Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Passport Renewal

The hardest part about realizing that my passport is expiring next month is not so much the hassle of running to the Embassy down town to fill out the forms it is going to take to renew it. It's not the $60 I have to pay. It's not even the fact that I can't spell the street I live on here in Thailand by memory.
It's just that passports expire once a decade and I thought, as I flagged down a taxi to head down to the embassy, how strange it seemed to be doing this. Has it truly been ten years? I found myself looking at the photo inside and trying to use it like some kind of portal to my own past. I was 29 then and with a pocket full of cash from my sports accounting job and my teacher's salary that had finally broken $40,000. I was divorced and enjoying single life. I was strong and naive. I had never left America, but told people about my travels within the country as if I was telling harrowing adventure stories. I watched Asian films and mistakenly believed I understood a culture I'd never visited. And at age 29 I was finally getting around to filing out a passport application and actually leaving the country. A late bloomer is an understatement for this Xpat. God my eyes look young and of course there is more hair...
29 is such a wonderful age. Mature and yet not old. Young and yet experienced. On the edge of both youth and adulthood and so much of life is ahead and I can see in my eyes even in this passport no-smiling-please photograph that I know it.
39 is not so young. A decade has passed from my first passport and my first trip to Thailand which followed shortly after. My God I loved Asia. Within five years of my first visit I was moving here. Where did the ten years go? Where did the money I came with to Thailand go? Now I am just a broke writer barely getting by in a two room flat and eating street food because I can't afford anything more than a dollar or two a day, but when I came money was no object. My American money was strong against the baht and I had squirreled away lots of it in my gambling days. It went fast here! Writer's are not always such frugal people and Thailand's seemingly inexpensive lifestyle can make one feel a sense of false security. Water under the bridge for me really. I am poor, sometimes fearfully so, but I am a survivor and I have always found a way to make it.
I do fear though that I have lost something in this past decade far more valuable than a bulky bank account. Have I made enough memories? I fear my life has been like a trashy romance novel where I flipped through boring page after mundane chapter without recollection, only truly taking notice of erotic or exotic events - so many wasted pages have been turned between these special days and now they cannot be returned to for another glance.
What about my next passport? Perhaps that's the real concern. I'm coming to grips with the 40 thing, but I'll be months away from 50 when I make my next passport run. That is not a number I ever thought I would achieve.