24 June 2013

Losing My Luggage & Passport in a Foreign Country – Part 2

*To recap very briefly, I had my luggage and passport stolen in Rotterdam the day before, and I’d spent the night in the house of a woman I’d barely known and who offered to help.
Waking up in Haarlem was a delight. Anja’s guest room was comfortable, inviting, and bright! I had these two large windows next to the bed, allowing lots of sunshine which I needed. A lot. I woke up HAPPY and wished that I could spend the day exploring Haarlem with Anja. But no. I had grown-up things to do.anja's guest room

anja's guest room 2

See how thoughtful my wonderful host was?

She left me two options for pjs – a nightie and a set of trackies. I chose the nightie. There were towels, a glass for water, and she also provided a toothbrush.

It was not until that morning as I was getting dressed that I felt the effects of losing all my stuff in that  suitcase. From the unfamiliarity of the strange new toothbrush I had to use and  having to wear the SAME CLOTHES, to the fact that I had to go out with.. no eyebrows.. (hey I’m just not very hairy, ok) – it all started to become annoyingly real.

My make up. My expensive Shu Uemura makeup palettes. My vintage sequinned jumper (you can see it here). All my CLOTHES. My best underwear! My kaleidoscope from Porto. The lovely new French Connection shoes that were gifted to me in time for the trip (luckily I did take pics, you’ll see them soon. Thank you Spreaditfast). My favourite parka from Copenhagen. My best bangles from SEA. All my funky headbands and ACCESSORIES. Macbook/camera chargers and Apple magic mouse. All the business cards I’d collected at the conference. ETC ETC ETC.

It was just so sad to think about it. 

And so there I was – dressed in yesterday’s clothes and looking blah. You know when you look just terrible, you kind lose the bounce in your step? I lost my bounce that day.

That is, until Anja pulled out a mysterious pink carrier bag from the backseat of her car as she dropped me off at the train station.

“It’s a little goodie bag I put together to cheer you up”

Seriously how sweet is this woman?? I LOVE HER! We then hugged goodbye. I wish I could’ve hugged her for longer!

goodie bag from anja
^The contents of Anja’s goodie bag.

There were some of her own handmade jewellery, compact mirror, a couple of Estée Lauder eyeshadow palettes, a holographic postcard, pretty paper towels, toys, and even biscuits!

It reminded me of my high school days when my friends and I used to exchange gifts of random items we thought would make each other happy – be it crayons, a pot of fake slime, sweets, earrings, or simply a card that read ‘I Love You!’.

BACK TO THE HAGUE

I was lucky enough to have a friend from London make some calls to the Malaysian Embassy at The Hague for me, so they were expecting my visit and assured me that I would be able to obtain an emergency passport on the day.

green hague

One of the plus sides of this tragedy (I like to be dramatic) is that I got to see The Hague on sunshiny day.

I enjoyed the tram rides towards the Embassy. The whole city was rather green.. so green that the air smelt green. Do you know what I mean?

malaysian embassy at the hague
^Just outside the Malaysian Embassy. Like in London, it was located in a nice area full of.. other embassies.

It was about noon when I arrived. Just like back home, everything was rather informal.. there weren’t many people there. I had to fill in this form that was completely in Malay, and where the date field had a pre-printed ’19 _ _’ . THAT’s how old the form is. Of course, my Malay is so terrible that I had to ask the officer if I could please write my answers in English.

Then.. I had to take a 20-minute walk to the nearest studio for some passport-sized photographs.

peace palace the hague
^On the way there, I stumbled upon The Peace Palace (Vredespaleis), which houses the International Court of Justice (the principal judicial body of the United Nations).

It was so pretty, especially the grounds. There were a couple of groups of tourists crowding around the gates with their cameras.

Once I had my photographs taken and dropped them back at the embassy, I took a tram back into the city. I wanted to go back to the Escher Museum (I love that guy.. his art is so trippy!) to re-buy some souvenirs that I’d lost in my luggage. I had to! There was a cool 3D viewer and  large, colourful feather pens. If you know Escher’s work.. just imagine seeing those in 3D. Whoa man.. I couldn’t leave without it.

tram lines the hague

blue skies the hague
^I was so lucky that it was a beautiful day with blue skies.

I thought this photo was just so Dutch, with the bicycle, the tram tracks and the bazillion windows in grid formation typical of their architecture.

lange voorhout
^This is Lange Voorhout, lined with lots of trees and leading up to the Escher Museum.

russian statues the hague
^Russian art sculptures being set up.

The Hague is hosting over 100 contemporary sculptures from Russia’s best known artists until 9 September 2013 on Lange Voorhout, as part of Russia-Netherlands Year 2013.

me at the hague
^Me, not really looking by best, with some of the sculptures.

the hague market

I was so excited to find that a big flea market was taking place in the area. I browsed like EVERY STALL.. picked up a couple of cool things too 😉

escher museum
^Front of the Escher Museum (will write about this in another post).

Do you think they should clean the walls?? Looks rather black to me.

After my little half-day sightseeing walk, it was time to journey back to the Embassy to collect my emergency document (€15). And do other crappy things, like ring up my insurance company to see if I could make a claim. I got into a bit of a fight with the operator – you know how these people are horrible; they try and make it as difficult as possible for you when it comes to making a claim.

I also contacted British Airways. Unlike the insurance company (it was INSUREANDGO, btw), they were extremely helpful and supportive. I explained that I’d missed my flight to London and why. For only £27, I was given a new ticket for a flight departing that same night. THANK YOU BA for your understanding and kindness – it definitely made my ordeal much easier to deal with!

HELLO AGAIN ROTTERDAM

rotterdam centraal

Feeling much better knowing that I’d be on my way home soon, I arrived in Rotterdam again. It was my fourth time that trip/that week…

Above you can see construction going on around Rotterdam Centraal Station. It was cool! I took some time to walk around and marvel at their tall, shiny buildings.

rotterdam skyscraper

I admired the buildings for a long time. Very long time. Just couldn’t get over how shiny this building was, too!

I had some time to kill, so I turned to Twitter and asked this girl (Kim) that I met during the conference who worked with Rotterdam Marketing. She mentioned a place called BAR (NEW BAR) that recently opened at Schieblock (a < ten-minute walk from the station). So off I went…

new bar rotterdam menu new bar schieblock

The vibe was really cool and relaxed, kinda like the cafes we have here around East London. There were only a few people.. or hipsters rather, lounging around with their juices and MacBooks.

new bar table

Naturally, I joined in.

new bar burger

I had an AMAZING meal.. I love how it’s a lot more normal in the Netherlands to have a fried egg in your sandwich/burger. It sealed the deal, you know?

I hung out and had some Me Time at BAR until it was REALLY time to go. I was so exhausted from the last 24 hours and I’d been carrying my heavy pink backpack with the whole time. So, as I was on the way to the bus stop to get the airport shuttle, I pulled out what had been my saving grace that day: a joint (hey I was in Rotterdam hehe). It saved me all the way until outside the airport.

goliath in rotterdam
^Goliath posing for a goodbye pic.

rotterdam airport

Despite the shitty circumstances, it really was a beautiful day when I left.

clouds from a plane

I pretty much passed out completely during my short flight.

Had no problems whatsoever at Heathrow Airport immigration. I only had to wait for about five minutes while the officer went to check on the system to verify my UK residence visa.

It was kinda strange to arrive home from a week away without a suitcase. When I got into my room, I just thought, “Hmm, at least I don’t have to unpack!”. That night seems a blur to me right now.. but I think after having a shower, I crashed into bed straightaway.

THE BEGINNING OF A NIGHTMARE

It wasn’t until the next day (Thursday) when I tried to get back into London life that I had the opportunity to reflect and put some real thought into the consequences of having my luggage + passport stolen.

These were the problems I now faced:

  • I had a flight to Toronto departing in less than seven days.
  • I had no passport.
  • The Canadian Embassy had not even approved my SECOND application for a visitor visa, which I re-submitted in Rotterdam based on my OLD passport number.
  • The coming Monday was a bank holiday (i.e. the embassies would be closed).
  • The cost of replacing my UK visa sticker was £860. 
  • Completing the tedious paperwork for my insurance claim.
  • I had to go shopping (i.e. go broke) for new toiletries, makeup, clothes, MacBook/camera charger, etc.
  • I lost my online banking security key.

The first thing I did that morning was go to the Malaysian Embassy in London. I was hopeful. So you can imagine my face when the officer there told me bluntly, “There’s no way you can get your new passport in time. It normally takes at least four weeks. You need these supporting documents to apply *pulls out LONG LIST of documents I could never secure at such short notice*. I advise you to cancel your trip to Canada”

Literally, I burst into tears outside his office. I was just so STRESSED from everything! I sat on a bench outside for ages, not wanting to leave and still refusing to believe that I COULDN’T get my way. With tremendous help of a great friend who made some calls and found out the name of a person I should speak to within the Embassy, I dried my tears and marched back inside.

I asked for this person and we spoke in a private room about my situation. With the help of my very pathetic face, I got the list of supporting documents cut in less than half, and the permission to email electronic copies of what they needed directly to his email address. He said that if I could get it all through by Tuesday (after the public hol), I could have my new passport by Wednesday. My flight departs on Thursday morning.

OKAY. I took a deep breath and went on my way to work.

When I got home that evening, it was cold and rainy. I got to my flat and attempted to open the door with the set of keys that my flatmate had kindly copied for me in advance. THEY DIDN’T WORK.

The frustration and dejection at this point were so much for me to take that I just slumped onto the floor and sat there staring into space for a while before my face was covered in my angry tears. I was so ANGRY. WHY was this happening to me? WHY did I have to encounter such an asshole of a person who had nothing better to do than steal my ENTIRE SUITCASE and RUIN EVERYTHING for me??? I HATED HIM. I HATED HIS GUTS and his STUPID FACE and wished him all sorts of horrible things.

So there I was on the floor: terribly dressed (feeling ugly), with flat hair, no makeup, puffy eyes, and wet from the rain. I was like this wet scraggly rat with no home.

I let myself cry for a few minutes until I just couldn’t bear the patheticness of my own behaviour. I had to pull myself together. I knew I WASN’T an angry, sad person. I was a happy, positive person.

Once I was done crying, I rang my friend Reena and went to her house to wait for my flatmate to get home. I was fine. I just had to wait a bit, that’s all. I had to focus on my one main goal for the week:

Get what I need to make my trip to Toronto.

This was only the beginning..

*Next up: My (HELLISH) Journey to TBEX Toronto 

By the way, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let’s connect!

6 Comments

liewpeishi |

Dear Yishyene,

Thank you for this series of post. As a Malaysian solo traveller to-be, I will take these details as precautions.

*PS: The level of professionalism and efficiency of our Malaysia public services is truly an issue inland and outland. Real disappointment.

However, your courage and insight is truly inspiring!
Thanks again for these valuable tips.

Would love to read more of your exciting travel stories soon! May you be blessed with happiness vibes always.

Reply
Instant Flowers |

Yishyene, I love your honesty so much. This makes reading your stories so interesting and beautiful! I can’t wait to read how it all worked out.

Reply
cluelessinlondon |

i’m sorry for the bad stuff that happened to you, but i really like how you turned everything around and focused on the positive. can’t wait to read your next post- i hope everything has worked out for you 🙂

xx

Reply
Jenna Tinney |

Wow!! Sounds like an a complete nightmare, we are so sorry we had all that stuff happen to you! Thank goodness you were able to get everything fixed in time…looking forward to reading your new post on your (hellish) trip to tbex

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