The Case of Being the 'Stupid
May 24, 2006

I have a question.

Who probably came across as the biggest idiot today?

Here's the answer...


While I have been doing a great job at putting a good name out there for Americans while I’ve been traveling through the
Middle East, today there was a small setback for all Americans. There are Egyptians who are now convinced that we’re pretty

Let me take a moment to explain…

Egypt really only accepts International Student cards issued by UNESCO. I realized the importance of holding this small piece of
gold when I went to the pyramids in Giza today. Apparently University of Arizona was not going to suffice. Luckily my
schmoozing skills were in full-swing and I managed to smile and give puppy-dog eyes to get my way in. I knew that this was not
going to work in the future so I knew what I had to do. After the pyramids, I was on a mission.

Operation: International Student card (ISIC).

I approached several people and didn’t like the responses I was given. One person was going to charge me 25 Egyptian pounds
to take me to the place. I know that it should only cost 5 Egyptian pounds and they weren’t going to budge. While that difference
equates to just over $3, I still have my principles. And the search continued. When crossing a street, a guy mentioned to me that
I have to be careful because it’s not like crossing a street anywhere else. We started small-talking and then I asked him if he
knew where I could get the ISIC card. He did. He (Ahmed) offered to come with me in the taxi to take me there. ‘Skeptical Jen’
took over and asked him how much this was going to cost and that I didn’t have any money. Keep in mind, everybody around
here thinks they deserve baksheesh (i.e. a tip) for merely saying ‘hello’ to you. He insisted it was just a kind gesture and I
believed him.

We went to the official ISIC card office (there are many fakes around here which is actually what I originally had my sights more
set on) and I had to fill out the paperwork. Luckily I carry a copy of my passport with me because it was necessary for this
transaction. I surrendered the copy and she compared it to the sheet that I had filled out.

As a child, there are certain things that we remember practically from the time we are born. Our name. Our parents’ names.
Our birthday.

She asked me when my birthday was. I told her. She then kept saying ‘29’ with a puzzled look. And I agreed to ‘29’ since that is
how old I am. She asked my birthday again and I answered “August 26th.” She then said something in Arabic to Ahmed. He
turned to me and said “You don’t even know your own birthday?”

I was a bit confused. I know my birthday. What was the problem? I looked at the copy of my passport. It turns out the U.S.
State Department is the problem.

There are certain things I take for granted. For example: I will have a roof over my head at night; I will be able to eat everyday;
and that the U.S. State Department will get all of my information correct when I send in my old passport.

As you can guess, my friends in the U.S. were a bit dyslexic when it came to my passport and I realized today that my new
birthday is August 29, 1976.

I don’t have the time or patience to go to the U.S. Embassy to get this resolved so…as of today…I have a new birth date as far as
the rest of the world is concerned. It’s pretty crazy to think that for all documents going forward, I will have to assume this new

In the meantime, I will also have to be that person that the Egyptian lady will remember as the ‘stupid American’ that didn’t
know her own birthday…
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