Thursday, April 22, 2010

The passport from hell

I had lots of fun travelling with my Namibian passport recently.

For those readers who are not familiar with this country: Namibia is a country in the south western corner of Africa.  This means that it’s in the left-hand bottom corner, just below a dump called Angola, and just above the Republic of South Africa, with Botswana to it’s right.  (That is, if you are holding the map the right side up with North showing up, and Australia being correctly positioned “down under”.)

Namibia is roughly about one third the size of Western Australia.

Map picture

Namibia used to be a province of South Africa during the apartheid years, and became a so-called independent country in 1990.  It was previously known as South West Africa (SWA), and before that it was a German colony known as Deutch Sudwest Africa.

I was born in this lovely dry region, and was therefore born a South African citizen.  After independence, however, I became a citizen of Namibia, as this was what my home was now called.  We boasted a new flag, a new anthem, and lots of other new things.  Among them was a new green passport:


The first time I got into trouble with this passport was in 1992 when I visited Lesotho.  Even though Lesotho is situated in southern Africa, the Lesotho customs officials were quite adamant that no such country as Namibia existed.  They spent half an hour chatting to their boss and looking at maps before they finally accepted the passport as real. 

They were however, very suspicious of the fact that a white man held a passport from somewhere in Africa.

When I recently visited Singapore, I received the same treatment.  The official looked at my passport as if it was a fake “Republic of Houtbay” passport or something issued by Disneyland.

He started discussing this with his female colleague, who called someone else to investigate.  Finally, they started talking to me, and the lady asked me “this place, what country is it part of?”

How do you explain this to someone?  I explained that it was an independent country in Africa, and then proceeded to show her the picture inside the passport of Africa with a little smudge in the left-hand bottom corner.  She seemed to understand, and they let me go.

scan0006When we left Singapore to return to Perth, the lady who stamped my passport commented that this was the first time she had ever seen a passport from this country.

Strangely enough, the Australian authorities never questioned this funny green Disneyland book.  They’ve probably been trained to be more discreet, and pushed some kind of silent alarm button while merrily stamping my documents.

Carrying this passport introduces quite a few obstacles and risks. 

At least there’s one benefit to travelling with this goofy little green book:

Mossad couldn’t care less to copy it.  They would have too much trouble explaining it when they try to enter a European country on a false German name. 

It would, however, be easy to get hold of a fake one – just contact the appropriate corrupt official at the Namibian Immigration department and collect your blank green books for a few dollars and a soccer world cup ticket.  Just make sure the name and the face matches up…

New Picture (2)

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