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.