06 August, 2015

A road block at the check-in counter

One story from our transition that stands out was a scary encounter with Japanese immigration.

We flew on five planes in nine days, three of those flights were international ones. Every time I go through an immigration check, I feel nervous. Anything can happen. Usually nothing does, but this time something did. However it happened before we got to immigration.

36 hours after we arrived in Tokyo the first time we hauled ourselves out to the airport again, via the train. We were so tired, but it was onto the next thing.

We weren't prepared for a road block at the check-in counter.

First the lady checking us in asked for the credit card we'd booked the flight with. However, that card had been cancelled a couple of months earlier by the bank because they suspected the number had been stolen. Thankfully David managed to remember the number was recorded and we happened to have that piece of paper with us (note to self: keep record of old numbers).

The second problem was bigger, and scarier. Our eldest turned 16 in Australia, while we were away from Japan. His visa was in order, they all were, but 16 is the age when foreigners are required to update their resident's card with a photo and carry it on their person at all times, just like the rest of the adult foreign residents. Visas are electronically linked to residents cards. But of course we hadn't been in the country to do get a new resident's card for him. Of course we did have that 36 hrs, but . . .  we thought we had six months to do this. However it appears you can't leave the country during that time.

For a bit it looked like our family would be separated. Three of us flying to the conference and two remaining behind to satisfy red tape. Meanwhile, everyone else on the flight (including several of our mission colleagues) were flowing normally thorough the bag check-in process. They left us all behind, but I asked them to pray.

I can't fault the helpfulness of the Japanese staff. The lady checking us in made several lengthy phone calls and eventually arranged for someone from the immigration office at the airport to come and escort our son and David to their in-airport office to sort it out.

So, I sat with our younger two sons, gazing at our lonely pile of luggage, and waited. Thankfully we were stranded near a coffee shop and I ordered us all some caffeine/chocolate drinks to help with the fatigue. Having something to do helped me avoid being too anxious.

Sooner than I expected David and our son returned. One hour, $30 dollars, and a bit of official paper later, and we were free to leave the country, with the option of returning legally. It was an uncomfortable hour.

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