“Seriously?? Where the hell is my passport??”
I am sitting on a bus bound for Sarajevo, and in the two hours since I’ve got on the bus in Dubrovnik, we’ve gone through 3 immigration checkpoints already. We were in queue for the fourth and hopefully last immigration check. Why so many passport checks? It’s because of how Croatia and Bosnia have their borders drawn. Croatia is a long and narrow country on the Adriatic Sea. Its Dalmatian Coast is known the world over for the numerous idyllic islands scattered around it as well as the raw natural beauty of the towns along the coast. Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia’s most known spots, are on opposite ends of the coast.
However due to the numerous pacts by the kingdoms of yore, the creation and subsequent destruction of various governments over the years; the town of Neum is now part of Bosnia, and to go between Split and Dubrovnik, one has to exit Croatia, enter Bosnia, and 15 minutes later,exit Bosnia to enter Croatia again.
Clearing immigration on the drive from Split to Dubrovnik was actually pretty easy and painless. The immigration checkpoint is setup like a toll way, and has a couple of lanes dedicated to buses. The buses pull over, and very pretty immigration officers will come on board and check everybody’s passport. They don’t check for visas. I don’t think they even care about what passport you’re holding. Their main concern is that everybody on the bus actually has a passport. This time though, we were crossing the border into Bosnia at Metkovic and will be entering Bosnia for real, not driving through it like in Neum.
There were 4 buses ahead of us, all private tour groups. Those took forever and a half to be processed. I can see the seniors on those buses getting agitated at the indignity and inconvenience of the numerous border checks they were being subjected to. There was a lot of going back and forth on the bus and their poor handler looked like he was about to die. Yes, I was snooping. I was bored and they were good entertainment.
When it was finally our turn to be processed, a big burly Bosniak got on the bus and started making his way down the buses aisle glancing at the passports. Ten minutes later, he went to the front of the bus and demanded the passports for citizens of the USA, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. I handed him mine. I watched in horror as the man went off the bus with my passport in tow. I didn’t want to be separated from my passport. I refuse to let it out of my sight. I’ve seen way too many Brokedown Palace type of movies to allow my passport to be taken from my possession.I thought the guy was just collecting them so he can stamp it in one go at the front of the bus,then return our passports before sending us off our merry way.
Fifteen minutes go by and the guy is still nowhere to be seen, I feel the bile in my throat rise up and up. I knew I had nothing to worry about. I had the all mighty eagle-emblazoned blue passport. The passport my Croatian and Bosnian friends assured me is my Golden Ticket to anywhere and everywhere in the Balkans. I do not feel like Charlie though, and the guy who took my Golden Ticket was more Oompa Loompa than Willy Wonka.
Finally, after 20 minutes the guy comes back with a stack of passports and starts calling names. I wait for my name to be called, any of my 5 names, nothing. The stack gets smaller and smaller, and still nothing. Oh shit! Bosniak Oompa just said goodbye to the bus driver and I still don’t have my passport!!
“Excuse me sir, I think you forgot to give me back mine.” I called out to the guy.
“No,” he says. “I’ve returned everything.”
SHIT! FUCK! SHIT! OHMYGOD! I’M GOING TO BOSNIAN JAIL!! Ok, try not to panic, relax, take a deep breath, in, out, in out.. No! No! No! I can’t be some Bosniak’s bitch! Ok, keep breathing, everything will be OK. Oh god no!! No! No! No!! They’ll eat me alive in there! No! No! NO! Oh god no! Ok god, if you get me out of this, I promise I’ll be good. I’ll go to church and do all the stuff good Catholics are supposed to do. Please don’t send me to jail!! Please! Please! Pretty please! I’m too cute to be anybody’s bitch!!
Needless to say, there was some pretty intense panic-induced hysteria happening in my head. All unnecessary though, because the immigration officer pats his pockets to show that he has given back all the passports he took when his left boob made a slight thudding sound. He opens the pocket to see what was in it. Hallelujah! It was my passport!! My all mighty blue Golden Ticket, my most prized possession, my baby, my true love, my raison d’etre.
“Sorry,” he says walking back towards the middle of the bus where I was sitting. “I stamped yours first. I must have put in there for safekeeping while they run checks and processed everybody else’s passports. Enjoy Bosnia miss. Don’t forget to try the ćevapčići.”
He smiled and left. I sat back down,finally exhaled, and felt all the adrenaline and energy leave my body. I slept like a baby for the next 4 hours.