Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rigmarole Two: "I Am Telling You . . ."

These documents have
been around the world.

Before I picked up Deb for our appointment to get our certificated marriage licenses stamped at the U.S. Embassy, I looked at Google Earth and determined the best route to get us there, taking notes and bringing them along with me. If I could have printed it out I would have, but we don’t have a printer yet. We turned right off of Airport Road, which is Old Airport Road if you are going in the other direction, but is named Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Maktoum St., although the street sign has a 2 on it so it’s called 2nd street . . .  and we saw the familiar street where the embassies are. So far so good.

Walking toward the building Deb said, “This will only take a minute or two to do. It’s just a stamp.”
“You never know,” I said.
When we got to the entrance we saw two lines, with far more people in them than were there the first time, and they all seemed to have blank looks on their faces. Judging from the way they were dressed, none of them looked particularly American. The security guy approached us, and we produced our appointment confirmation sheets, which Mark and Dana had printed for us at work. Wait here, in front of the door. We stood, trying not to steal looks at all the people waiting behind us. How many hours were they spending there? I read again the sign I saw last time: As of August 1, An Appointment Is Required, Except in Emergency. There must be a lot of emergencies.
In just a minute the door was unlocked and we were ushered into a vestibule where we turned off our cell phones and turned in our handbags, kept our passports, wallets and papers with us, and went through two layers of security. We then walked down a hall, into a nice courtyard, and went into another building. There were at least twenty people waiting in chairs. We got a number – we both used one number because we were both just getting a stamp, you know, the same stamp and it wouldn’t take long. Our number was 611 and, no sooner did we sit than I saw our number illuminated at window number one. This was going great!
We got to the window, where we produced our appointment letters and passports. As we were fishing our marriage documents out of our folders the woman behind the counter asked, in impeccable English, “Are you getting just one –“
“No, we are both getting the same stamp.”
“Oh, you are – oh!” I looked up at her. She had a stricken look on her face.
I couldn't control myself.
Suddenly I knew exactly what I was about to hear and I had the overwhelming urge to laugh. Apologizing, I put my head down into my hands. As I laughed I could hear a voice in my head saying through the telephone, “I am telling you. I have people calling me crying every day.”  It was the voice of the Emirati at the UAE Embassy in Washington D.C. And I knew how those crying people felt because, just as suddenly as I felt like laughing, I felt like crying.

The woman behind the counter couldn’t have been more apologetic, which sort of made me even madder. She explained that they had changed their policy and now . . .
“We have to send these to the UAE Embassy. In Washington D.C.,” I finished her speech for her. Yes.

Deb was more consistent with her emotions.
When we mentioned that our husbands' company isn’t aware of this, and they are telling people that they can get stamped here, she said that they had publicized the information but word hadn’t gotten around, and she finished with a hopeful, “Spread the word?”
Well, I am hereby spreading it. With a bucket and shovel.
As we left, the people in the waiting room and in the lines outside didn't seem to have moved at all and I had the weird feeling that we were the only living people in a land of zombies. But they were the lucky ones; they still had hope.
We immediately called Dana and Mark to tell them the news, which they heard with infuriating equanimity. Deb and I were a little riled up and the words “Oman!” and “now!” and “drink!” peppered our conversations.
So this weekend we are going to Oman, but not for the luxury spa treatment we think we deserve. We’re going to take a one-day road trip with (sigh) our husbands. Since all we really need is a passport stamp, we can go to the Al Ain oasis area, cross the nearby border into Oman, and return the same day. Al Ain is beautiful though, and I’ve wanted to go there so it’s all good.

I couldn't resist trying the exotic
looking dragon fruit.
I found a martini recipe online
but we tried it in a rum drink.
Deb's a pro.

When Mark and Dana got home in the afternoon -- they get home at about 3:20 -- Deb and I were enjoying a drink we made with fresh dragon fruit and watermelon, canned mango, guava, and pineapple juice, and rum, over ice with a squeeze of limon. Since we don't have a blender or food processor, we had to mash and strain the dragon fruit and watermelon. It was messy, but oh so worth it. Delicious! I have a bit of a headache as I write this. Must drink more water; after all, it's the desert.
Mark and Dana said that Tom was going to call James the Marine, who works at the U.S. Embassy, to ask about a rumored courier service to expedite getting our documents to Washington D.C. and back. I have my doubts because the courier service is in Dubai, which isn't very convenient from here, and besides we already got turned down once because we aren't military. But let them try. Then once we finally have the stamp, inshallah, the next step is translation into Arabic. You see, documents must be translated before they can be processed. That’s handled by the company. Who I am not sure I trust any more.
Stay tuned for the next episode, if you can stand it. When I write about our trip to Al Ain, I promise to not even mention the real reason we are there. After all, we’re just getting our passports stamped, which will only take a minute. Insha’Allah.
Also, National Day is coming, the UAE's 40th birthday, and it's a big deal. They are practicing for air shows at the airport next to us, and every public building and Emirati home is being decorated. They do not decorate with any restraint. So stay tuned for some colorful stories about that! 
Dana models a National Day t-shirt. This one is a very low-key design.
Rumor is that some of the women in the office think Dana looks like George Clooney!

No comments: