My daughter has it down pat, really.
The key to this one was to try to bring her American son into Malaysia for 2 weeks to see his grandparents, complete with return ticket, but on a passport that is only valid for another 4 months. Now, as everyone knows, people with passports that aren’t valid for 6 months are able to overstay as illegal immigrants as easy as pie, especially when they are 5 years old. (We were contemplating sending him out to work in the plantations. Darn it, foiled again.)
So the airline refused to let the child board the final leg of the flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. This after a 4 hour drive to Dulles airport, followed by a 14 hour flight to Japan, a couple of hours in transit there, another 6 hours to Singapore, a layover of 9 hours at the airport…that adds up to 37 hours travelling…with a 5 year old.
Don’t miss the crunch of all this: grandson is not a Malaysian citizen because he committed the heinous crime of being born abroad instead of in Malaysia. My daughter is – obviously – female, and Malaysia practises blatant and unrepentant sexism, denying citizenship to the children of Malaysian women – but not to the children of Malaysian men born under exactly the same situations. Nice, modern nation, this.
So there you are – denied entry to what ought to be his own country, but isn’t. (I am not blaming the airline – they are under instructions from the government. And my daughter should have read all that fine print you need a magnifying glass to see.)
Now here’s the second crunch: my daughter was not travelling with her husband. And she cannot extend or get a new passport from what is for her a foreign country, on her own. Her husband was attending a conference away from home. I ended up phoning him in the wee small hours of the morning, his time, to ask him to find a notary who will notarise a form obtained on the internet, granting permission for a new passport to be issued. Needless to say he couldn’t find one at 1 a.m.
The other thing required was a copy of child’s birth cert. The original of which is in their home – now an empty house, remember, as the whole family is away.
In the meantime, over-tired grandson has lost it and is throwing tantrum in Singapore. I tell daughter by phone to try a more congenial airline, which she does. And finally, after signing loads of promises about how she will pay all fines incurred by the airline for allowing the criminal entry of a 5 year old with a perfectly valid passport, the lovely and intelligent supervisor allows her to buy a ticket for them both on this airline. (The same one I always use if I possibly can…) And they arrive, somewhat lighter in pocket, and many hours late, but at least on the right day.
Problem, after the assembly of all documents by the American embassy, three days later grandson has a brand new passport waiting for him in another country – Singapore – which he cannot fly to. Now what?
And here’s the irony. Malaysia has for years been trying to entice its citizens who live abroad back to serve their country. Scientist daughter has degrees from Oxford and Cornell (Pd.D) but does this country really, really think she will return if they won’t give her child citizenship? The right to attend a government school? The right to get a job? If she can’t get her husband permanent residency? If they won’t even give her mother (me) permanent residency?
Dream on, Malaysia. This is how you lose your brightest and best.