Friday, December 09, 2005

Blog Logged

This blog has been like a new Christmas toy to me, and you know how fickle we spoiled children are. After blogging like fury for the first week of the trip, I tired of my play thing and took a day off.

Besides being slightly blog-logged, we were roiling with the details of dealing with the U.S. consulate. The almighty consulate grants or doesn’t grant the visas that children with medical problems need to enter the United States. Even though we are now fortunate to be only peripherally involved with the consulate (i.e. we have wonderful full-time American residents in Haiti who do the actual interacting with the employees), it is still a frustrating experience.

Yesterday, a consulate official denied Raphaella’s mother a visa, stating that he believed she wouldn’t return home to her four other children and husband. Raphaella is six-years-old and has burn scar tissue all over her face, arm, and chest. I guess the official thinks she can get to Boston by herself. Pardon my sarcasm.

We are grateful that Raphaella will be granted a visa, but if she isn’t accompanied by her mother a whole new raft of paperwork needs to be completed and translated into French for the Haitian social services department, so that she can leave the country without a parent. Our helper extraordinaire hasn’t given up, and is pursuing other means to procure a visa for Raphaella’s mother. Between gathering the necessary paperwork (letters from doctors, the hospital, the host family), waiting at the consulate in the hopes someone will see you, having the interviews, returning for the visa, etc. it’s just so darn time consuming. We’re going through this process with five other children now. We've been sending non-stop e-mails to the States to obtain the letters needed for the visa process.

Why is dealing with the U.S. consulate an especially painful bureaucratic nightmare? Here’s my theory: the consulate is the intersection between the First World with all its bored excess and the Third World with its urgent despair. I think working in this overlap does weird and unhappy things to the personalities and souls of those U.S employees. Plus, it’s not like the United States has an exactly enlightened position toward Haitians. If Cubans touch U.S. soil, they’re in the club; Haitians in their rickety boats get intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard 50 miles off the coast of Haiti and are returned to their unloving homeland. Could it have anything to do with the fact they are black? Naw, we Americans, we’re over that.

John has made a vow of no complaining for 24 hours. It appears I will have to follow him.

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