We were in mid-air when I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion. Tears were streaming down my face uncontrollably that the flight attendant made his way from one end of the plane to the other to ask, “Are you okay?”
I was fine, but I had been caught up in my thoughts.
Sometimes you plan things down to a T: you explore website after another, you watch Youtube videos for hours on end, you buy a guidebook and a map to add to your collection, and you make sure you know all you need to know.
In the meantime, you prepare your application thoroughly, even though you’ve done this three times in the last two years. You make the necessary number of photocopies, ensure that all the translations are ready, that your photograph is in the right dimensions. You’ve got the money in the bank and proof that you’re going to be back at your desk the morning after you return.
Then the day of your appointment comes: you’ve excused yourself from work for the morning so that you can go and stand in line and submit the massive file that you’ve been building for the past month, all while trying to reign in your nerves.
It goes off without a hitch.
You continue reading all you can. You dream up intinarires and bookmark places to eat at. Everything’s on track.
Until you get the call a while later: your application can’t be processed. Because your husband doesn’t have a passport- it’s a travel document that they simply do not recognize. There’s no way around it.
One phone call shatters everything you have been building for months. The vacation is not to be.
My biggest issue is that it’s not like the information we needed was readily available. I don’t really like going through this hassle so imagine how much time, effort, and nerves would have been spared if it had been just highlighted somewhere that “Palestinian refugees with Lebanese travel documents need not apply!”
But Googling yields irrelevant results. Past visa exceptions make no mention of this particular country. Embassies rarely pick up the phone. And no precedent has been set among our family and friends in the same situation. So really, we’re just going by trial and error here.
We apply, we cross our fingers and hope for the best and either we travel to the initial destination or we try to salvage things by finding loopholes or rerouting.
I can’t pretend to understand how and why countries feel the way they do about Ahmad’s status and travel document, after all I myself am still learning about all the intricacies. It’s not his fault that he has to live with the refugee label, but you can’t explain that to other people, let alone whole countries.
But what I do know is that we’re trying to make the best of the situation we have found ourselves in. We both want to travel the world and we want to do it together- even if that means applying months in advance, hands on our hearts every time we do.
This time, the answer we heard wasn’t the one we wanted- and we missed out on visiting Portugal, a beautiful country with much to offer. I remain hopeful that things will change, either Ahmad’s situation or the borders become more inclusive of us all, and that one day we’ll be able to go.
But when one door closes another opens- which is why I was crying on the plane to begin with.
We had just spent four fantastic days in Crete and were en route to Athens for another four. Had our initial visa been approved, we would’ve never gone to Greece, as it wasn’t a priority. But because we re-routed, we got to experience a whole different country and had a great time doing so. And nobody even batted an eye at our documents.