Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Deported's Tips on Immigration: Lesson Two - Finding and Visiting the Embassy

Legal disclaimer: If you are seeking immigration advice, this is NOT the blog for you!

After being banished from Belgium, I called the office of the Belgian Consulate in Los Angeles, during a layover in Atlanta on my flight home, and left a message requesting someone to please return my call. I simply left my name and number, without going into any specifics. When I arrived in San Diego that evening, the Consulate’s office had already left a message on my home machine. Folks, that’s good customer service – in any country!

Throughout the past week and a half, I have been in contact with the Belgian Consulate regarding "my situation." Mary at the Consulate's office suggested I find out what steps had been taken so far in Brussels and then to call back and speak directly with the Consul. Once I received the requested information from my relocation agent, I called the Consul, armed with dates, names, and copies of letters (in French, no less), to plead for my papiers. Apparently, my pleading is not that good.

The Consul suggested I resubmit my entire application packet to them in the hopes that they can assist in the process. So, on Wednesday, I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch the 6:15 train to Los Angeles. Since the Consulate's Office only handles visas from 9:00 to noon, I wanted to be first in line. I wasn't. I blame the cab driver.

It's not that I mistrust LA cabdrivers. I inherently mistrust any cabdriver that, when I give him the address of where I'm going, asks me where it is. Hello? Which one of us decided to drive a cab for a living? Call me a cynic, but he either sucks at his job, or he is testing me to see how many times he can drive around in circles, running the meter up, before dropping me off at my desired location. I wasn't about to fall for that old trick. When he "asked" if 6100 Wilshire was near Beverly Hills, I responded, confidently and sounding quite like the LA native, "no, it's at Fairfax and Wilshire" (a little piece of information I had gleaned from mapquest the night before!).

Miraculously, we were able to hit not one, not two, but THREE freeways during LA morning rush hour! When I finally suggested he get the heck off the Harbor Freeway, he took the next exit, putting us squarely in the middle of "Little Ethiopia." (A little piece of information I gleaned from all the signs reading, "Little Ethiopia.") After driving around another $4.60, he asked, "should I take Pico to San Vicente?" Apparently, he had taken my "Fairfax and Wilshire" and "how about we get off the Harbor freeway" comments to mean that I actually knew where I was going. Well, he was sadly mistaken. Thirty-two dollars and eight miles later, we found the Belgian Consulate -- at Fairfax and Wilshire, no less.

On the off chance that you, too, will one day be sitting in the office of a Consulate General of a foreign country trying to explain how you managed to get yourself kicked out of said country, I recommend you skip the commentary on how crappy the weather is in the country from which you have been banished. Unless you are Joe Sobel, keep your mouth shut. You’re bringing nothing to the table. It’s experience talking. Do with it what you will.

I re-submitted my application and now I am waiting to hear back from the Belgian Consulate. I'm taking odds on which application gets approved first -- the one submitted in Los Angeles, the one submitted in Brussels, or the second one submitted in Brussels after the first one was lost!


Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

I hope something gets approved before the end of June because life in Europe slows down even further in July and grinds to a complete halt in August. Holiday, holiday, and holiday.

I told somene at a party that the length of a standard American vacation was one week. They were astounded. Then they were probably offended when E pipes up: "The way American's see it, if the office can run without for three weeks, you're probably not an essential employee and not needed."

That guy has a way with words....

2:41 PM  

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