Thursday, July 30, 2009


Diplomatic passports, …who ever thought our family should be any version of ‘diplomatic’ is beyond me. In fact, ‘diplomatic’ calls upon the following synonyms from the thesaurus; "tactful, subtle, suave, discreet, sensitive” We are, no doubt, as a family, the furthest thing from “diplomatic”.
Nevertheless, to get a Belgian ID, so that we can register the car, we must jump through the “diplomatic passport” hoop. So, kids in tow (of course), we arrive at our scheduled diplomatic passport appointment at NATO.
Here, it should be mentioned, that NATO is not what many of you think it might seem. Harrison Ford cannot be found in the hallways, the place is not landscaped with greenery and endless national flags waving proudly, and it's not all that, for lack of a better word, fancy. In fact, instead of Harrison Ford you'd find any number of uniforms representing a variety of nations, chain smoking near building entrances. The flags representing each NATO country wave proudly, around a sculpture better known as "the death star". I hasten to add, the landscape is mostly overflowing parking lots.
That being said, it is still NATO. People who are arguably important, work there and some form of business is said to take place. Our visit was anything but "diplomatic" “discreet”, or “suave”. In fact I would venture to guess that about 1/3 of those working between 2pm and 4pm, popped their head’s outside their office doorways to peer down the hall at us. Yes people, get back to work, it’s just us! The 'diplomats' , we’re the ones making ALL the noise.
Here’s just a brief example, say 25 min clip in time of how the entire 2 hour visit went:

We park next to Spain and arrive at security. “Arriving” for this clan is like trying to nail jello to a tree. Kinda messy. Emory decided he should push the stroller through security. I tried to reason with him that it’s just not a good idea. ”Just go!!” I urged him. But there was no going through security without a complete and utter meltdown. Right there, in front of the gates and bleeping siren, he sat down in his socks and sandals, bellowing to all NATO nations about the mean mommy and a stroller. When I eventually let him have the stroller (and decided to carry Arleigh instead) Emory blew full force into his first stroller push, lost balance, and landed flat on his back in the hall…..of course, enlisting yet another tantrum. And the halls at NATO echo.

The notary we were supposed to meet with ‘has just gone to a meeting with the Ambassador’, so we were quarantined in a side office. I lined up the kids with worksheets and pencils. Then begged them to sit quietly and ‘try to learn something’. Arleigh was restless, so I whipped out Cheerios for his snack.
Less than 3 minutes later, Stella was playing with the computer keyboard in the office. Emory was trying to write hieroglyphics on a chair with a “Go Army” pen he found. Addie had picked up the telephone. Cheerios were everywhere.

Faint and distant sound of Arleigh’s babbles- Too distant to know that he was not in the same room. I jumped up and started searching. Peering under desks, computer stands, bookcases, it was a race for time. I knew the next thing I’d see would be Arleigh on his back under a shelf of books that had flattened him, chewing on computer cables, tugging on some secretary's hosiery, or hair on end with his finger stuck in an electric socket.
Instead, I found him crawling at a nice clip down the State Department hallway to check out the other employees in the US Mission to NATO. He apparently, was on his own mission.

The notary shows up. There’s a small table opposite his desk with a few photos, one of Laura Bush. I noticed that he’s the guy in a framed photo, shaking Laura Bush’s hand. I called the girls over and asked them “Do you know who that woman is in the photograph? Do you remember when we talked about elections this year? Do you remember watching election stories on TV?” They stared at me, blank faces, both perplexed. Addie finally chimed up and offered he best answer, “Is that our neighbor in the picture?”
(Ugh, no Addie, Laura Bush, not our neighbor).

Juggling Arleigh in one arm, holding his tie flat with the other, Matt leans to the notary to ask “What is the expiration on these passports?” It’s clear he’s hoping not to have to make this trip too many times.

This scene just continues, on and on and on.

Fast forward-
We pulled away from the compound, I glanced at my dear husband who seemed less shaken from the experience. “That was awful!”
He noted calmly, “Could have been worse”.
“How?” I remarked.
“Well, no one peed on the floor, everyone left in tact, and we still have a head count of 6. Nothing was damaged,…permanently, and as far as we know right now, and nothing was stolen.”
His standards are obviously lower, but he is, of course, right. It could have been worse.
‘Diplomats’? Not really. But here’s hoping that someday we might earn a passport stamp “Suave”.

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