I made a mistake – a costly one.
On Thursday, February 7th, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. so I could get to my 6:15 a.m. flight out of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
The day started out like any of the dozen times I’ve flown in the last year. I checked in. I waited in the customs line. I presented my passport.
However, when I presented my passport, the computer beeped. The customs agent tried again.
“Mr. Ford, would you please kindly step to the side?”
I was sure it was some type of clerical error because I always abide by whatever laws I encounter.
After waiting for about 10 minutes, I was informed that my entry visa expired 5 days ago. I was illegally in the country, and I was forced to offload my bags from the flight and remain in Port Moresby so I could resolve the issue.
You see, when I entered into Papua New Guinea, I decided that since my “Entry Permit” was valid through February 1st and I was entering on January 23rd, 2013, that wouldn’t be an issue.
However, what I didn’t realize at the time was that not only was I required to enter PNG before that date, but I was also required to EXIT before that date.
The end result was that I was illegally (and blissfully unaware) in the country for six days.
Unfortunately, PNG is not the most efficient country in the world. As a result, even though I had the problem on the morning of the 7th (at about 5:00 a.m.) the immigration folks wouldn’t be able to even look at my case until the next morning, Feb 8th. The explanation was that at the end of the day they take all the cases and passports to the other office, and there was no way to expedite the process.
The next day, Friday, I was told to check up with the immigration office in town. When I went and waited in line at the immigration office for just over an hour, I was told that they still did not have the passport. Even though I had now been in the country for 28 hours longer than my original flight plans, NOTHING was done. I drove to the airport and asked about the delay. All I was told was that they had “transport” issues and were unable to take the passport to the office that must process my case. I offered to drive them to the other office, but they said that was not their standard operating procedure so they could not help.
Of course, nothing will happen over the weekend, so Monday will be my next attempt to resolve the situation. That’s where the situation currently stands. Thankfully, I am able to stay with a Christian family here in Port Moresby.
In the end, I made a simple, but costly mistake. I should not have entered the country under my existing visa, but instead got a new visitors visa. Ah, the beauty of hindsight. That small oversight has cost me all my tickets back to the States. Once I get all the government things straightened out, I will need to make new travel plans. Thankfully, I have air miles in hand that will help me get home with only a minimal cost.
The greater cost is the absence of my family. Come Monday, it will be three weeks since I left home. My wife and three young kids (7,5, and 3) all miss daddy. Daddy misses them all as well. To be sure, we’ve all been learning a lot about God and his faithfulness to us. Hard, yet necessary lessons.
Please pray that everything with customs and immigration will be resolved so that I can get home as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I hope you’ll understand why I won’t be posting on a regular schedule or replying to emails or comments. I have access to the internet, but it is very expensive. Also, when I sit down and attempt to do any writing my mind is too full of other concerns, making it difficult to focus on much of anything else. Most of my day is spent trying to find contacts in the right office and trying to get ahold of the right embassy officials.
Thanks so much for your support and understanding.