Yesterday my husband and I had an appointment at the U.S. Embassy. We booked the first available appointment two weeks before. We each needed to sign a document and have them notarized.
Yesterday we left ourselves 40 minutes to get to the Embassy, which was about ten minutes away. Sure enough, we walked up to the gate and pulled out our passports, papers to be signed, and appointment verification. Then he looked at me and asked about my appointment. Oops, we thought. We only have one appointment. “May I go with him?” I asked.
“I’ll talk to my supervisor. In the meantime, you can wait in your car until five minutes before your appointment.”
“Yes, sir,” my husband said to this first person we met.
We waited and sat in the car and began to notice the details of the Embassy, which looks like a military base under protection. Rolls and rolls of razor wire on every perimeter. We wondered if it looks like our U.S. Capitol these days. Why is America so afraid? we thought aloud. We know about many of the experiences in the world that have made us afraid. It’s also related to power. Powerless countries, it seemed to us, don’t have to live at the same level of fear as we do.
We went back to the gate at 8:55 a.m. There was a new man there, probably the supervisor, who was very polite and thanked us for waiting. He said we could proceed with our one appointment, instead of two. He pointed across a lane to a ramp up to a sidewalk that had a rope barrier along the right side and a wall border on the left. I marched right up the ramp, took a 90-degree right turn, trying to follow his orders precisely. My husband, on the other hand, cut diagonally across the lane to an opening in the rope ten meters down. What? I thought!
When we caught up, I said, “You better be careful. I feel like someone is sitting in a guard tower ready to shoot us if we take a wrong turn.” I’m sure I was overly-anxious and exaggerating, but it felt all very strange and barren and foreign and cold.
We walked and walked, about the length of a soccer field to another right turn. We went into a small airport-like security system. We emptied our pockets, putting everything in a bin. These were scanned, then we walked through the scanner. We were also wanded this way and that, even though nothing beeped when we walked through. Finally, we were given a tag to pick up our things later. We were allowed to keep our passports and the papers we needed signing. Oh, yes, and my husband’s wallet so he could pay $50 each for the notary’s work.
We came out of that room and finally saw the Embassy building. We took a wrong turn to go up a set of stairs, but we were being watched. Fortunately, we didn’t get shot. Instead, we were politely shown where we missed our turned and escorted back.
We went inside. The three windows looked like the way prisoners talk to visitors with thick glass and microphones. However, it was also like a bank teller with a little doorway to slide our papers and passports inside. We got to take our masks off for a bit to assure him that we were the same people on our passports. Then he notarized our signatures, and we were off.
We backtracked our same steps as we picked up our belongings. The whole time took about twenty minutes.
Everyone was so professional and helpful. And really we didn’t see any guns. (Although I suspect there were some there, out of our eyesight.) Another thing that might be interesting, the only American we encountered was the notary public who witnessed our signatures. The other workers were all ex-patriates.
Of course, there are no photos in this post because our phones were not allowed on the premises.
9 thoughts on “Our Trip to the Embassy”
Embassy stories feel the same all the world over. Perspective is an interesting thing. I wonder if the notary, “the only American”, was actually the only expat you encountered. So often nationals are hired for positions at an embassy. Most importantly, the outing was successful – woohoo!
Yes, you’re right, Kristi. I didn’t think of the fact that the American too was an expat, like me. Actually, the people we encountered working at the embassy were also expats in Bahrain–a country rich with people from all over the world. (My husband, who works in a hospital has met people from 132 different nations–he keeps track on a list on his phone!) I don’t believe we saw any Bahrainis yesterday, though I’m sure there are some who work there. Many who we encountered were expats from Philippines and India.
I’m glad you got to have the same appointment. I was sweating for you there for a second, especially when your husband took a detour. Embassies are fascinating places to me – blood pressure elevates for some, relaxes for others. I was in Berlin in June 2019, pre-Covid, and enjoyed seeing the US embassy there. I’m glad I did not have to have an appointment!
Thank you, Kim. Yes, I wondered how Covid has effected what we could and couldn’t do at the embassy. The building was quite big; we were wondering how many people worked there and what all they do!
Your post reminds me I have to go to the Embassy here to pick up my stimulus check (although now maybe I will wait until the next one arrives). My ex-husband worked at Embassies and I can confirm that even with an “insider’s view” they can still be intimidating places. Ah, bureaucracy.
Thanks, Erika! Yes, I am not surprised it is an intimidating place from even an insider’s view. Everyone seems ultra aware and paying attention, which I guess is good. It didn’t seem like a light work environment.
I’ve never visited an embassy, so this is fascinating to me. But it’s not the trip to the embassy I’m fixated on. It’s your question about why this country is so afraid. There are insurgents living among us, people who believe the big lies they’re fed by one man and his enablers. I keep thinking about that line, “We have met the enemy, and he is ya.”
Thanks, Glenda. Yes, the big lie that took us to dark places in our country’s history!
Obviously our embassy (Australian) is so very different from yours. I’ve been in a few over the years and not felt intimidated and isolated. Yours sounds quite scary and prisonlike. Not very welcoming, but perhaps it depends which country it is in? I’m glad the actual paperwork was easy!
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