My Boiling Blood

This language, she's a tough one

Nothing boils my blood like dealing with my own embassy abroad. I like to think I am a reasonable, mild-mannered guy, but something about American embassies and consulates scratches at my very core. It usually starts with the local guards who never speak English and finishes with the snooty guy behind the bulletproof glass—now I know why it’s bulletproof.

Starting Tuesday there are higher fees for issuing passports, visas and other services, but the real crusher is that getting extra pages in your passport is going to go from free to $82. $82!!! That’s brutal. I am on my third set of extra pages in this passport, and now I need to try and get another set before this goes into effect, but the last time I got extra pages, the guy told me he wouldn’t do it again as my passport is becoming too bloated. This was in Budapest, unfortunately. However, he didn’t stitch in the pages well and they are becoming unraveled; maybe his poor craftsmanship will make him lenient. Yeah, right.
In fact, maybe I will get my passport renewed instead, which would be the end of an era. My passport is my favorite memento ever.

It’s only been from this year that Hungarians can go to USA without a visa, about 15 years too late. One lingering beef I have with the Budapest embassy is that back in the bad old days, when Hungarians needed a visa, they couldn’t just go to the embassy and apply. They had to make an appointment over the phone, first listening to a long message giving information. This was not a regular phone call. They used a special toll number, like an American 900 number, that made it expensive just to set up an appointment. Hungarians had never heard of the existence of a local toll call before the US embassy started doing it.
Then, as now, the process was highly arbitrary with your application being denied at the whim of the officer without explanation, without appeal, and if didn’t get a visa, you didn’t get your substantial visa fee back either.

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