25 - student - NYC That's all for now.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Worst Vacation Ever (Day 2) : The Police Shack and the Door to Nowhere

When you lose your passport in a foreign country - it's typically a bad thing. To get our temporary passports we were going to have to go back to the mainland to Belize City (the capital). There was a US embassy there. But we were informed by the Mata Rocks staff members that we needed to file an official police report and get a copy of that report before we went to the embassy. The only problem was that we had already scheduled and paid in advance for a day long excursion trip to some Mayan ruins. So the police and the embassy were going to have to wait.

A boat picked us up from the dock outside our room and took us to a bus which took us to some ruins which were nice and all, but of course we were a little stressed about the whole passport situation. We were dropped off at our hotel around 4 and promptly hopped on our bicycles and rode to the downtown police station.

Now, I can't even begin to do justice to this police station. It was a wood hut set up on stilts about 3 feet off the ground and no bigger than 10X10 ft. The stairs had all rotted completely through so you had to jump up into the doorway, which, of course, had no actual door. There was a desk and a few chairs plus one telephone. There were two police officers and probably six or seven people sitting or standing around in this tiny room.

I saw one of the policemen was the fellow I had spoken with the night before and I asked if I could file a formal report. He sat me down with the older officer who preceded to ask me all of the same questions from the night before. He then spent around 5 minutes looking for a blank piece of paper in the shelves of the desk. As I watched, I realized the police filing system apparently consisted of sticking crumpled wads of papers into the shelves and stacking everything on top of each other.

I looked around a bit. Sitting beside me was a woman handcuffed with a child on her lap. They gave her a plea statement to sign which I read over her shoulder. She was pleading to theft for the child on her lap. Further in the corner was a door that led to what I could only assume (from looking at the outside of the building) outside in the back. It was labeled "jail." Talk about prisons being revolving doors.

Anyway, after spending about an hour trying to explain my situation to the police and writing down everything in a formal record, I asked for a copy. I was told that I need to come back tomorrow and get the copy. The copy machine was in the other police station and they couldn't do it here. Frustrated, we left. The saga was just beginning.

That night, Erica from the Mata Rocks staff, told us that we needed to get to the embassy as early as possible - 5am if we could handle it. But the guy who makes copies at the police station (I know it's mind-boggling that they only have one person allowed to operate the copy machine), didn't arrive at the station until 8am. Therefore, the earliest we could get a water-taxi back to Belize City was 8:30. And then that boat ride was about an hour and a half. So we already knew that we'd have to wait in a long line at the embassy. But we were resigned to it. At least we could get it over with and go back to enjoying the rest of our vacation. At least that was the idea.


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