January 27, 2010

Intimidation at the Embassy

Ever been to an American Embassy abroad? It's like a maximum security prison—Or maybe more like the drug smuggler room at the airport. Before I could even enter the premises, the guard demanded my passport. Upon passing his eye-ball inspection, I was let into a fortified room with metal detectors and an airport-style bag x-ray. Intimidation. I had to leave behind my cell phone and camera, which seemed normal, but then, after crossing a 50-foot outdoor corridor to another secure room, I had to metal detect once more. Certain that I was nonmetallic, the guards also went through my bag by hand. My metal business card holder really boggled the guards in the second room. When I revealed the stacks of cards inside, however, they both nodded in approval (I think they were impressed).

Passing into an energetic lobby, I found Counter 7, the American Citizen Inquiry. Four days a week, from 1-3 PM, Americans may inquire here. A sheet of bulletproof glass between us, I struggled to communicate with the Khmer officer. My reason for visiting was simply to make a personal contact at the embassy, as I don't trust the online system to help me much if I really need help. Ten minutes later, I ended up at the counter to my right, speaking to an American (woohoo!) officer. He seemed surprised at my request, but happily gave me his business card and a trip registry form.

With the goal of my trip satisfied, I made my way out of the fortress, hoping that I would never have to return (if I do, something's gone a-rye, and I don't need any of that). My illusions of hanging out at the embassy and going to swanky embassy parties with royalty have been thoroughly dashed. I will have to look elsewhere for my social status boosters (I'm sure the Sport Club will oblige).

By the way, I've found the perfect writing nook. On our sun deck at the house, we have a little stone table with a superior view of our clothes lines (I see London, I see France...), fresher air, and the sweet sounds of stray pups and children playing in the street. Now, if only I had a coffee maker. The instant coffee (Gasp! Sputter!) we've got downstairs is not the kind of coffee worthy of my snobbish blog.