I’ve been writing my memoir for a while now, and sometimes feel like that story happened to someone else. It seems so far removed from my suburban life now. But when I stumbled upon this old passport, it suddenly felt real again.
First, a word to younger readers. Try not to peak in your teens. Case in point: my passport photo from when I was 19. (Contrast that with my grand return to Hong Kong earlier this year at 41. Just saying.)
Here’s my first visa to Hong Kong. Note that it was issued by the British Consulate General in Chicago. A little piece of history. So this visa allowed me to stay in Hong Kong to study for 9 months once I stepped foot in the colony. The process was nothing like what it is to get a Vietnam visa online, I had to jump through so many hoops, I’m glad I made it.
But no one told me that it would no longer be valid if I left Hong Kong before my 9 months finished.
Thus this multiple re-entry visa, which I acquired on my first day in Hong Kong. What a great way to learn the ins and outs of the Wanchai Immigration Tower.
I won’t bore you with all the visas I acquired traveling around Asia, except for this one. Cambodia, 1991. I picked this baby up in Saigon. It should also be noted that I had a Vietnam visa, which was a separate piece of paper. The Vietnamese took it back when I left the country; they didn’t want me to get in trouble back in the US for trading with the enemy.
Fast forward a few years. I’m back in Hong Kong, this time for good. Or so I thought. Back then US citizens could only stay for 1 month on a tourist visa, but this special visa from the Consulate allowed me 3 months. I have no recollection of how I finagled that. (Now regular tourist visas are good for 3 months.) The other thing going on here is that I had a chunk of extra pages inserted starting with page A. All those full-page China visas took up a lot of space.
Here’s my date of entry in Hong Kong. On the upper right is the stamp from when I left Hong Kong to first visit my future in-laws in central China.
Here’s how I changed my name less than a year after I returned to Hong Kong. Introducing Madame Liu:
And this is when I left Hong Kong, returning to the US for good. (I needed those extra pages because otherwise I wouldn’t have had room for this return stamp!)
My passport was to expire in May 2000, 10 years after I received it. Before May rolled around, I left my husband, job, house, 2 cars, and most of my possessions to return to Chicago. And my passport?