A few days ago, as part of a getting-to-know-you exercise, we at the kindergarten were given a small bag and asked to bring in something important to us. Most of the stuff that’s really important to me is not in Abu Dhabi and would not fit in the bag anyway. Friends, family, my grandmother’s dresser. None of that was going to fit and bringing in pictures didn’t occur to me. I once had to have someone explain what out-of-the-box thinking was because I’d never thought in the box in the first place.
After some thought and sifting through my local belongings I hit upon my passport. It’s very important to me. In a functional sense, it allows me to travel and identifies me as an American citizen. In a historical sense, it is an official record of my travels. The work visas for Korea and the UAE taking up whole pages, the stamps from Thailand, the Philippines, Bahrain, and Oman portions and the tourist visa from Chile inexplicably stapled on the last page like it’s being quarantined. In a symbolic sense, it represents my freedom to travel which I highly value. That airline commercial from a few years ago has been ringing around in my head the last few days. “Ding, ding. You are now free to move about the country.” Only I am free to move around the world. And move I do.
In the meeting we went around and most everyone had pictures of family or friends. A few had mementos or things they collected. All very telling about themselves if you really though about what they brought in.
Then it was my turn. I held up my battered passport with the weird ink mark on the cover and the permanent bend from being in my pocket so much as I maneuver through airports and explained the functional and historical significance of it. As I flipped through it to show them my many stamps one of the Arabic teachers exclaimed, “You don’t have any pages left!” Which I don’t. There’s the front and back of one page and a couple of little blocks left so I have to send it away to have more pages put in it because it’s not going to make it to 2015 when I have to replace it.
Not when I can walk to Oman from here.