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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Pollyanna Visits the US Embassy

October 29, 2014

This morning Melissa got up bright and early as she had an 8am appointment at the US Embassy to get blank pages added to all four of our passports.  All of us are down to about 6 blank pages, and given that we burned three blank pages in the past two months of traveling, we all knew we needed new blank pages before leaving Panama.  In both the South Pacific where Mike and Holly are headed, and the Caribbean side where we are headed - often a new island means a new country and stamps in your passport.  So our 6 blank remaining pages weren't going to get any of us very far.

She had it in her head that an 8am appointment meant there was an actual human with a corresponding appointment on their calendar at 8am.  So she arrived at the embassy a few minutes early to ensure she wouldn't be late.  She had four passports with her, and one appointment.  The website implied that you needed four appointments, but the first calendar day showing four appointments all on the same day was mid-November.  Its clear that not all four of us had to show up - Melissa could carry them all to the embassy assuming everyone had signed their applications - just wasn't clear whether they were going to allow Melissa to get them all processed due to the appointment issue.

She arrives at the embassy and first you have to go through security.  It was clear they had built a new security building outside the main building so that if you carried a bomb in, all you could blow up was the small bunker like security building you pass through before walking up the hill to the main building.  Reason it was clear that this was a new installation is that there were dusty metal detectors in the lobby of the main building - where security used to be located some years back.  Once inside the main building, she was directed to "take a number" and wait her turn.  Ok, hang on, what's all this about an 8am appointment if you have to take a number when you get there?  Imagining that the embassy was some kind of "how can we help you Ms Pollyanna American Citizen in a foreign country" thing was the opposite end from the truth.  In reality the consulate services is 90% about helping the locals get visas to immigrate or visit the US, and only maybe 10% about helping Americans.  There were 15 bullet proof glass windows - only two of which were designated to help citizens and only one of which was operating.  There were 50 people waiting for the immigration or visa services and two of us Americans.

Melissa waits her turn and goes to the window for American citizen services.  The clerk promptly explains she needs four appointments.  Can't Melissa see how busy they are?  Melissa pleads stupidity over the whole appointment thing.  She begs the clerk to process all four.  Saying that she has come a long way to the embassy.  The bureaucrat rolls her eyes as if Melissa could not possibly be asking such an inconvenience as to want additional pages glued into four passports instead of one.  (Like seriously, how long could that possibly take?  Probably less than this dressing down about not having enough appointments.)  The bureaucrat glares at Melissa and says she will go ask someone if it is ok.  She returns to the window and says that they will process all four, but Melissa will have to return tomorrow to pick them up rather than getting same day service.  Apparently that's the punishment - another round trip taxi ride.  Oh well, probably better than waiting around all day at the embassy for them to do it the same day anyhow.

For the additional pages we paid $82 x 4 = $328.  Completely ridiculous.  And the kicker is that because we are on the embassy mailing list, we got notified a while back that embassies around the world are going to discontinue the service of adding passport pages to passports.  And according to the passport processing site, the EXPEDITED service to add pages back in the US takes 2 to 3 weeks.  So folks - start asking for the additional pages in your passport when you renew so you can avoid this whole bit of nonsense!

Meanwhile MacGyver was busy back on the boat replacing the air conditioner control head for the forward air conditioning unit.  When he installed the new unit back in June, it turned out that the thermostat control panel was incompatible with the unit controller.  He made it all work by attaching the old controller to the new air conditioning compressor, because the old controller was compatible with our existing thermostat control.  Meanwhile we had ordered a new thermostat controller so that we could upgrade the thermostat and controller so that everything would be new.  MacGyver got it all installed, but we can't test it till the generator is up and running.  The generator voltage regulator is in country, and they are telling us we might be able to get it as early as Friday!

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