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Archive for March, 2007

Behind the scenes

Today I had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Washington Dulles airport as part of our consular training.  Since my job for two years will be to issue visas, the tour showed us what happens once the individual arrives in the U.S. with the visa.  In Customs, there are 2 major sections, the Primary and Secondary.  The Primary is where the passenger deplanes and gets his passport stamped.  From there, he picks up his luggage and then goes through customs.  If the customs officer thinks the passenger might be hiding something (like fruit or diamonds), then he goes to Secondary where his luggage is rummaged through.

I didn’t really get to see anything interesting when I was in Primary.  But during the Secondary part, I saw a customs official find two “drug paraphernalia” pipes that a guy had hidden under his Dr. Scholl’s cushions in his shoes.  And a guy have to pay duty because he brought in a bunch of shoes.  That was the extent of the excitement.  However, when we go to Bogota, I’ll have to spend a couple of days in Miami’s airport doing something similar.  So maybe I’ll have some better stories.

I recently finished my training on non-immigrant visas (NIVs), of which the most common are tourist visas.  It was a tough section to learn because there are 22 visas, everything from A-1s (diplomatic visas) to U visas (victims of criminal activity) and so, so many in between.  And a week ago, I completed the section on immigrant visas (green cards/legal permanent residents).  An interesting fact is if you’re from the Philippines applying for a particular type of family visa, it won’t be processed unless you submitted it before November 1, 1984!!!  This is due to quotas.  Can you imagine waiting over 20 years to get your green card?!  I think that shows how much people value living in the U.S.
Starting next week, I’ll finish up my consular training with a section in American Citizen Services.  Examples of these are if a relative dies overseas, or you need a lawyer, or you get thrown in jail in Tijuana.  (25% of all Americans arrested overseas are arrested in Tijuana!)  Another fun fact.  Embassy Kathmandu is the only U.S. embassy that has a morgue on the grounds.  That’s because the Nepalese generally cremate and don’t have a need for morgues.  Supposedly the only other morgue in Kathmandu is operated by a Dutch who also runs a Mexican restaurant, which I’d suggest you stay away from if you’re ever in the area.

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Since we have been in the DC area we have been shocked at the lack of southern hospitality.  Many people we have encountered are very impatient and even quite rude. One afternoon, I was going to the local Michael’s craft store. I entered the double doors in the front and headed towards whatever crafty thing that caught my eye first.  As I went through the door just after a larger woman came out she literally yelled at me that I was going in the exit.  I didn’t know if I could get over my hurt feelings after being yelled at by a complete stranger. I can understand if I had impaired her large body from passing through the doorway but my walking through the wrong door had no impact on her personal life! In the same week I was snapped at by the owner at the Omaha steak store, honked at at least 6 times and almost got hit a few times in our grocery store parking lot because “yeild” is not explained in international driving books.

Another thing that we have noticed on a daily basis is that the DC area has a NYC complex when it comes to driving.  Meaning that they love to honk! In NYC you can typically tell why someone might be ticked off but in DC everyone honks even when there is no apparent reason why. The driving scene is interesting enough because so many of the drivers are new to American driving or new to driving in general because they have immigrated. The mix of impatient northerners and foreigners makes driving quite unpleasant. In TX there was a certain restraint that we used when interacting with other drivers because of the fear of handguns…without that fear here it is more difficult to not honk back! As mentioned above, we have almost been in quite a few accidents in the grocery store parking lot.  Instead of checking your rear view mirror and slowly exiting your parking space, it is very typical for multiple people the launch out at the same time and spend the next 5 minutes honking and yelling at one another.  Because people honk unnecessarily we have found that people ignore honks when they are actually needed when they are about to hit someone…specifically us on numerous occasions!

I was in TX last week visiting family and I was shocked to be immersed in such “niceness”. I am aware that we are all human and that Texans too can be rude but for the most part we can at least pretend to be nice even if we are saying things like “bless his little heart” which basically means “what an idiot”! I went to HEB with my mom to get groceries and was bombarded by 3 friendly girls working the checkout line. They asked me how my day was going, asked 3 times if I had found everything I needed , made small talk about the live crawfish that had just been  stocked and offered me help with my groceries.  Coming from VA I didn’t know how to respond. I asked my mom what was wrong with them. They had to have been in training with camera watching them. She thought this was the usual. At our store, the clerk rarely makes eye contact, hisses if you ask a question and makes you sack your own groceries if you comment on the spring weather!!

Despite the severe lack of southern hospitality, we are thoroughly enjoying the emergence of Spring in the north! The forsythias are in bloom as well as the daffodils and pussy willows (Seth was introduced to pussy willows just the other day). The cherry blossoms are starting to peak out of their buds. The cherry blossom festival starts next weekend and although we might encounter rude people at the festival we are sure to enjoy the beautiful flowers.

I think you get the point! Even if you aren’t from TX, try to be extra sweet today. If you feel inclined to yell at someone going in an “out” consider the fact that they might just be a nice, pregnant woman that forgot to read the sign!  They aren’t likely trying to ruin your day!

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For those of you who may be curious, the baby is now approximately 7 1/2 inches long and weighs approximately 12 ounces. He is still very active. Over the past week his tongue finished growing, he has teeth (which will be hidden for a while, of course) and he has been refining his sense of touch. He enjoys to be active most at night when I am trying to sleep! We’ll have to work on modifying that habit. 🙂

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Undeserved Favor

The unexpected keeps on coming. On Wednesday our class found out that President Bush was so impressed with us at Negroponte’s swearing-in that he wanted to meet with just us. Yep, Pres. Bush wanted to make time during his day to meet with 68 other classmates, me, and Secretary Rice.

So on Monday, we all skipped our training (I’m in Consular learning about passports and documenting U.S.-citizen babies born abroad) and took a bus to the Old Executive Office Building, which is right next to the White House. It’s where the Vice President’s offices are. We went up to the 3rd floor in a special room used by the National Security Council and waited for about an hour. When the President wants to talk to you, you make sure to arrive early and work around his schedule.

He showed up around 2:30 and talked for about 20 minutes. We then were able to ask him questions for another 40 minutes. He never looked my way when asking for a question, so I didn’t get to ask anything. Sorry, but it was all off-the-record, so I can’t discuss what we talked about. I can say it was unbelievable! He was candid, blunt, loose, speaking off-the-cuff, and cracking jokes all the time. He joked with us and about himself. But he was also forceful and adamant about certain policy decisions. His next meeting was supposed to be at 3:15, but when that time came, he told his aide that he was bumping it back to 3:30 to spend the extra time with us. Regardless of what I thought about his policies and him as a person, I couldn’t help but walk away with much more respect for him and the Office. You also realize just how much responsibility the leader of the world’s only superpower has and how important it is to use it wisely (which I think is part of the reason President Clinton’s actions were so despicable).

I entitled this posting “Undeserved Favor” because all of my cool experiences have not been because of who I am (or my classmates are), but because someone far, far, far above me decided to spend time with us. Undeserved Favor. And whoever it has been making those decisions, I also realize that God has shown me Undeserved Favor in allowing me to have these experiences.

Now, back to ConGen training and reading immigration law.

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Baby….

Boy! Yep, it’s true. Last week we found out that we are having a baby boy. We are very excited! On the ultrasound we could see him kicking and punching and moving his lips like he was talking! He is quite the active little guy even at such an early age. We are bracing ourselves for a very energetic boy. His most active time is in the evenings. Last night Seth laid his head on my tummy and talked to the baby. The baby got all excited and kicked around in there for a good 10 minutes or so.  At least we know he’ll be able to kick and punch his way out of a kidnapping in Bogota!

Over the last week we have been adjusting to the thought of having a boy. Most of my baby experience has been with girls although I did speech therapy with many sweet little boys. Buying some blue clothes has helped make it all a little more real.  We were at a supper club last week and a friend informed us that there is now a product called a “pee pee tee pee”.  Needless to say the whole table went silent at dinner when she announced this. I never expected to be chatting about pee pee tee pees at a dinner party. We are buckling up for this new adventure! Seth has agreed to change all diapers and is strongly considering investing in tee pee company stocks! What a great husband!

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