Holiday Limbo.

“Assume and you make an ass out of you and me” – Oscar Wilde

We’ve been planning this holiday for a year.

During the week, my girlfriend Krissy and I had discussed the paperwork involved with traveling with a family of six. I’d talked about the drama of having to have passports up to date and residents permits updated. I had a quick look at my own passport that night and was relieved to see my residents permit had plenty of time before it expired, as did G’s. What I’d got wrong was I assumed the children’s expiry dates would be the same as mine. I still don’t know why they’re not.

Last night the first little traveler sent me an email while I was at dinner, it was all in caps “WE’RE GOING TO GO TO LONDON TOMORROW!!” I shared her message with everyone at the table, we all grinned at her excitement. “She’s sooooooo excited I told them – both of the girls want to stand on London Bridge and sing London bridge is falling down”.

We took two cabs to the airport, girls in one, boys in the other. We talked about what the weather would be like, the double decker bus and Hamley’s toy store. After the baggage was checked in and the boarding passes were handed over relief began to set it. We were officially on holidays. We’d made it with plenty of time to spare, it was just a matter of getting on the plane.

When the immigration official stopped to flick through the fourth travelers passport I didn’t think anything of it. When he then handed it to someone else who disappeared towards the side office with the more official looking officials, I looked toward G with a should we be worried about this face. He shrugged his shoulders. There was no explanation.

“Come” said the official looking official. “Three of your children’s resident permits have expired, you need to go to immigration and have them renewed”.

Time stood still.

“Can we do that here?” G asked.

“No – you will need to go on Sunday, it will take two or three days”

We remained standing in the same position, our boarding passes in our hands. People were beginning to stare. We had rented a house in London, we’d done the math on a hotel but it was cheaper to find a home. Part of the deal was paying a huge deposit upfront, we’d discussed what could go wrong, this wasn’t one of the things we thought of.

“You need to leave” said the official has he motioned us towards the door.

This couldn’t be happening.

The little travelers began asking questions “What are we doing Mummy?” “Are we still going to London?”

We went back to the check-in counter, they suggested the visa department on the other side of the airport. As we ran across the car park in clothes that were meant for a different temperature, I saw the faces of the little travelers falling apart, but by far, G’s face was the worst. G’s always good in a crisis, there’s never a voice that is raised, there is always logical thought. He’s the opposite of me. Over the years we’ve had a myriad of travel dramas but they are rarely of our own doing. How could we not know that their visas had expired? How did it get missed?

I listened to him tell our story to the woman at the visa desk. It became clear that there was nothing we could do. I took the children outside and sat them against a wall. The first little traveler began to cry, and then the third, the second and the fourth sat with their head in their hands.

When G came to join us he looked shattered. “We’ll just have to go home, we can’t do anything until the Immigration Office opens, I’ll go first thing on Sunday”.

I thought about our accommodation, the cost of our tickets, the friends we’d arranged to meet. G had been talking about this holiday for months. He needed to get away.

“You go –  you need the holiday, I’ll sort it out on Sunday” I really wanted him to go.

“I can’t – I’m their sponsor, I’ll need to be here to sign the paperwork – you should go”

While G changed the tickets, paid extra costs and stared at the wall, wondering how this had all happened, I sat with the little travelers and learnt how each one of them handles a crisis. The fourth little traveler had moved on, the third little traveler sat pulling at his wobbly tooth wondering if he’d still get British pounds from the tooth fairy, he’d had it all planned. As they hugged the second little traveler goodbye they gave pinky swears on what she could do in London on their behalf. “Promise me you’ll ring me from a red telephone box” asked the first little traveler.

This morning the second little traveler and I woke up in Nottinghill, we are 200 yards from the Kensington High Street and we can see people making their way to the Portobello road markets. The house is beautiful but empty. It’s so quiet without the extra bodies and the added layers of excitement. Over toast and tea the second little traveler and I have discussed heading out this morning. “Let’s just look around for now Mummy – let’s save the double decker bus and The London Bridge for the others when they get here”.

I have my fingers and toes crossed that their permits can be organized quickly but I’ve heard the horror stories. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime I remain in holiday limbo, I’m at my destination but only half of me is here, the rest is back in Doha, waiting.

How about you? Have you had a holiday nightmare recently?

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  1. Oh, I feel for you! We’re also dealing with a residency permit issue this very moment, but not nearly as dramatic as yours and I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say I’m suddenly newly required to show our marriage certificate, which is buried in a safety deposit box on another continent.

    I know how you feel with only half of your family with you. Hope you will enjoy anyway, and that the others will follow soon (fortunately Sunday is a business day in Doha!)

  2. Oh Sweetheart. What a shocker. Fingers crossed that G will work it all out tomorrow and they can join you swiftly. J x

  3. Oh bless, mixed feelings – I hope your other half of the family arrives soon. What a dilemma. Welcome to London though, hope you and your second little traveler can keep busy until everyone is reunited.

    I’ve not had this kind of problem but I’ve missed many a plane before for a variety of reasons. In the end, I arrived but you know the frustration and tears in between is always tiring. When I lived in Tokyo as an expat, I was spoilt having people check the admin for me, now, I’ve got to do that myself here in London. Do stay positive and take a stroll around Notting hill and Kensington Palace is not far either. 🙂 x

  4. So sorry! But, you are handling it so well. The rest of the gang will be with you before you know it. Maybe the two of you can go see a movie? There are about three cinemas in Notting Hill and they are all great. We are also in Notting Hill, so if you need anything let me know!

  5. Oh no. This is awful. That sense (reality) of being absolutely powerless is the pits. I hope they arrive soon.
    And yes, I have a horror story. When we left Sydney to fly here a year ago we discovered at the airport that in fact the airline tickets I had paid for over the phone had not actually been paid for. So we had to buy new tickets at twice the price and wait another day to fly.
    Oh yes, and when we went through customs in Sydney I discovered that we should have been flying out on our Australian passports not US. And all our Australian passports had expired! Thank god I had the expired passports with me and an Australian accent. That hurried things up considerably. We also missed our connecting flight from LA to SFO… it goes on and on. But it was of course all ok in the end.
    Crossing my fingers that you have G and the other Little Travelers with you soon.
    Michelle x

  6. Stupid passport people or who ever handled your resident passes. As you say… why weren’t they all set to expire on the same day? You both must feel sick to your stomach about the whole thing.
    The feeling of unbelief that this was happening. How did you get on language wise? Is English spoken at the airport?
    AND THE COST!!!!

    I’ve had very few hassles with flights. I was late for a flight from Beijing to London through no fault of my own that makes for a great travel story and was last on after being patted down s by a nice female official. I hadn’t been told by the travel agent that I would need 90 yuan for departure tax, etc, etc.

    Another was being watched by guards with guns at the ready in West Timor until I boarded because I stupidly had cooking knives I had bought in a market at Kuepang in my hand luggage.
    DUH! they thought I was a hi jacker. Fair enough.
    Another was with Rynair that I really like, where I had to pay 80 UK pounds for a lost boarding pass at Baden Baden in Germany.
    Looking forward to your next post of happy re-unitings. xo

  7. Anonymous says

    I just find it sad you left your family. Have fun shopping I guess.

    • Dear “Anonymous” – I have one of my children here with me and as of 5 minutes ago have just found out we have permits for the others and they should be on a flight in about 4 hours. There hasn’t been any shopping as yet, just sightseeing with Ms 9, although yesterday we both bought a scarf because it was freezing on top of the double decker bus, there was no way she was going to sit anywhere other than right up the top. Thanks for your enlightening comment – I hope you have a great day, I certainly will.

    • Dear Anonymous, The writer of this blog loves her family very much. Next time you feel the need to make an inappropriate judgement on her life perhaps have the decency to do so without hiding behind the anonymous tag. Have a fabulous day.

    • It’s hard to understand how anyone could make such an insensitive comment. Anonymous is unlikely to have ever found him or herself in such a situation.What ever happened to putting yourself in another’s shoes? It costs nothing to refrain from such an unpleasant comment, or to contribute, instead, one that is kind. Thank goodness all of the kindness in the world cannot be undone by this type of nonsense.

  8. Anonymous – what a petty, mean-spirited thing to say! These things happen, and sometimes you just have to take the tough decisions and make the best of it. Clearly Kirsty is missing her family, but having her and the second traveller stay back would only have added additional cost on top of everything else. I actually happen to think it’s a good lesson for their children to observe: sometimes things happen that don’t seem fair but you deal with it, they’re strong and mature enough to accept the bad hand they’ve been dealt, and they have two parents who model strength, flexibility and grace under pressure. Kudos to Kirsty and G!

  9. Well said, Linda! If there is one thing our expat kids learn early, it’s adaptability and that life is not always fair. There are no more valuable lessons. Kirsty and G are stellar examples of how we deal with adversity, make the hard decisions and move on.

    Hope this holiday, despite its rough start, is everything you have dreamed of and planned, Kirsty! You all deserve it.


  10. Glad to hear your family is to be reunited soon. Hope Blighty turns on the weather for you.

  11. I am not sure it will make you feel better but I once took three days to get to Finland from Aus. My passport was stolen in-flight from Brisbane to Singapore so I ended up getting an emergency ppt in Singers only to be told Finland wouldn’t accept it so I had to return to Brisbane (via Melbourne) to get a new passport on a Friday afternoon to fly back to Finland that night – and then my bag got left in Melbourne so I arrived to negative temps with just the clothes on my back! aaaah! Glad to hear your family will be joining you soon and you did the right thing by getting at least some of your gang underway when you could!

  12. Bloody hell – that’s awful!

    Reminds me to check our passports – Sapphire’s is due for renewal next year so I’ll get started on it early.

    We *nearly* had a similar disaster a couple of months ago in Luxembourg. Hubby had to send his passport to the US embassy for a visa for his upcoming work trip and they had *forgotten* to send it back (yes, really). Luckily, they accepted fault and couriered it straight over. Otherwise, like you, Sapph and I would have had a few days holidaying without him.

  13. I’m reading this on Tuesday Aus time really hoping that the rest of your family are on the way to enjoy my home country and that you all have a fab holiday.

  14. Oh my. How you all must’ve felt at the time! We would’ve done exactly the same as you if we were in the same position. It is just a hiccup…there always have to be one when travelling as a family! xx

  15. I too would have done the same. The positive is you got a tiny window of one on one time with your daughter. Enjoy the rest of your holiday. It’s sure to be a memorable one with a beginning like that. A bit like how a good camping trip is the one you forgot the tent pegs. xx

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