As anyone who has traveled with me can attest, I am slightly obsessed with passport stamps and visas. It’s a badge of pride and honor to me every time I pass through immigration in a new country and they ink my passport with proof that I’ve passed through their borders. That sentence was kind of dramatic, but that’s because it really is a big deal to me. I always linger a little looking at the new stamp while everyone else is rushing to pick up their luggage at baggage claim. I love international travel, and having a beaten up passport filled with colorful stamps and visas from all over the world helps remind me how lucky I’ve been to see so many different parts of the world. But, though I’ve accumulated a good number of stamps thus far, I’ve still got a long way to go to see all the places I want to see.
So with my recent trip to Uruguay, I filled my last empty page in my passport, and I had to go today to the U.S. Embassy here in Buenos Aires to get more pages. Several things about the trip reminded me about how much the U.S. [kind of] sucks.
– The office closes at noon, forcing an entire society of people who eat dinner at 11p to wake up extra early to get anything done at the consulate. (Okay, fine, this might have been more difficult for me than most Argentines, but still.)
– All of the Americans working at the consulate sounded like they had just started taking sixth-grade Spanish and couldn’t muster up enough effort to even try a Spanish accent. We’re talking “hola” with hard h’s (“hole-a”). They live and work in a Spanish-speaking country for god’s sake! Not to mention every other five-year-old in the States can pronounce the word hola better than some of the workers I heard today.
– In addition, my perfectly fine old passport has now been sullied with the new passport pages tthat are soooo wack/tacky/overly nostalgic/hyper-patriotic/and really just lame. If you’ve gotten a passport in the past few years I believe you have the new ones with images of buffalo, trains, wheat, and cowboys accompanying cheesy quotations (with all due respect to our Founding Fathers and other cultural icons, but I still find them cheesy).
– Finally, one woman was explaining that she had renewed her passport in Bahia, Brazil. Not only did the consulate worker not know where Bahia was, she asked the woman where it was as if she were making up a fake country. (In case you don’t know where Bahia is, it’s a state in northeast Brazil.) I feel like it’s not too much to ask to educate your employees on the geography of neighboring countries if they’re working in an immigration office–and at the very least not to be rude when it’s their ignorance that’s causing the miscommunication. Sigh.
One good thing about the visit: As I waited for the extra pages in my passport, I sat by a family of beautiful, happy, multilingual parents and children casually interchanging between perfect Spanish, English, and Portuguese. Damn. Why are international families so cool? Heretofore is my plan:
Have my parents raise my babies until they are old enough to go to school (learn Chinese, check.), move them to a Spanish-speaking country–or perhaps Brazil if I like it enough there–during their formative years (obtain that always-summer golden tan, check; learn another very useful language, check–or at least learn a language I really like, check; expose them to another way of life and a different culture, check; have then learn not to take for granted air conditioning and American snack foods, check.), then move them back to the States for high school/college where they will either suffer the consequences of being the outcast international kids, or (OR!!!) become the super cool international kids who can speak multiple languages and have dual citizenship (this latter outcome will probably only become reality as they get older and peers learn to appreciate diversity… instead of taunt it at lunch tables). Ha. I’m sorry I’m not sorry I just shared that with all of you. Sounds like a great plan to me.