I got just a little taste of the good old USA today when I visited the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires for the first time. Years of traveling internationally have finally caught up with me and I made it to the once dreamed-of goal of filling up a passport. I always thought this would be so cool, but once I filled up mine with stamps and visas and realized what it meant, it became anything but worthwhile.
To apply for new passport pages while overseas you need to bring your passport, new pages application (which you can download from the State Department) and shell out U$82, which is not spare change when you make pesos. However, with a trip coming up next week, there’s no point in risking it, and it’s something that I needed to take care of. Citizens don’t need an appointment for this service, and it can be paid in pesos, dollars or with an international credit card.
I showed up at the embassy at 8:30 am when it opened and was able to enter right away while I saw a long line of Argentines who were probably applying for visas eye me suspiciously. It probably didn’t seem fair that I had the VIP status. I had to turn off my cell phone before going in and go through security, then found my way over to the Consular section where I was given a number and sat down until I was called. Argentines entering the room had to check in with digital fingerprints but I didn’t have to. I was surprised to see how well it all moved along and maybe this is why the long line of people waiting for visas didn’t complain either. Though the line was long, it at least moved.
When called I gave up my passport and form, then was told to sit down until I was called to the register where I paid the fee. Again I sat until called up, but I was told that the system was temporarily down. We might have been in the U.S. Embassy, but were still in Argentina. Normally the process would be completed the same day but they took my phone number and said they would call me as soon as it was ready, which wouldn’t be too long.
A little after an hour and a half of arriving I was leaving the embassy passportless, but was given a little photocopy to get me back in later on. By 3 pm I had received a phone call that the extra pages were ready, so tomorrow morning I’ll go back and pick it up. All told, it wasn’t a teeth-pulling experience, but of course I would rather not do it again and hold on to my $82.
I don’t know why, but even just being in the embassy thousands of miles away from home brought up some kind of nostalgia and sense of belonging, like this was the one place in the city that I could not be totally out of place. Still, I couldn’t help but feel slightly nervous as I wondered if I screwed up any part of the paperwork and what that might mean for my future. But anyway, that’s one problem taken care of this week.