“Where is your family from?” the girl beside me asks. It is 9:30 on an icy cold morning and I am sitting on a hard wooden bench outside the door of a foreign consulate. I am a curiosity, because I am the only white face among the morning line-up. There must be an interesting story for a white girl to have shown up first in this line.
When the clock hands settle at 10:00 am, the door opens, and a small lady bustles us inside, announcing that I will be first, after all, I arrived at 9:00am. Just like 4 years ago, I sign my name and particulars in a loose leaf binder…there are no fancy “take a number” machines here. We all sit in a row of chairs, careful to keep the order we arrived in. I glance around the office at the reminders that this is a tiny piece of foreign soil residing in my own country. The wall opposite contains a large, slightly out of focus, off-centre, picture of the current president, a rice cooker takes up a corner on the reception desk, and the quiet chatter is definitely not English. Soon, the consul general arrives, and the office begins to erupt with the noise and busyness of a working day. I am called to the back, where I take a seat at a simple round table heaped with supplies. The official scans the documents I hand over, fills and signs the necessary forms, and hands them over to her assistant. My papers are beribboned and handed back to me and I count out the necessary payment, receiving my change from the assistant manning the pencil box…err…cash drawer. With a quiet “thank-you ma’am” I am on my way, precious papers safely stored in a large envelope.