A few weeks ago, Ameli and I returned to our embassy to register her birth and request her passport. After the madness of our first trip, I was well prepared for this one. Forms completed and signed, photographs taken, passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, a bottle of expressed milk, nappies, a book to read… what could possibly go wrong?
Well, funny you should ask.
We arrived at the embassy and joined the queue. After twenty minutes of braving the cold, gale force winds and the odd drop of rain, we made our way inside to the counter where last time we were turned away. I will admit to a smug sense of enjoyment when I was able to cut the receptionist off with a big smile and say â€œYes! We sure have everything you said we should bring this time!â€
Ah.Â If only. Note the â€˜everything you said we should bring’ in that line.
So we’re sitting in the â€˜waiting area’ along with about thirty other people, waiting for our number 37 to be called. Ameli is wide awake, so I sing softly to her as Number 28 is called. â€œFive little ducks went swimming one day, over the hills and far away…â€ Number 29 â€œMother duck said quack, quack, quack, quack.â€ Number 30. â€œOnly 4 little ducks came backâ€. And Ameli is hungry. Â She wolfs down the entire bottle in record time, and I’m glad we’re at number 33. This is going quickly.
Ameli burps. Number 35. I gather all our things together. Number 36.Â I pick up the nappy bag, the forms, the baby. Number 37 to counter three. So yes.Â We go to counter three. I happily pass the documents, the photos, two passports and a marriage certificate over to a lady. Let’s call her Doris. I wait for Doris to smile and say â€œThank you. Have a nice day.â€
Yeah. That didn’t happen.
To save you the blow by blow, it turns out I had to bring copies of the documents, not the documents themselves.Â So I have to leave the embassy to go to the copy shop, where there’s a queue of people waiting to make copies. I head back, and the lovely lady eventually takes my copies.
Then she looks at the photo. She looks at the second (identical) photo. She looks back at the first. She calls her colleague to look at the first photo. Then shows her the second. Turns out Ameli’s lips aren’t together enough. We need new photos. So I leave the embassy to take more photos. Â I join the queue of people taking new photos.
Back at the embassy, and it’s now two hours since my number was initially called. Ameli’s waking up.Â So I hand the lady the forms, the photos, the copies, and try to â€˜shush’ my now squirming baby. Doris looks over everything, and with a big sigh announces that the two identical proof of identity forms that I filled in one copy of, and Martin filled out the other, only need me to fill out one and Ameli’s information on the other. So she shreds Martin’s form.Â I go away to fill out the new form with Ameli’s information. I go back to the window. Doris says â€œwhere’s the father’s form?â€ I look at her blankly. â€œYou mean the one you just shreddedâ€.Â She goes a lighter shade of dark brown.
Thankfully, I had Martin’s details (the date he immigrated to South Africa, the date he returned, his NHS number, blah blah blah, saved elsewhere, and I was able to fill out the form again)
Now to pay.
Turns out they only accept cash. So I leave the embassy and go to the cash machine and return to the embassy.
By now Ameli is practically screaming from hunger, and I decide that I don’t care about the room full of people or the fact that I don’t have my feeding cover. I pop her under my shirt, and feed her.
She looks over everything. And then she asks â€œWhere’s your envelope? â€œ
Turns out I needed a self addressed envelope to go with it all. So I plan on heading out to the stationers to go and buy and envelope with a baby in rugby ball position attached to my breast, my blood boiling and exasperation and frustration threatening to wipe the smile right off my face.
Thankfully, Doris took pity on the distressed, dishevelled, now exhausted breastfeeding mother in front of her, and four hours after my number was first called, opened her drawer and attached an envelope to my paperwork.
Thank God for small acts of kindness, but are a checklist and instruction sheet just too much to ask?