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2008-04-18 - 5:58 p.m.

...Cirque du Consulate...

And there is no need to disappoint! K and I have returned from the US Consulate - empty handed! Yessirreebobby, we were missing paperwork. And furthermore, there's about a 75% chance that we will not be able to get on a plane in June, do not pass go, pay up $200. This is a long one, folks, so settle back, get a cuppa, and enjoy.

I spent half of yesterday filling out forms for the consulate - forms verifying everything and everyone, detailing dates of marriage, birth, travel, last bowel movements - you get the idea.

And we scrambled around this morning to read all of that OTHER embassy stuff: do not bring cellphones, computers, watches, or other electronic devices. No backpacks. No purses. No weapons (duh). No strollers. All documents placed in a transparent folder. hmph.

So we carefully packed Susi up in a car seat and stuffed a transparent IKEA bag full of diapers and wipes and a toy and a change of clothing...and our paperwork. We were anticipating a full day of waiting around at the consulate..(although ultimately, we were in and out in an hour.)

We decided to drive downtown to ensure that we got there in a timely fashion, and we left 45 minutes early to ensure that this would happen. Good thing, too, because our first load of fun came in the parking garage - where we couldn't find a parking spot that wasn't already reserved. So after about five minutes of circling down .. and down .. and down.. we tried to leave the parking garage, but the guy at the gate wouldn't let us out without paying a fee.

K - who is known for getting a WEE BIT TENSE when consulates and embassies are involved - argued adamantly with the guard, and even asked to speak to the manager. But the gatekeeper wouldn't get the manager. So we wasted about ten minutes in our first parking garage...(yes, we probably could have found a parking space. But truthfully, if you ask me, K was being a little bit dense about the whole drive-to-the-bottom=level-past-the-reserved-spaces-thing.. in fact, for some reason he had a mental block on how to get OUT of this garage because there were no exit signs posted. This was technically wrong to his German eyes, and so in his nervousness he ignored my repeated advice to just turn the car around and go back the way he came. He finally did it. Which is when had our great encounter with the parking guard at the bridge of death..)

Finally, with an exhaled "This is very strange" in a wonderfully thick Pakistani accent, the guard took our name and phone number and opened the gate for us. So we proceeded to the next garage. And this time we went up and up and up instead of down and down and down and finally found a floor with one space available. phew.

You know it's going to be a good day when even the parking garage presents an adventure. We arrived at the consulate and were feelin' groovy when we walked right past the LOOONG line that said "VISAS" and walked to the non-existent line marked "US CITIZEN SERVICES." We got through the first security check with very little hassle - we only had to strip everything metal off our bodies, but we were feeling like security pros because we had no stroller, no cellphones, and our nifty see-through plastic bag. And given our affiliation with the Promised Land, we were ushered right up to a window, promptly at 10am, our appointment time.

And also EXACTLY when Susi woke and needed her next feeding. So I was ushered off to a special little US Citizen lounge where I could breast feed in peace and quiet.

And just as I left I heard the circus beginning...because the man behind the counter said to K, "I see you did not read the webpage carefully. You've brought the wrong form."

oh great.

K and I had already prepared ourselves before we left for this eventuality. In fact, I said to him, all right - no regrets and no frustration if for some reason we're missing something. and we agreed.

Turns out that although we envisioned ourselves as embassy and consulate PROS, we were actually COMPLETE US consulate ROOKIES when it comes to getting stuff for a newborn child. Heck we even had the benefit of blighty who has gone through this EXACT SAME PROCESS multiple times. And we STILL came up about four documents shy.

BUT: we paid anyway ($66.00. US.) and have a list of documents that need to be delivered to the consulate before August 18th, 2008.

So what are we missing?
(1) THE LONG FORM BIRTH CERTIFICATE, or "Child's ORIGINAL British Columbia REGISTRATION OF LIVE BIRTH." The registration of Live Birth sounds vaguely agricultural, and had us speculating what OTHER kind of birth we might have had... But actually, if you scour the webpages, you discover that this rather sketchy document has a THIRD NAME, and is also known as the "Registration Birth Photocopy" in British Cannabis. You see, the official birth certificate is NOT the official birth certificate for the US government. and although we are not allowed to bring any photocopied documents, we MUST bring the "Registration Birth Photocopy" which apparently does not count as a photocopy even though the word was stealthfully added to the title for the clarity of it all.

Needless to say, K and I have spent about 45 minutes this evening trying to figure out how to get this form...and trying to make sure that we do get the official photocopy that isn't a photocopy INSTEAD of the official certificate which isn't actually official after all.. This form has cost us another $50.

(2) "Mother's ORIGINAL certified OFFICIAL Transcripts for High School + University." Because, you know, it is possible that I haven't lived for five consecutive years in the US of A, and therefore the little one is not eligible for citizenship. Sigh. You see, even one set of transcripts is not enough because high school and university alone only represent four years, and it's possible that I left the US every summer in between. So they dock 12 months off each of these documents. Oh. my. god.

And now...K and I have both been scrambling around to find, request, and order all of my official transcripts. K called and spoke with Ms. McKeever (the nice lady at my high school who shushed and chastised K for talking too quickly and interrupting her - I love my high school..not) who will send the documents out Monday. I am in the middle of processing the transcripts for my other alma maters (alma mati?), which of course requires 5-10 business days, $16, and the cost of a FedEx envelope to reach this place in a timely fashion. oy. One place will not even accept emailed applications and so it could take just shy of FOREVER to get here.

(3) Express post envelope - MEDIUM. Ahem. Now this one is a little bit embarrassing. Because as the nice consulate dude behind the counter asked me if I had remembered to bring this envelope, my brain recounted Blighty's ENTIRE embassy experience with child#2 (or was it #3?), and having to go out, go down the street and find the damned ENVELOPE to send the F-ing paperwork. But of course, remembering the story NOW did none of us any good. Oh well. We can mail them the envelope with the other missing things. we went with our list. First to the only public restroom outside the consulate on the 2nd floor of the building. Where there was no changing table. So we blatantly changed the babe in the middle of the floor in the hallway. Teach THEM a lesson. (err, or not, as no one really saw or seemed to care. but hmph. well. anyway. so there.) We grabbed a quick coffee. And went home.

You may be wondering, WHY is it so important that we get this stuff altogether as soon as possible????

Because the nice man informed me that I would not be permitted to fly to the USA with Susi if she does not have a US passport. Because (a) I might be stealing her (even if I do bring an officially notarized affidavit from her German father permitting me to travel with the child), and (b) if she flies in on a Canadian or German passport, the US has no guarantee that I won't be leaving her there FOREVER, and this three-month-old child just MIGHT steal, oh, a job or something from an otherwise deserving American baby. GREAT.

As I type this, I remember one of my colleagues relaying a story about her adopted child who had a passport that differed from hers. I also remember her saying the same thing that I am thinking.."I went to a LOT of TROUBLE to GET THIS CHILD. THERE REALLY ISN'T A PROVERBIAL SNOW BALL'S CHANCE IN *HELL* THAT I'M LEAVIN' HER *ANYWHERE!!*" Of course, they don't know that. But that doesn't stop this voice from screaming that phrase at a shear DEAFENING VOLUME IN MY BRAIN.

Anyway, so now the race is on to get all of this paperwork together in the next ten days, so that we just might be able to get the passport processed by May 30th and I won't have to cancel my flight and be out a $200 cancellation fee (on top of all of the processing fees that I'm now paying to get this whole damn thing expedited.)

Are we having fun yet? Ha Ha Ha someday we really WILL be laughing about all this. In fact, in spite of the INSANITY of all this, I have to say that all of the people at the consulate were not only very nice and respectful, they were also quite competent. They had all of the information, they patiently repeated it 200 times for the both of us, they smiled, and most importantly, they all said that Susi was extremely cute (which she is, in my totally objective assessment of things).

So someday - just someday - this will all be funny.

So there. Phew.

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