Soliloquy in an International Cloister

Watch your step as Brother Lawrence takes you inside the monastery walls of a five hundred year-old international order. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish you had ignored your hormones and joined the monastery.

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Location: Rome, Italy

22 December 2010

Like a rolling stone

I was reprimanded by immigration officers both when leaving Australia and when entering the U.S. because they could not find an empty spot in my passport for their stamp. In August of 2007 I had an additional twenty-four pages added to the existing twenty-four pages of my passport, but those are all full now. Luckily there is a passport agency near where I currently find myself so I decided to renew my passport while I am here.

The U.S. government would really prefer that you renewed your passport by mail. When I called to make an appointment at the passport agency, I was reminded several times by the friendly digital voice that I had to show proof that I was traveling within two weeks in order to qualify to go in person to the passport office. Then again, the expected wait to receive a passport through the mail was three weeks. What are you supposed to do if you are traveling later than two weeks from now, but sooner than three weeks? Well, if you are like me, you just wait until you are within the two-week deadline before calling for an appointment. Besides, three weeks during the crush of Christmas mail, seriously? It takes longer than that for my Christmas cards to arrive.

I went to the passport office with some trepidation. It seems that no matter how closely I adhere to the instructions I was given, government workers will always find some small reason to either admonish me, deny me or both. [I want to say here that I know some lovely people who have government jobs, and I know that they are always quite reasonable. Unfortunately, they don't work at the agencies I need to deal with.] Should I have filled out a form before going? Are my photos the right size? Are they too dark? Too light? Will he/she say that since I reside overseas I must get my passport there? Aaaggghhh!

In reality, however, all the agents I dealt with were perfectly nice. The first agent even suggested that I might want to request the larger, 52-page passport since I travel so much. The second agent allowed me to retrieve the new passport in one day rather than the usual two because I had planned to leave in two days to visit my parents. Although the wait was long, it was not unreasonable. So now I am the proud owner of a brand new passport. One with the little chip in it, which will supposedly shave several seconds off the time it takes to get through immigration (after standing in line for an hour).

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