FYI: this post will make a little more sense if you read part one about our trip to Curacao first!
As if getting robbed at gunpoint wasn’t enough, the stress of our summer adventure had only begun. The day following the incident was filled with multiple re-tellings of the story to policemen, investigators, insurance agents and others. As I slogged through the details of the robbery I found myself feeling increasingly disheartened at the prospect that these thieves would never be found. By morning, I presumed our stolen goods had been dumped in the bushes somewhere on Curacao and that our rental car had been transformed into a smoldering pile of ash; devoid of all its valuable parts.
Onward to Aruba…or Not?
In the back of my mind, I went back and forth on whether we should attempt the next leg of our adventure: three days in Aruba. After making several calls to airlines and realizing it would cost an arm and a leg to truncate our trip, we pressed forward with our plans.
First and foremost, I wanted to be certain we had all our ducks in a row to travel. I spoke with a very helpful contact at the US Embassy in Curacao who assured me that if we had a police report, we’d have no problems getting into Aruba, despite Taylor’s long-gone passport. Next, I phoned the Aruban airport authority to apprise them of our situation. They too emphasized that we’d be “juuuussst fine”. The last call I made was to the airline, which also confirmed that our police report would suffice.
Enter Sunday morning: we left bright and early for our 25-minute flight from Curacao to ensure we wouldn’t hit any snags as we made our way through the airport. Departure was surprisingly smooth. Our police report was sufficient for getting us on the flight; which made me glad since I honestly had no idea what the it said (unfortunately I can’t read Dutch). One hurdle down, one to go.
Arriving in Aruba
Upon arrival in Aruba, we filled out the customary forms and took our place near the end of the immigration line. I’m sure we were a sight to see; a young, tired couple hauling a boatload of luggage (less than we started our trip with, mind you) and a four-month old baby. At this point I found myself wondering what kind of crazy person travels internationally with a tiny baby. I was tired, I was hungry, my net-worth had decreased approximately $400, or potentially $10,000ish thanks to the rental car fiasco, and I’d spent a precious Saturday hanging out with cops and investigators instead of exploring Curacao.
“Next up!” The immigration officer ushered us forward.
I handed over my passport and Taylor relinquished his police report. We told a brief version of our story. The officer waved over his colleague who summoned their supervisor. Words were exchanged. Heads were shaking back and forth. I knew trouble was brewing before they’d even opened their mouths.
“This isn’t a valid travel document. You can’t enter Aruba with this. You need to fly home within the next 24 hours.”
If hearing these statements once wasn’t bad enough, the officers kept repeating them to us over and over again as we raised our objections–multiple people had told us this was okay, we just had a traumatic experience, we are traveling with a baby, etc.
When it looked like all hope was lost, I think I cycled through each stage of grief within about five minutes.
Denial: no way, going home isn’t even an option!
Anger: you’ve GOT to be KIDDING me!!!
Bargaining: can we just stay for 48 hours? Please? Pretty please?? Do I need to put a cherry on top?
Depression: wow, this is for real, we have to go home…our vacation is getting cut short.
Acceptance: alright, get me on a plane right now, I’ve had enough. I want to go home this second!
Thank You JetBlue
The original immigration officer walked us over to the JetBlue counter. Taylor had the bright idea to call our friend at the embassy to see if he could be any help in this situation. Dejected, I approached the counter and tearfully explained our situation to Rudolph, the JetBlue representative. Meeting Rudolph was the only bright spot in this dark experience. As I told my story, he was sympathetic–a trait I hadn’t observed all day. He was actionable, too, he had spots ready for us on the flight home within moments. I was so touched by his compassion and help that I wrote to JetBlue afterwards and told them he should be recognized for his service.
In the background, Taylor was formulating a plan with Brian, our embassy contact. Brian happened to be best buds with the head of Aruban immigration, and he promised he’d call him on our behalf. During this process it felt like time had slowed to a stop; it just took so long to get answers from anyone. We sat in the departure hall and waited anxiously to hear back from Brian.
The phone rang and Taylor quickly picked up. Brian had good news for us–he’d reached his immigration pal, and although someone new had taken his position, he could still help us. They were going to try to make an exception for us–something they insisted never happened.
Taylor had a scan of his passport, and that turned out to be instrumental. After another hour or so of back and forthing, we were told that Taylor just needed to print off a scan of his passport so that the immigration officials “had something to stamp” (those were literally their words).
At this point another character entered the cast of this drama; an airport information booth employee. She was tasked with helping us find a way to print off this precious document. Given the complications that ensued, you’d think that they were trying to reproduce this thing on an ancient printing press. When Taylor emailed her the image file, it wouldn’t go through. Then we had to walk to several different locations within the airport to try to find a functioning printer. This part of the saga took about an hour–by this point we’d been in Aruba’s airport for close to three hours.
The Waiting Game
After printing off the passport image, we waited for another hour while the officials went through the proper channels to be certain that we could enter the country. We waited with bated breath, noticing the minutes on the clock ticking away.
We paced back and forth.
We talked in hushed tones.
We debated our uncertain future.
I ate a Cinnabun.
It was good.
And then….got the green light–we could enter Aruba and finish off our vacation!!
Our time in Aruba was relaxing and uneventful–the way a Caribbean trip should be. This story isn’t completely over yet, though. Come departure time, we felt some anxiety at the prospect of being delayed at the airport because of all the issues we’d had on the way into the country. Upon arrival at the airport, I saw my friend Rudolph at the JetBlue counter. As if he could feel my anxious thoughts–I’m telling you, this guy was awesome–he volunteered to walk our family through the ENTIRE departure process from the ticket counter to the gate. He escorted us through two immigration checkpoints and verified our story as needed. This guy was seriously a saint.
Reflecting on our Curacao/Aruba Adventure
Our first trip with Lilah was not at all what we expected. It was stressful, it was terrifying, it was disheartening, it was maddening. But it was also enlightening, empowering and exciting. We made some new friends and came home with some fresh stories. And I’m telling you, the travel bug cannot be squashed by potential tragedy or unbelievable stress… because we can’t wait for our next international adventure this fall! 😉