Personal Victory: Extra Passport Pages! (and Other Observations from the American Consulate)

not my actual passport... though I wouldn't mind checking out Helsinki

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.

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5 thoughts on “Personal Victory: Extra Passport Pages! (and Other Observations from the American Consulate)

  1. So, how your parents feel about raising your babies? 😉 I know what you mean about the new US passport… super tacky. Last summer on my trip, someone from England or Canada (or maybe Australia) asked me if I had one of the awful new passports and I didn’t know what they were talking about. It was awhile before I saw another American and when I saw the new passport, I was mortified.

    1. My parents don’t quite know about the plan yet… but I’m sure they’d be happy to babysit the kids every once in a while. Oh wait… I guess that means I’ll have to live near them…

  2. I am half Slovene and half American. I line in Istanbul. Here the American consulate is no different. It looks like a castle, maybe more secure than Langley. ahaha. but I’m serious, it is over-secure and it really looks like a castle. I think it is an unnecessary expense. Instead, they could have built a school. Anyways only 2 of the Americans in the visa/passport section have fluent Turkish. Come on!
    By the way being multilingual family is not so charming to me – not at all. My parents divorced kinda because I chatted with my mom in Slovene or Serbian and one day dad had enough of it…
    Thnx for the text!

  3. Hey, you might want to know that the “hoya” versus “hoLa” thing is specific to Argentina and a few other South American countries. In Spain and Mexico they say “hoLa”, which means pretty much every Spanish-speaker in the US does too. Not a bad blog otherwise but you sometimes come off as really arrogant and uninformed.

    1. Actually, hola is pronounced “ola” in Argentina as well, and I’m almost 100% positive that no Spanish-speaking countries pronounce “hola” (hello) like “hoya” (which is in fact my alma mater Georgetown’s mascot). I did actually live in Argentina for several months and am certain beyond a doubt that they do NOT say “hoya” for hello. I believe you misread my gripe–I said that the consulate workers were pronouncing the word like “hole-a”, pronouncing the hard H in front of the word, when it should be silent in Spanish. Like “heuvos,” “helado,” and “hombre.” I like to think my blog ain’t too bad–and I certainly think that you might want to watch who YOU’RE calling arrogant and uninformed….

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