Day 1 in Madrid. Sunday, 2nd January, 2011
It had been two days since the bag containing our passports was stolen on the train from Valladolid back to San Sebastian. After all the speculation about getting our travel documents, things turned out to be somewhat straightforward. Especially at the Malaysian embassy.
We met the Second Secretary and his colleague who explained that there was ONLY ONE OPTION for me: I would be issued with a “Perakuan Cemas” or “Emergency Certificate”, valid for one journey back to Malaysia for the purpose of getting a new passport. Basically, it was a temporary passport which we were told would be retained by the Malaysian immigration when I was issued my new passport.
So it was actually never an option to fly to London to go to the Malaysian embassy there to get a replacement passport. I wonder though, if I had lost my passport in the UK, would the Malaysian embassy there issue me with the replacement passport? Perhaps. I’m not sure.
We filled up a couple of forms, and provided them the copies of my birth certificate and Malaysian identity card, copy of the lost passport – all of which hubby had printed by accessing the scanned documents on “Dropbox” using his iPad – 4 passport-sized photos and Euro 17.10. They also accepted the police report in Spanish, i.e. they did not need a translation. We didn’t know when we would be able to travel so they were very accommodating and gave me a validity period of one month instead of the normal one week.
There was only one proviso: I had to fly back via London or Doha (on a one-way ticket!) as these were the only two places which recognised the Emergency Certificate and as such were the only two airports where I could transit. There were no direct flights from Madrid to Kuala Lumpur. So we chose Doha because it meant we could fly Qatar Airways and collect some air miles!
And we could fly together at least until Doha, then hubby flies to Kuwait and I fly to Kuala Lumpur.
Once hubby was in Kuwait, he would take my Malaysian identity card and birth certificate to the Malaysian embassy there to have the copies certified and couriered to me so I could go and get my replacement passport. This is what we were told to do. Hubby wondered if he should instead courier my identity card and birth certificate to me in Malaysia…but we thought, NO WAY….imagine losing those documents….wow…then I would really be in much, much more trouble!
Anyway, we were glad to at least have solved half the problem. I have my temporary passport and all this was done within an hour on a Sunday. We were so thankful that they were such nice people at the Embassy who went out of their way to help us. On their day off too.
Still, we had no idea what we needed to do about getting back into Kuwait (yes, we do have to go back to Kuwait, as hubby works there, remember?) so hubby called his secretary to break the news to her and to ask her to start finding out first thing on Monday what we needed to do to get back into Kuwait since we had both lost our Kuwaiti civil IDs and our residency visas in our passports.
Day 2 in Madrid. Monday, 3rd January, 2011
It was hubby’s turn to deal with the Spanish Ministry of the Interior to get his passport replaced. It too was a rather straightforward matter if you don’t count the one hour wait despite the 11:40am appointment at the Spanish Ministry of the Interior branch in Madrid AND the reprimand that he got from the ministry staff when he presented his old expired ID and did not have an appointment to renew it. He literally begged her to do the new ID AND the passport with this one appointment. She was very angry but did it in the end. We got his passport within an hour.
It was a big relief for us to have completed this phase. Now we both have travel documents! Technically, I could travel to Malaysia right away but we decided that we would leave Spain together. Hubby still needed to know what he needed to do to re-enter Kuwait.
The Kuwait Embassy in Madrid told us that we needed to get an Arabic translation of the police report done by an authorised translator. The translation also had to be certified by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Zainab tells us the same story. She said she had been told that hubby could re-enter Kuwait with a visit visa on arrival but subsequently would need to replace the residency visa in his new passport and for that he would need the translated police report.
We found a translator in the Yellow Pages and she said it would take one to two days to do the translation and it cost 80 Euros for the first 500 words. Profitable line of business, I have to say. BUT we still need an appointment at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the earliest appointment available was 17th January!
Amidst all the uncertainty I decided to call my cousin in Malaysia who used to work in the Malaysian Immigration Department to tell him about our situation and basically to find out if the Malaysian authorities would also need a Malay translation of the police report. Obviously, we can’t leave Spain until the translations were available. He said the translation could be done in Malaysia and told me not to worry as he would help me out once I was back in Malaysia.
By now what seemed to be so straightforward this morning was starting to look a bit more complicated. We never thought that it would be the Kuwaiti re-entry visa that would hold back our travel plans. Right now we couldn’t even book flights anywhere.
All we knew was that I had to go back to Malaysia and hubby needed another piece of paper to go back to Kuwait. As would I when I needed to go back to Kuwait. We prayed it would become clearer the next day and wondered how much longer we would need to stay in Madrid.
Day 3 in Madrid. Tuesday, 4th January, 2011
I finally called my Mum and sister to tell them what happened. I was afraid she would be worried but she told me it had happened to them in a hotel in the Netherlands in the ’70s! So far we had been Facebook-silent too as we didn’t want friends and family to worry about us.
Hubby’s secretary calls and told us that the office had started processing his visa and that this was all that was required for him to re-enter Kuwait and the translation to Arabic was NOT required. That was the GOOD NEWS. The bad news was that the visa would take ONE week!
Oh no……we can’t stay here one more week!!!! Hubby decided to call in his “wasta” (Arabic for “influential person” who could facilitate things) and spoke to two colleagues who had high level contacts in the Ministry of the Interior in Kuwait and they said they would do whatever they could to help shorten the process.
Day 4 in Madrid. Wednesday, 5th January, 2011
Hubby’s colleague called and said that the relevant official of the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior had been informed of our case and will be facilitating the issuance of the visa by tomorrow. We were so hopeful and this was very important because the work-week ends on Thursday in Kuwait! It MUST be ready tomorrow so we can take the Friday flight out of Spain.
We focussed hard and tried to maintain a positive outlook. It will be ready tomorrow.
Should we do something to take our mind off this important event? Why not…we had never been in Spain at this particular time of the year. It was the “Three Kings’ Day” (“El día de Reyes”) tomorrow, and tonight was the night of the big float procession (“Cabalgata de Reyes”) and fireworks. So we decided to join the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards to watch this important and impressive event.
What else could we do but go with the flow. Tomorrow was another day.
Day 5 in Madrid. Thursday 6th January
Zainab calls and tells hubby that the visa was ready but there was an error in the document and it needed to be reissued! But by the time the “manduub” (Arabic for “runner”) got back to the Ministry, the official had gone home! Unbelievable!!!! That meant that we had to wait till Sunday for the visa. And the next flight out of Spain would be Monday.
We were devastated. So that’s it. THREE more days in Madrid. Hubby’s secretary said there was nothing more anyone could do. She said “Why don’t you just enjoy the weekend in Madrid?” I guess she was right. There were many more things we wanted to see and do in Madrid so we’ll do it. Why not. We’re here. We may as well enjoy it. Nothing to feel guilty about. It was a “forced extended holiday” by all accounts.
So far we had done a lot of walking, everyday. And tried to enjoy the cuisine. Nothing like San Sebastian – which by now seems like another lifetime – but traditional Spanish cuisine nonetheless. And we had caught Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in “The Tourist” (seems appropriate huh?)
Today is Three Kings’ Day and is a public holiday. One of those days apart from Christmas day when everything was closed. All the shops were closed except for a couple of souvenir shops. The city was dead.
Hubby wanted to go to Getafe where he used to live when he was a kid. So we took the train to La Margarita which was only 10 minutes away and walked around the area. He showed me where he used to live, play and go to school. It was a walk down memory lane for him.
Earlier, at the Metro Station, we saw an interesting wall painting full of quotes by famous people. One of them said “Si de noche lloras por el sol, no verás las estrellas.” which translated into “If at night you cry for the sun, you will not see the stars.”
It was as though a very poignant message had been delivered to us. We decided to give ourselves permission to try and fully enjoy the weekend. We decided to watch two more movies – “The Last Three Days” with Russell Crowe and “The Way Back” with Colin Farrell.
What is it with all these movies titles? First it was “The Tourist” and now these…
Then we bought tickets to a Flamenco show at a theatre nearby the hotel. Neither of us had seen a flamenco show before. And…this was also the first time we had been here in Madrid when “rebajas” or the big sales start the day after Three Kings’ Day.
Hubby said, “Here’s your chance. You’ve always said you wanted to be here when the “rebajas” started on 7th January. So wth. Tomorrow, we will do what everyone does on 7th January in Spain every year – shop till we drop!
We thought we would also try to do El Prado again and see the sections we missed on the previous trip. And of course, catch the flea market at El Rastro.
And on Sunday when the offices reopen in Kuwait after the weekend, we will get hubby’s visa and on Monday 10th January, inshallah, we will fly out of Madrid, then our separate ways to Kuwait and Kuala Lumpur.
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