I got back to my apartment at almost 2 am and, after emailing my parents and Paul letting them know I was home safe, I immediately crashed on the couch. Unfortunately I forgot to set an alarm and slept through my first class of 2011. (Mind you, my first class is at 12. THAT'S how tired I was.) I did eventually have to get up, because that evening I had to pick my friend Geneva up from the airport. I met Geneva in German 1 back at Davis, and she's spending the semester in the Free University Berlin European Studies (FU BEST) program. Since she arrived before she could move into her apartment, I said she could crash on my couch for her first night here. I headed over to Tegel Airport to pick her up and we got onto the bus to Alexanderplatz which, while not the quickest way to my apartment, requires the least number of transfers. However, when we got off the bus, I noticed that I no longer had my wallet! I asked the driver if anybody had found a wallet, but nobody had. He told me to go to the lost and found office for the bus company in the next few days.
In case it isn't clear, let me spell out how disastrous losing my wallet was. Of course, I had the normal things like money, credit cards, debit cards, and insurance cards. I had my student IDs from both California and Germany, the latter of which doubled as my semester pass for riding the trains and buses here. In addition, I ALWAYS had my passport in my wallet with my German visa inside. That, more than anything else, freaked me out about losing my wallet.
Geneva and I got back to my apartment, I heated up dinner for the two of us, and then called my dad for his help, as I was no longer thinking clearly. He told me he would take care of the credit cards and I needed to call my banks, but only after I went to the American Embassy first. So, I hopped on the train and headed over to a closed Embassy, only open for emergencies and only by talking through a police officer, rather than letting people come inside. With all I have complained about too many people in Berlin speaking English, I was shocked that, at all places, I found the ONE police officer who didn't. I bumbled along in German, trying to give her all the information she needed. At one point, she did ask me if she should find somebody who spoke English, but it really wasn't the language that was the problem, as I had been bumbling along just as much when I had talked to my dad in English. Finally, she told me I needed to go over to the Consulate the next morning to fill out the paperwork, wished me luck, and I went back to my apartment to call my banks.
The paper the police officer gave me told me to go to the Consulate at 8 am. I felt bad leaving Geneva alone in my apartment both that morning and the night before, but this really wasn't something I had a choice on. I got over to the Consulate, waited outside in the cold for about fifteen minutes, and then went through security. I had a copy of my passport with me, but even with that, I still had to have this discussion:
"You can't go in without a valid passport."
"That's the reason I'm here. I lost it."
"Well, you need to go to the Embassy first."
"I did. They told me to come here."
"You need an appointment before you can go in."
"How do I do that?"
"You need a valid passport..."
Gotta love American bureaucracy. Finally, the lady at security called upstairs to see if I could go in, and I did- to a waiting room that was completely empty. The guy working there handed me the papers to report the lost passport and apply for the next one, saying, "It will cost $150 for the new passport, which you can also pay in euros. You also need two passport pictures, which cost 6 euros in that machine there." Um, what part of "I lost my wallet," didn't you understand? I took the forms home with me, stopping by the BVG lost and found office to check if they had found a wallet. They hadn't, so I went back to my apartment, just in time to see Geneva leaving, trying to get to her program office. I had promised her I would take her over, so I grabbed one of her bags and headed out again. I said goodbye to her there and continued on to my own program office just a few train stops down.
Tanja, the UCEAP Berlin coordinator, was expecting me, as I had emailed her the night before. I was able to take out an emergency, short-term, no-interest loan from UCEAP so that I could have some money while waiting for my new cards to arrive from America. She also told me a list of things I needed to do to put my life back together, including other lost and found offices throughout the city. This is why I couldn't be happier about studying abroad with UCEAP. I know other exchange students, some also from America, who don't have a program coordinator or somewhere to go if something goes wrong. I don't know what I would have done if I couldn't have talked to anybody or gotten any help with this.
I spent the next week searching all of the lost and found offices in the city, going multiple times to each one (one lady got really mad at me. "Just call next time!"), but I had no luck and started trying to replace everything that was in the wallet. That meant buying a new student ID and ID case, new museum pass, and finding the money to pay for a new passport. But then the most miraculous thing happened: I found my passport in my backpack! When I'm flying, I take my passport out of my wallet and put it in a small pocket in my backpack, and when I got home from Spain, I was so tired that I didn't replace it. Strange, as I take great care of my passport so that nothing can happen to it, and this was seriously the one time it wasn't in its rightful place, but I could not be more happy about it.
So, the nightmare is over. Slowly but surely, I'm receiving replacement cards in the mail and replacing the other key components. And, silver lining, I had an excuse to buy the wallet I've had my eyes on for the past six months. (And, no, the passport doesn't fit nicely inside, so when I have it, I will always have to carry them separately.)