So, the other day, as I had assembled the required components, I made my way to the passport office. Here in South Bend, for the curious, this office is located in our main post office downtown. I felt slightly like a medieval alchemist about to concoct something mysterious, something undiscovered. It was an intense, heady feeling; all those undiscovered countries in the world were suddenly about to become accessible (at least in theory). Of course, they’re all actually “discovered.” All the nations of the world have been mapped and trod and settled a thousand times over, but not by me, not a single one of them, and that’s an important distinction. This passport would be one of the keys to traveling out in the world, a key I had up til now not possessed.
An even better thing was about to happen, however. When I passed through the post office proper, and stepped into the small room with its very government-looking “Passports” stenciling, feeling like the very first sojourner ever to go that way, I saw a familiar face already there. One of our very own professors from IUSB was there with his wife, applying for passports so their two small children could come with them on a trip this summer. I’ve had several classes with this particular professor, and we passed the time with some small talk waiting for our respective turns to approach the counter and unburden our ingredients. Even in a medium-small-sized town such as South Bend, I have only met professors by chance outside of campus perhaps once or twice. To encounter someone in such an unusual place was a wonderful, chance meeting, but there was more to it than just an opportunity to say hello to a great teacher. A familiar face in the passport office brought this incredible reality home to me, the realization that I was joining a certain kind of fellowship, a society of world travelers. It’s an interesting conundrum, a side-effect of international education, perhaps, that it seems to bring people together in a way by sending them away, far from home and out to the far corners of the world.