Saturday, April 17, 2010

The right passport - Malaysia-Singapore border

The immigration officer holds the stamp in mid air, while she's searching the passport for an empty page. Then she stops, scrutinizes, frowns and mumbles: "Why do you keep getting in and out of the country?". Sometimes, besides the seals, also bad luck and fate can fall on the pages of a simple passport. I point out that this is only my second time, the previous visits dating back more than a year. By coincidence the visas are on adjoining pages. 
She checks the dates and relaxes, but only a bit. "Never mind, you'll explain that to my supervisor." They show me to a room, no windows, neon tubes. It's full of immigrants: most of them are standing. It's a world map of faces, a drone of languages: Indians, Pakistanis, Sinhalese, Indonesians, Filipinos, Cambodians, Thais and Burmese. I'm the only westerner, the officer calls me and in a matter of minutes I'm a welcome guest. My prison cell-mates continue to wait: they will have to wait longer, they've always been waiting. Their eyes are swollen, their cheeks are taut, but somebody looks at me a gives me a smile. If I were in their shoes I would be green with envy.
I set off for the causeway, on my way to Singapore, this huge shopping mall disguised as a state: while my mind is gliding on slide-like thoughts I've already forgotten the ineffable power bestowed on a nobody...if he's got the right passport.  

Malaysia-Singapore border, December 2003

Photo "Immigration check-point between Thailand and Laos", by Fabio

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