8pm, Wed, 2 Feb 2011. La Paz
(MEGA-RANT alert! I didn’t want to finish my last post by soiling it with this continuation of what I started but..)
And for my bit about the US Embassy…
Bright and early Monday morning I attempted to get a visa so I can go to Paraguay for Carnaval in two weeks. Their embassy was happy to do it for me for a reasonable $45US that same day but for one small issue: my passport had no empty pages left to hold it! Easy. Walk down the avenue to the US Embassy and get more visa pages.
Walking with my friend Delphine, we found the American flag ok, but the place was startlingly foreign, a veritable fortress that stands out as excessively guarded and [embarrassingly] huge. And it proved difficult to access.
The white monolithic building stood seven stories, [why so big?] and was protected by a [ludicrously] tall, barbed, and effective white wall, making a statement [of paranoia] that seemed way out of place. (All the other embassies I’ve seen in town are pretty, modest and inviting.) In contrast, the Embassy of Paraguay occupied two rooms in a bi-level office building, recognizable by its cute silver onion-dome which cheers-up the street corner.
Delphine and I joked, (I cowered a bit), and we both instinctually drew our cameras. (Within seconds we got ransacked by guards, who forced us to erase the highly sensitive contraband.)
We walked around the block to a back-door entrance. US soldiers allowed me to enter a dark hallway, where through a small window of bulletproof glass I asked a lady if I could visit the consulate to add passport pages. She informed me the only way to visit the consulate is to book an appointment online, with no word of when the next available might be.
That’s NOT how we do things here in Bolivia!
In contrast to my very pleasant and personal interactions at the friendly Paraguayan embassy, with the other I felt so frustrated at every step, angry for being processed anonymously (a number), not as a human, wasting so much time and with no other option than to talk to a computer.
Deep down I feel like the system is intentionally difficult, designed to Control, and keep us busy, paying to support the beast, running around like mice in a maze, disoriented and intoxicated with fear, until we ultimately feel powerless. In the end, which is where we reside, we ‘choose’ any or all of the options given, and indulge a fake illusion of freedom. With the factory process they break our spirits and compromise our humanity, so that we’ll ultimately do anything they want us to.
Later that evening I made the first available reservation (on the frustrating US embassy website which hides Make a Reservation under “How to Contact Us” in the left navbar) for Thursday, 3pm. Three days later, in the middle of the day in which I hoped to be moved-on to Lake Titicaca. In the likely scenario that they can’t do it same-afternoon, I’ll have to wait until next week to bring it to Paraguay (closed Friday), consuming a full-week on this nonsense, a week in which I’d rather be traveling than being extorted painfully for more paper in my passport.
Extorted? Yes. Today, I received a confirmation email which reminded me to bring my $82 dollar fee (to add visa pages!) WtF?!! So yeah, America still has the uncanny ability to make me cringe, and blow my mind on how much money it takes to keep our behemoth government pumping away as inefficiently as possible. Tonight’s tweet conveys how I feel:
Only the US Embassy can cause me so much stress abroad! $82 for addt’l Passport pages + 3 days to get an appt is inexcusable. #iamexpat
Every time I revisit my old friend the Man I’m reminded of how “fallen-out” we are. Whenever I jump through the hoops, or think I have to do anything, I suffer a loss of myself. Given the choice though, I’d rather suffer than be complacent, and not even notice how fucked around we are.