Friday, December 3, 2010

In which I see a striking similarity between my homeland and crazyville


So, yesterday I went to go run what SHOULD have been the simplest operation in the world of international travel. I went to get extra pages put in my passport, because going home for the holidays was going to fill up the last spots (note: life goal accomplished!). To do this from London, I had to go to the US embassy (I am a dual citizen, but only travel on my US passport). I was weirdly excited to hear American accents again!

So, I actually didn't recognize the embassy at first -- I naively expected it to look like a nice townhouse, like all the other embassies I've seen around. NOPE! It is a Soviet-style monster of a concrete building, surrounded by a high gate and all fifty state flags, and many charming young gentlemen in Kevlar holding semi-automatic rifles. Um...?

I wasn't allowed in the building until I had shown an ID, taken out my cell phone, charger, iPod, and camera and put them in a clear plastic bag to leave with security. Then security called me forth to enter the gatehouse and go through a metal detector (this was after being left out in the freezing cold and snow for twenty minutes because no one told me they only do blank passport pages between 1-2pm...)

Moral of the story, it took me two hours to complete this errand (and since there are no clocks and they had removed my phone and iPod, I had no sense of time until I left...), and it was lucky I had my book with me (a wonderful book on Chechnya, which left me feeling as though I were in one of the inefficient and vaguely malicious Chechen government offices instead of the US Embassy in London...). Oh, and it cost $82 to tape in blank pieces of paper to my passport.

You know, America, I get it -- why the rest of the world doesn't love you like I do. You're a great place, but if even your embassy in an ally country is like a military fortress...

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