Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pay Attention Dummy! Part II

                            Safari Babe!  The Shopper.

When we last saw the “pathetic crime victim travelers” they were meeting their friends at the Johannesburg airport. Thank goodness for friends who had credit cards and money! The next stop was at the Country Manor in Johannesburg where we could start sorting things out. Upon arrival the good news was an e-mail from our daughter updating the ‘stop the credit cards’ project. She also gave us the good advice of not letting these little (BIG!) bumps ruin a vacation. March on and have a wonderful time.

One of the cards we had with us was a Visa AAA Passport cash card. This is essentially a prepaid debit card. When we contacted AAA they were very efficient and wired the amount of the card to a Thomas Cook outlet in a Johannesburg mall by 10 a.m. of the day of the theft. We now felt better having some ready cash! Our friend had his Blackberry with him, so we started the passport process by advising the Embassy in Pretoria of the theft of the passports, and asking for instructions. We never heard from them, although we followed up with a second e-mail. We next started calling the Embassy after the weekend, but ended up always being put on voice mail. We decided not to worry about it (oh sure), and wait until we could get to the Consulate in Durban following our safari.

The next hurdle was the flight to Richards Bay on the Indian Ocean, where we were transferred to our safari private animal reserve. Our tickets were e-tickets, so we did not lose that information, but we no longer had any permanent identification to satisfy the usual security check-in. Maybe it happens all the time in South Africa, but the check-in folks at South African Airways accepted our photocopies of the passports, and our explanation of the theft, backed up by our theft complaint receipt and number. Having the complaint number and receipt, became our ticket to keep passing “GO” throughout the trip. I think we will frame it as a reminder of having done something right.

As I have always traveled with one of the world’s great shoppers, it was still necessary to obtain a new credit card, or I would have a very grumpy spouse. We solved this by having our daughter in Wenatchee pickup a credit card from my office which we had not taken with us, and then send it air express by DHL to Durban, where we hopefully would also solve the passport shortage. After the safari we rented a car in Richards Bay (I had an international license so did not need my real license) and headed for Durban. We anticipated the credit card would have arrived on Thursday and we arrived on Saturday. No such luck! This was Holy Week and things were pretty much shut down, including a local holiday on Monday. As it turned out we received the card on Tuesday and Mary Ann had been card-less for 12 days. Talk about stress!

At the American Consulate in Durban we were the only hapless Americans in sight. The place was very busy, but with South African citizens trying to get visas to the U.S. It took us from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to jump through all of the hoops, but we eventually walked out (a couple of hundred dollars lighter) with two very welcome emergency passports, good for one year. So now we are good to go with cash, credit card and passports. What else could go wrong?

Because of identity theft, we always call the credit card companies before going overseas, to advise they can expect charges in whatever foreign country we are visiting. The card that arrived in Durban was not so cleared, as we never expected it to be used. We were very blithely charging like mad on the car trip down the Indian Ocean coast. In Cape Town, when I was dutifully getting my history fix by visiting Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 17 years) Mary Ann was working on her shopping reputation at the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, when the card was rejected. She knew I was not going to handle this real well, since we were going to be using it in Amsterdam on the way home. She thus spent a good part of the afternoon on long distance calls to CitiBank to get the ABA Visa card back in operation. Upon my return, it was fixed and all was well.

I hope this tale of how the problems were solved has been helpful to you. Now if we can just get those darn emergency passports extended maybe we can travel again! Next time I will tell you about what a fantastic trip it really was.

 (Published in the Winter 2005 ABA JD Record)

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