Wednesday, 9am. Gusting winds, falling snow, black ice on the sidewalks.
Needless to say it was not a pleasant journey back to the consulate that Wednesday morning. I was happy just to get there alive and without broken limbs, no joke. I have a feeling this winter is going to be very grumbly.
I was happy to make it to the building, warm and safe in the reaches of my country, especially after reading my Facebook newsfeed that morning of Obama's impending win in the polls. Finally, at least part of my future secure. Though I couldn't (or didn't plan well enough to) vote, this was one thing I felt a little better about, though I will admit that I feel ashamed not having participated. There were many other props and things on the ballot that I hadn't known about (after talking with my parents) that I would have wanted to vote on. The three strikes rule. The death penalty. Sex offender labeling rules. It's funny none of my friends brought these issues up with me; the biggest one they wanted to talk about was GMO food labeling (which is important, I don't disagree). Perhaps it was a difference in county, but I kind of doubt it. To each their own I suppose, and everything is important to someone.
I got to the consulate and waited in the warm depths of the waiting room, finally at ease with its glass domains instead of full of anxiety. There were also less people this time, despite their systems being up, and people were helpful and friendly - when names were called we all looked each other in the eyes and repeated the names, making sure people heard them and knew they were being called. I also helped a family coming out of the elevator who tried to get in the locked door, explaining the procedure to them so they wouldn't wait feeling confused and rejected. I guess it was just a day for humanity. Everyone a little more at ease now that decisions had been made.
Despite the fact that I was only there to pick up my passport, hopefully with extra pages in it, I ended up waiting about an hour. Guess they weren't doing priority/easy procedures that day. I guess I also technically didn't have an appointment, so was probably called when someone finally had the time to track down my floating passport, likely placed carelessly in some file somewhere.
In the meantime I continued the Nat Geo I had put down the day before, finishing it completely. I read about the last known cave tribe (they're located in Papua New Guinea...oddly a culture I've been taught about in college...several times). They had a statement to the world: we will stop hunting and living in caves if our government will give us a medical center and two schools. That's all they wanted. Their numbers have dropped from the hundreds to the tens in the last years. They're a nomadic people. They still die from diseases that we've wiped out decades ago.
The Last Cave People
Other articles were also really interesting - I read that because of the changes in marriage patterns autism is on the rise. Asperger's syndrome, a more functional type of autism, has been found to be perhaps more prevalent in certain industries - for example in scientists, engineers, and other careers that tend to draw people who enjoy systems, patterns, and don't necessarily require a high level of social interaction. Since these people are around other people of like-mind, in recent years they've tended to marry more and therefore have children who carry on in similar fields. A study was done by Simon Baron-Cohen, a famous professor who studies autism and other related subjects, specifically on this trend. It was fascinating. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Not all agree though, and when I tried to find the article to share with you on the Nat Geo site, it seems it's either been pulled or otherwise not published online. So I've found a similar article that debates the idea.
I read and saw glorious pictures of the new capital of Khazakstan, Astana. Due to the price of oil and its wealth, the entire capital has been built completely new. It has been dubbed "Tomorrowland" because of its futuristic architecture and grandeur. It's so rich that it has a completely climate-controlled area that can house 10,000 people. Here is a link to the photo gallery that I was looking at:
There were other articles as well, but perhaps my brain can only store so much before it gets washed away by other things, like work. Or the fact that I almost slipped on black ice that morning. Twice.
I picked up a TIME magazine and was flipping through that, reading an interesting article about something (seems my old age has caught up with me again) when I heard my name being called.
I walked up to the first window and was passed my passport through the slit in the window. Inside was slipped a receipt showing that I had paid for it today. I looked inside. Yep, extra pages. Though instead of what I thought would be a neat sewing job, oddly they'd just been taped in. Kind of ganky, if you ask me. Luckily there was a certificate attached saying that my passport had been amended on this date for this passport number, and it had an official number...so looks pretty official. I think I'll keep the receipt around for the next few times I travel though, just to make sure. Never can tell. Might get stopped and asked what kind of fraud did I think I was trying to pull. Especially because the extra pages are in the style of the newer passports and I still have an old style passport (read: no RFID tag in it).
In any case, my time at the consulate was done and it was time to leave. The guards once again helped me into my coat, though this time there was no chit chat. Guess when things are running smoothly they have no interest in knowing what's going on inside. Business as usual.
You know I read somewhere that despite popular belief, being in your country's embassy/consulate does not count as being on your mother soil. Listverse of misconceptions, #11 (yes, this is another nerdy blog that I read sometimes). It is still indeed the soil of the country you are in, though special priviledges are afforded the staff there (though not you, as a citizen of the country of that embassy).
Despite that, it did feel like going home, even for a little while. Or perhaps I was just misplacing some feeling of comfort. Either way, felt nice to get something done. Another one, off the list.
Keep on traveling, world traveler.