Wow, it really has been some time since my last post. So much has happened. I would first like to start off by saying that I may have had an experience that not a lot of travelers have been able to have before. Starting from the beginning.
I was going out one afternoon after going to class. It was around noon at this time and I was feeling hungry. So a friend of mine went to a really cool food court called K25 just a subway ride away. Even though it gets super busy on on the subway and in restaurants, we still got there pretty quick.
So we enter the busy food court and think about what we will order. I make a quick decision and decide to eat a place where I can get a really good sub sandwich that has french fries and hamburger meat (It’s really weird but tastes really good). We had to wait a while to get our food, and it was a bit hard to wait their as our backpacks would take up quite some space as people were trying to sneak by. Eventually, we get our food and are able to find a spot at a high top table not too far away. We set our backpacks down under the table and get to eating our subs.
It was such a great day, getting to eat some not so healthy food in Sweden, where it seems as though everyone is super fit and healthy. Surprisingly, it only took us 20 minutes to eat our subs. What a day. As I was going to throw away my garbage in the nearby trash can, I noticed something a little strange. I asked myself “where’s my backpack?”
I looked everywhere for my backpack. I asked the vendors, the cleaning people, everyone; but no sign of my backpack. Losing my backpack wouldn’t have been a huge loss if I just had some notebooks and books in there. However, I usually always have a computer in my backpack, which just so happened to be there that day. And, even worse, since I had just gone a trip with the class two days prior, I also had my backpack there.
It was a nightmare come true! Every person’s worst fear when traveling had happened to me. I knew that there would be a headache that would most likely come as I would have to deal with the government of not just one country, but TWO!
The first thing that I did was to go back to school and talk to the program coordinators. They told me that I needed to make a police report and take a police report to the US Embassy. So, I got to traveling. First, I had to go to the nearest police station. I thought that this would be an absolute nightmare, as I am a foreigner in another country talking about a crime in a secondary language.
Once I arrived, I saw a machine where I walked up to and had to state my reason for being there. After selecting the “report a crime” option, I took my queue number and waited for my turn. After a short wait, I walked up to the window and said “hello.” Now, I did that right away because if someone were to say that, it almost always signals to a Swedish person that you speak English. If one says “hey,” that does not always word as hello is “hej.”
Talking the police officer was very quick and she took down all my information and asked about what was stolen. She then proceeded to call the restaurant and ask them if they had any cameras. I was so excited when I heard her talking about how the restaurant did indeed have cameras. But, that was short lived as I later learned that the cameras were deactivated.
After giving my statement, the police officer gave me a copy of the police report. I took the report and went to the embassy straight after (I will say that throughout this process, I definitely exceeded my daily step goal).
When looking at all the embassies in Sweden, they look really cool. They are almost all in a house type of building and have their flag somewhere nearby to signal the country. They have a nice little lawn, and seem very friendly. Now let me describe what the US embassy looks like. It looks like a prison or a maximum security building. There is a huge white building with a gate surrounding it on all sides. In order to talk to the people, you need to wait 20 feet away in a little shelter where they will tell you to come up through a little speaker. When I got called up, I walked up to the security building, which was a small building that has what I assumed bullet proof glass. I talked to the lady about the situation and she told me to come back the next day. I was surprised by this. Most of the time, people would need to sign up online to get an appointment that would take a few weeks. I was just glad that I went there personally instead. She told me to bring a photo for the passport and be there at 11 am.
So after leaving, there was one question on my mind, “where do I get a passport photo right now?” After looking up online, I found this really cool things that people can go to a certain photo booth near one of the train stations and that the photos taken there would be good enough for a new passport photo. I wasn’t picture ready, but at that point I did not really care. Even after struggling with the chair in the booth so that my head wouldn’t get chopped off, I felt that I did what I could.
The next day, I got to the US embassy on time and waited. Weirdly, they had a policy where people would need to wait and the group would be called in about every 15 minutes, regardless of the appointment time. So, after waiting in line, we get called that they will start to let people in.
Now this is where I feel that people can no longer complain about TSA. They call each person up individually based on how long you have been waiting. When I walked up there, they asked me to put a form of ID against the glass so that they could confirm that I had an appointment. For a heart dropping moment, I panicked because they did not have me on the list, however, the same lady from the day before was working so they allowed me to continue. The next step was to open up my bag. I had just come from school and had a small bag that I had received from the program. When they looked inside, they saw that I had a water bottle. I told them that it was empty. However, they took it one step further and wanted me to take a deep sniff of the bottle with the cap off. After taking a big whiff, they seemed satisfied. Then, I had to take off my jacket so they could see what was underneath. Finally, they told me to turnaround and show them the bottom of my shoes. This was the final step…..just to get inside the security building.
Once inside there, it is much more like an airport. I had to put my backpack through a machine and go through a metal detector. Then, they gave me my backpack; however, they kept my phone in a little cubby. From there, I had to walk on a specific color line that led to the building. The inside was pretty small. There was quite a few things about America in there, including some children’s books. They also had a baseball game going on.
After filling out all the paperwork, which was very hard to do by memorization (such as remember the birth year of your parents), I waited until I had to be called by the people to talk to them. After waiting for a long time, which lasted longer as I had no phone to occupy myself with, I got called.
I talked to the guy for a while and we agreed upon doing an emergency passport. I would recommend to do this as it can be made very fast, is valid for a year, and to get a regular passport you just need to show the emergency one for no extra cost. After the hefty payment, all I had to do next was sign some paperwork and pick it up the next day.
I reflected on this experience. Although I know that I will never be able to get my stuff back and that my computer is probably in another country, I am just glad that I was able to resolve it quickly. I don’t even hold any ill will to the place as of where it was stolen. As a matter of fact, I ate there just last week. As for a computer and things, it was difficult to do all my work, but luckily, my program is loaning me a computer to use which I am very thankful for.
This post is not only as an update, but also as an informative post for people who may find themselves in a similar situation in the future. I never thought that I would find myself in a situation like this and have always been careful with my things, but it only takes one second for something to happen. I will say that I have a funny story that I can tell to people about an embarrassing moment, but I hope that I will never have to go through it again.