. To get 48 new pages in my passport. Not complaining, just saying.
Oh, there was one other problem – they will not mail outside the U.S. This would mean I would have to have the passport, complete with new pages, to my daughter in North Carolina, and she would then have to forward to me. The prospect of being without my passport for at least a month was not attractive.
The second option was to go to the U.S. Embassy in either Jakarta by air or Singapore by ferry to get the pages. There was information on this, as well (singapore.usembassy.gov). Not quite sure still, so I called. Then I made an appointment online and printed it out for my appointment. The appointment was for 9 a.m., which meant taking the 6:25 ferry from Batam and just being able to make it in time due to the one-hour time difference.
The boss was smart enough to dovetail my trip with the need for several people to go to Singapore to gather meat for the restaurants. He needed another “mule” who was allowed 20 kilos of suitcase coming back to Batam. My bum knee was incidental. We needed more carrying space for meat, so an extra mule was welcome. At least the ferry fare was on the company.
We needed a lot of meat for the restaurant, so it was me, Doug, Sarijan and Yvonne (Dutch woman who supervises in the restaurant) off to the big city. There is a new ferry service between Harbour Bay and Singapore, so we had a chance to find out about Prima Ferries. We went over on a double-decker catamaran, which was faster than the previous Wave Master ferry and had more room. It also offers outside seating for those so inclined, which I was on the return trip, which was on a lower, single-hull, double-decker.
Once on the Singapore side, I split from the others, who did the usual breakfast at McDonald’s. I grabbed some Singapore dollars at the ATM and hailed a taxi. The fare, with tip, to the U.S. Embassy was SG$14 (about US$10). The embassy is a massive stone building built on the side of a hill. Looked more like a fortress than a government building, lacking only a moat for protection. A short line of people stood outside waiting their turn to go inside. I was put in the short line, while about 50 locals sat under a roof waiting their turns.
Security, of course, was very tight; they even took my Shuffle and would have taken my cellphone if I hadn’t forgot it in Batam. Once inside, I took a number and was soon talking to a lady through bullet-proof glass. All I needed was extra pages for my passport but she said the cover was not strong enough to add pages so I would need to get a new passport. This meant I would need to come back in 7-10 days. Bummer.
First, I would need a new passport picture. They have a self-service photo booth where you do this for SG$10. Filled out an application form and returned to the window. Then I went to another window to pay – US$110. Now, I’m waiting for an e-mail saying it’s ready to be picked up, which you have to do from 3-3:30. I’ve already been told that when it’s ready, we’re doing another meat run, so I won’t have to pay for the ferry.
Once done at the embassy, I walked two blocks (hobbled is more like it) to the Tanglin Mall, where I was to meet up with the others. There is an upscale grocery store in the mall where we pick up some specialty food items. Since there were four of us, and since I needed extra space in the taxi because of my leg, it was decided I would go back to the ferry terminal on my own and wait for them to go to the two places for meat. They took my suitcase.
The Singapore Harbourfront terminal is attached to a large mall, so I found a small food court for lunch (roast duck and noodles – SG$4.50), and then hobbled around the mall seeing if there was anything interesting to buy. Finally, the others arrived and we were headed back to Batam.