God Bless the U.S. Embassy, and Your Wallet!

I had the unpleasant experience of traveling to the U.S. Embassy here in Asuncion today. I have to admit, the mere size of the place is embarrassing enough. Apparently President Stroessner (The former Paraguayan dictator of 60 years) was chummy with the Americans and kindly gave them a plot of land to host the LARGEST U.S. Embassy in the world! Not to mention that the address is 1776 Avenida Mariscal Lopez. Yes, you read that right. 1776.

So I walk up to the front gate where an armed security guard/military guy greets me, gun in hand and points me towards the “Entrada” (Entrance). Before I have a chance to put my hand on the door I see someone coming at me from the right, walking swifty and pointedly to stand in my way. “Why are you here?” he asked, “I have a question about my passport,” He looks around uneasily, the door opens just a crack where someone inside queries as to my apparently offensive presence at my own nation’s embassy, and with a sigh I am permitted entrance into the security house. They open my picnic basket, (that’s another story,) which was filled with fruit, then my bag and tell me that the basket, my cell phone, and my pen drive will need to stay with them. I’m already annoyed at how I’ve been “greeted” so I question them a little further as to the security of my personal items in their hands, and then huff loudly as I’m told to continue on.

Another armed guard kindly escorts me from the security house to the main building which is about 10 yards away – just in case I decide to make a run for it or declare war on the embassy. I entered the main building and go through another set of glass doors to the “Passports” section of the embassy, take a number, ring a bell, and wait to be called on. I was the only one in the room…the number seemed a little unnecessary.

When asked quizzically about why I was there, I explained that the Brazilian Consulate refused to permit me a tourist visa without adding more pages into my passport book, (I had 2 left and they required a minimum of 3…who knew?) They told me they could help at the small price of $82…EIGHTY TWO DOLLARS!!! I can’t even imagine how they could even come up with such a ridiculous number. They only give you 14 new sheets, (although they phrase it as though they are giving you 28 new “pages”.) And a new passport, (which lacks all previously acquired Visas and documentation,) costs $110 (with $48 pages and 10 extra years.)

Well now it all makes sense, don't it?

The one saving grace was making a new friend in the office, who was also waiting for his new taped-in-place luxury passport pages and who had been living in NYC about 3 blocks from me until he quit his job and decided to travel for the last year and a half. It is only for that that I didn’t mind the 45 minute wait until the tape dried on my documents and I could be ushered out and escorted back to pick up my fruit basket and cellphone.

Then it was off in the colectivo to hopefully never return again!

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