i lost my passport in hungary

I’m posting this in the hopes others who find themselves in this predicament will find this online and find it useful. I certainly found comfort in this guy’s tale.

I took a side trip to Hungary this past weekend and inadvertently lost my passport.

So now what?

This all happened on a Friday night. Thank God for a smart phone. And data roaming be damned. I quickly googled for the embassy in Budapest and called the emergency after hours number. After declaring myself an American citizen, my call was escalated to the oncall duty manager.

Here’s where definitions of emergency differ. I has a flight out of Budapest Sunday morning. This was a “blocker” for me. The US Embassy in Budapest is closed over the weekends (even for emergencies). Not an emergency to them.

The best the duty officer could offer me was to arrive Monday morning, identify myself as an American and I’d be escorted in to get a temporary passport.

I tweet’d looking for help. I crowd sourced getting help. You have no idea how helpful that alone was. (thanks everyone!) I had people sending me DMs and text messages and replies to my tweet. It felt good to know I had this network of people willing to help me.

Saturday I retraced my steps (no luck) and moved my return flight to the last possible one on Monday. It was mentally really hard to have any fun the rest of Saturday.

Sunday. Budapest is hot, hot like Yucatán hot. Budapest is also a very walkable city. However, because of the heat I spent most of of my time going from one free wifi coffee shop to another. I also scouted out my embassy.

Monday morning. Embassy opens at 9am. I’m up at 7a, dressed and fed and out by 7:45a. Way ahead of schedule. I got to the embassy at around 8:15a and told the guard I had lost my passport and showed him my California drivers license. He disappeared for a bit and then opened the gate for me. He told me to leave my bag with him, it’ll be easier to get in (made sense to me – I wanted as little drama as possible).

Currently, my most valuable possession.

Currently, my most valuable possession.

I had to empty my pockets and literally turn off my phone before going through the metal detector. The guard there put all my belongings except for my ID and money into a box.

I grabbed a ticket and waited a few minutes until hey called my number. I had to fill out a passport application & lost passport form, get passport photos ($5.41), pay $135 for a new passport and wait 20 minutes for them to print out my passport.

At least I had alternate ID. The gentleman behind me had nothing but a copy of his passport which didn’t seem to be of any use. I talked to him a bit. Same thing, lost his passport and everything else he had in his “pouch”. At least my stuff is all separate.

Total time in embassy, 1:19. Didn’t have the patience for the metro and took a taxi to the airport.

So basically a huge inconvenience. Meant having to change a number of flights around (not free). Meant staying longer than I had packed for or planned to in Budapest.

Also, screwed my work schedule. Also, expensive mistake.

Souvenier from Budapest.

Souvenier from Budapest.

So lesson learned. Don’t lose your passport. But if you do, lose it during the week and not the Friday before the weekend.

If you’ll indulge me,

Single points of failure suck. I can’t help thinking that this whole passport concept is a single point of failure. I lost it and was screwed. Never mind that I had a couple credit cards and a California drivers license with me -and- a color copy of my passport.

I also have a this biometric data that’s physically attached to my body and REALLY hard to lose. I felt like I had all these tools to conclusively prove who I am and some computer could verify I was okay to fly.

Back in Paris

I learned long ago that home is wherever my stuff is. My stuff – laptop, luggage – was in Paris. I’m back in Paris, still far from my home but I can’t tell you how much this feels like home!

buenos aires

Last week, for eight days, I was able to step outside my normal role managing Operations and wear an entirely different hat.

I had an amazing opportunity to interact with the vibrant Mozilla and Open Source community; I got to interact with those who I help from the shadows every day.

I’ve had a couple days to let my thoughts soak in.

Something about Argentina and Buenos Aires resonated with me in a way that’s hard to describe. It is, perhaps, the first time in my life I’ve had a sense of reverse home sickness. From San Telmo to La Boca Caminito to Palermo to Recoleta Cemetary and Calle Florida, Buenos Aires oozed of culture. From pizza to empanadas to more gelato than I can remember, it’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever traveled.

Persicco, best gelato around.

Persicco, best gelato around.

The bustling energy of San Telmo’s Feria de Antigüedades was matched only by the energy of the open source community I met.

San Telmo’s Feria de Antigüedades

San Telmo’s Feria de Antigüedades

On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending the Firefox 4 Party. This was amazing. The night before I met with several of the event organizers, including Guillermo Movia. They were expecting 50 or so and instead had 150 at the party. I don’t know how to really describe what it was like, walking around and mingling with everyone (in my broken Spanish no less), hearing everyone talk about Firefox and Mozilla.

Thursday night we attended the first Hacks/Hackers MeetUp in Buenos Aires at AreaTres. The discussion was all in Spanish but I mostly kept up. I was amazed at the turn out. Was a far larger group than I would have imagined and made me realize how large the open source community in Buenos Aires is.

San Telmo’s Feria de Antigüedades

San Telmo’s Feria de Antigüedades

Friday wrapped up with a Design MeetUp at Urban Station that Tara led. This turned out to be one of the surprise highlights mostly because of the discussion afterwards. I don’t often get to interact with the community in such an intimate venue and speak Mozilla.

You can take me out of networking but you can’t take networking out of me. At each place we went to I’d always check to see who I had upstream connectivity from and what my path to Phoenix or San Jose looked like. Urban Station had the quickest Internet I had experienced while in Buenos Aires.

San Telmo’s Feria de Antigüedades

San Telmo’s Feria de Antigüedades

On a personal side, since all of these events were after 6pm local time and I was shifted 4 hours off California, I found a lot of time to explore and soak in Buenos Aires. I walked more than I can remember, slowed down more than usual to look and listen. Ate. Indulged. Walked. Explored. Saw a ballet show at Teatro Colón. Went to a Tango show. Walked to Carlos Gardel’s house (Casa Museo Carlos Gardel) in Abasto. Inadvertently walked to Palermo and had mint iced tea. Bought a crappy umbrella and walked in the rain.

No doubt I was lucky to have a fantastic travel companion (I’ve thanked you, haven’t I Tara?).

Lastly, I want to share this:

I went with very little expectations and maybe a little nervous anticipation. I came back with a profound sense of Mozilla, of the community that supports Mozilla and a feeling of renewed purpose for why I work at Mozilla. I came back with more friends than I left with, with a twitter feed half in Spanish.

John Lilly used to talk about about great companies vs good companies. How great companies last; they may change but their mission remains. Mozilla, he argued, was on a path to be a great company. Today, the vehicle for Mozilla’s mission is Firefox. Tomorrow it could be something else. But the mission will remain.

This is the sense of Mozilla I was left with when I landed in San Francisco. The emotional connection people make with Mozilla, and more precisely, its Mission, is what will make Mozilla one of the great companies.

I’ll leave you with a couple pictures I took. Tara did a better job taking photos than I did – you should check out her Flickr gallery.

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