And So It Begins
I should have known that everything was going too smoothly before the trip. I was right on time for the plane, and next to a great traveling companion. We talked on the way to Heathrow Airport and he reminded me to keep my stuff close so I wouldn't be the target for pick-pocketing. I could see he was worried, and took what he said to heart, perhaps having not traveled alone I wasn't aware just how careful to be.
London; Round One
At Heathrow we parted ways, and I walked over to the National Express line to get a bus ticket from Heathrow airport to Gatwick airport. This was the start of my bad luck, as the machine broke; it printed a receipt but no bus pass. It took twenty minutes for National Express assistant to re-issue my ticket. While I was waiting, I met a really nice guy named Jordi. He was going to Barcelona too and having the same ticket issue. Soon the ticketing agent was able to get us on the next bus, and we were happy to continue our adventure
Gatwick; the first time
Gatwick airport was a sight for sore eyes. Jordi and I got our luggage and headed into the terminal. Being that we had two hours to spare, we did what all tired travelers do; grab a beer. Our choice was Heineken. We sat and had our beer and talked again about the pick-pocketing issues in Spain, particularly in Barcelona. An hour before we were to take off we made it to our gate and found seats sitting together. We both passed the steward to get on board when she stopped me to tell me to put my Passport into my bag so I wouldn't lose it. Did I look like an average tourist? Smiling I unzipped the top pocket of my carry-on and slipped my passport inside. Once on the airplane Jordi put my bag in the overhead compartment, sat down, and was quickly overtaken by sleep before we even took off.
Barcelona; the first time
Once the plane landed I was full of the adrenaline of being in Spain for the first time. Standing in the queue of Passport Control it was just amazing until I put my hand in the bag to retrieve my passport; It was all going down hill from there. Jordi and I searched my only bag for the Passport but found nothing, the Passport was missing. The airport Staff and British Airways searched the plane and called Gatwick, nothing had been turned in at Gatwick and it wasn't on the plane; my passport was gone. Jordi talked to the Airport police and he translated that I would go to the embassy in the morning and get a temporary passport. I was then taken into the back by Passport Control to discuss my missing Passport. Is this how Mexicans feel?
Being in the back room alone, with Jordi off to his Spanish adventure, and surrounded by unknown people was taking is toll on me. My nervousness had caused a unsettling feeling in every part of my body including my stomach; which was most unhappy and complaining profusely. This is a daily issue for me anyway and I usually carry almonds to soothe the chaos within. The airport police, or Border Control guards as they are called, are like police but they have the authority to deport or detain you for any reason. You can be subjected to interrogation and held as long as they deem necessary to determine why you are in their country These short dark and handsome men arranged for an interpreter so I could explain that I needed Full Milk or protein. The Border Control guard got me a steaming cup of warm thick sweet milk, placed me into a nice "Dorm style cell" and locked the door behind him. I messaged my family to let them know what happened. Being content with the milk and quiet room, I fell asleep immediately, confident that the morning would only be good news.
Barcelona, Day Two
No habla English?? No one speaks English here, yes, I know its Spain. It was 5:00 AM when I was awakened by the ramblings of another traveler who has lost his passport hoping for someone to talk to. The knock on the door was startling and I told him I didn't want to speak to him as I would rather sleep until I left in the morning.. At 8:00 AM. they brought us a coffee with milk and a croissant . Unable to eat bread, I went to the door and asked the guard for some milk to help my stomach.
He said "No."
In my best Spanish I told him "No leche, doctorora."
He closed the door, and sent two women guards who spoke English to ask if I needed a doctor. I couldn't help but notice how beautiful the Spaniards are, beautiful eyes and skin the color of a perfect Latte.
I told them "I can only have Milk or Protein, if you don't provide those, I will get sick."
They said "there is nothing we could do; if you need Milk, you have to pay for it. "
"Is there a ATM I can go to so I can get money?" I asked
"I'm sorry you can't leave this room."
"Then there is nothing you can do for me until I get sick, correct?"
"Don't worry you will be leaving back to London soon."
"I was to go to the embassy today and get a temporary passport!"
" We have you leaving at 2:30 for London. Don't worry it will be o.k."
When they left I tried to ask my guard what was going on. He said "Deport at two, police."
I screamed and he closed the door and locked it behind me. Not until I was dry heaving did they open the door again. This time I was begging for a cup so I could put water in it.
He looked at the bathroom, "Sink" he said and pretended to splash water on his face. This time, with my last bit of energy, I closed the door, went to my cell, turned up the AC. I laid in agony until the Spanish Emergency Medical Team came in and gave me a once over and the second best cup of milk I have ever had.
Once I had brain function again, I contacted my aunt who was on the ground running. She had already called and made an appointment for me at the US embassy in London for Monday. While I was sick, she was calling everyone under the sun to confirm what was going on. She called the American Embassy here in Spain where she was told that they had not released anyone to go to the embassy in Thirty years. Nor has the airport released anyone in those years; everyone get deported; it is deportation only area. Then she called the Airport to learn they would be shipping me back to the UK; from there a call to the Embassy and a message to me to breathe. She also demanded that I install a translating device on my phone so I could communicate with my captors.
Communication makes a tense situation better, and with only 30 minutes of free internet, you must make the best of it. Once I downloaded the translator, the tension between my captor and I turned into laughter. He let me know that the police would take me around 2:30 to my plane, from there I would arrive at Gatwick International Airport. Knowing my Aunt would be there to pick me up, I took a shower (towel delivered male guard) and got ready to see my assigned lawyer and interpreter.
Meeting with my lawyer was another exercise in frustration. When I ask a question, for the most part, I want a yes or no answer. My assigned lawyer did not understand this; even when I stated "Yes or No please". For example "Can you take me to the embassy to so I can get a temporary passport?
"How am I to get a passport if no one will take me to the embassy?"
"Maybe you will find it"?
"It got stolen; how am I to find it?"
"I'm just letting you know your options."
Looking at my interpreter with confusion I stated "Can I go back to my cell please"? The rest of the police laughed, I signed a few papers that stated my passport was stolen on the plane and was returned to my cell. There I waited for the two female police to take me to the plane.
¡Ándale!" She said with a smile as I gathered my stuff and made our way out to the plane. They walked me through the Barcelona airport, to a van where I was to be delivered to two very cute male police men. The older policeman checked my paperwork to make sure everything was ok (while I snapped his picture). He then told the girls they could go. In my tired and excited mind all I could think was "These hot guys job is to escort me onto the plane! If they thought that these guys would make me never want to go to Spain again, they didn't know me very well." At this point I knew I was tired because my ability to flirt or have them bend over to pick something up for me was gone. No "Frisk me please" or "pat down" statement was coming from my mouth. I sat on my own, too tired for chatter, and waited for the cleaning crew to finish. Once the cleaning crew had gathered the trash, magazines, blankets and other assorted rubbish I could board. The policeman handed the steward my paperwork and she escorted me to the rear of the plane.