Thursday, December 10, 2009

American Consulate: The Seventh Circle of Hell

Savta Shira was supposed to come with us this morning, to be an extra set of hands, but she got the flu. Raphaela waking up at 2:30 this morning did not help matters.

I had lived a full day with her by the time we had to leave for the American Consulate in East Jerusalem, to register her birth and apply for a passport. We took a cab during the height of rush hour, and every time we stopped at a red light, the baby cried; she prefers movement of any kind.

Upon arrival, we did not have to wait too long on line, but I had to check the stroller and car seat, and carry her for the remainder of this form of citizenship torture. ("You want to be an American citizen? How badly do you want it? I dare you.")

Window 5: "You're a single parent? I have to clear this with my supervisor."

Thus ensued a conference of sorts, to decide how they deal with an apparently strange case like mine, which ended up with me having to provide ten pages of proof, and then sit in the corner. At one point I was standing, trying to feed Raphaela a bottle with one hand and locate documentation from my bag at the same time; I must have looked so exhausted and flummoxed that a kind stranger (a young religious woman) came over and offered to finish the feeding. When Raphaela started crying out of impatience and I was trying to calm her, another stranger (a recent convert to Judaism) said to me, "You look like you're about to cry yourself."

Then came the big interview, in which the supervisor tried to trick me into revealing that I am actually a Russian spy, or that I borrowed someone else's baby. (No and no...) I passed her interrogation, even put on a bit of a Bostonian accent, and then had to maneuver myself, two bags and a baby through a small turnstile door. You guessed it, we got stuck in between the metal spokes and the exit. Call in the extraction team and Security.

Outside and around the corner of the street in order to return to the front gate in order to claim my stroller and cell phone.

In the cab on the way home - it took a while to hail a cab - I looked at the receipt from the Consulate and noticed that they had spelled my last name wrong, which meant that her passport would be incorrect. I consoled myself at the bakery near my house, with my first jelly doughnut of the Israeli Chanukah season, and a serious cup of coffee to stop my hands from shaking.

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