Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My new US passport slows the Serbo-Hungarian border for at least an hour

Traffic on the Serbia's border with Hungary near Subotica was held up for about an hour yesterday morning and it's all my fault. When the Hungarian border guards asked our car to pull over, we thought it was because one of our party was a Serb with an EU country green card. Apparently this is the sort of situation that brings out all the officiousness in a typical EU border guard's nature, especially because Serb's without EU visas are not blithely allowed over the Hungarian border even though the two countries are neighbors and have sent fairly large populations to and fro for eons in history. (In fact, about 30% of Sombor's population are ethnic Hungarians.)

As we all waited, and waited, and waited it began to seem a bit long. Plus, now the entire border seemed to be slowed down more than usual, with lines getting longer and longer. After about 30 minutes, our friend who was the driver, walked over to the guard's station to see what was up. Turns out the "problem" was my brand new US passport that I'd just gotten a couple of weeks ago with my new married name.

The US State Department has just come out with a new passport format. From the outside it looks the same as the old passports, but inside every page is covered with images of famous American scenes with accompanying quotes. It's like looking through a tourism brochure. The images are screened at perhaps 50% when they are printed, so supposedly visa stamps and country entry marks can be stamped on top of them legibly. (Actually, it's fairly hard to read the stamps now...)

When I first saw this new passport, I called to everyone in the family to look, "Hey, it's a propoganda booklet!" (Personally I especially disliked how often the word "God" happened to be mentioned in the quotes that were so carefully selected. It's not a word we, or any other country or people, should flaunt as being specifically "on our side" in these times when too many people around the world use it to justify violence. )

Anyway, turns out mine was the very first new-version US passport the Hungarian border guards had seen. Being what you might call passport examination professionals, they were utterly fascinated by all the changes. So each one at the border in turn left his station and came over to our particular guard's little hut to spend time carefully examining it.

After about an hour, when each had looked his fill, they let us go with a glad wave.

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