Thursday, March 10, 2011

A shattered American Dream

Last weekend, Joseba and I went to Madrid to meet up with some friends of ours who we were meeting from London.  I stayed over until Monday to do some things at the Embassy and had been somewhat formulating an idea of what I expected the Embassy to be like when I arrived.  Well, all of my ideas were WAY off and I hate to tell you, but I was rather disappointed!

Here is how I had imagined it:  I'd walk in, under the Stars and Stripes, maybe I'd hear some of the National Anthem or atleast see someone saying the Pledge of Allegiance (I guess I was hoping someone's job was to say it all day, and of course even though I am out of practice, I'd join in) and then as soon as I'd enter the doors there'd be some roller-skating (think A&W circa 1950s) cheerleaders in Uncle Sam costumes, maybe some cowboys, etc.  I was also hoping for a Starbucks giving away free carmel macchiatos or an open breakfast buffet of potatoes and gravy, meatloaf, corn on the cob (I mean, I know I know, impossible).  In my wildest dreams I also hoped for maybe a huge couch in front of a massive TV showing a football game (none of this European football (soccer) crap.  I was dreaming of AMERICAN football!).  While watching a few minutes of the game, I'd eat some sour cream and onion Lays chips (impossible to find here) and drink a Dr. Pepper (equally difficult to locate in Spain).  I was hoping that it would be like a lil clubhouse - where everyone happens to speak my American English and understand my silly sayings .  Maybe there'd even be a blow-up doll of Barack and Michelle that I could pose between. I guess I was just imagining a little American microcosm in the middle of downtown Madrid. 

Talk about a dream-crusher.  I arrived and had to wait in line to enter the 'grounds' but before that, had to go through security.  I the movies if the police are running after you, you just have to make it to your embassy right?  You cross onto American property and you're olly olly oxen free no?  Well, if I were being chased by Spanish police (which we already established are quite fearful) I'd had to have waited for some time, give up my electronic devices and show my American passport to enter.  Pretty sure the Guardia Civil would have time to catch me in that slow-moving process.

So, who cares, the entrance wasn't as grand as I had hoped, but for sure, entering the actual building was going to be awe-inspiring.  Again, wrong.  It looked like the DMV, except that in one of the windows was a uniformed man.  That was about the closest I saw to anything that I saw in my dream of the Embassy.  But I didn't even get to GO to the window with the military man, I had to go to the window with the Spanish citizen who spoke only OK English.  I had YET to hear my accent in its pure form and I was already in the door.  No music, no Barack dolls, no flag, no accent.  Surely disappointing.  After receiving my number (see, just like the DMV), I passed into a waiting room with probably 100 chairs.  Turns out, if you don't have a European Union passport and you want to visit the States, you more than likely have to apply for a tourist visa, and to do that, you have to come, in person to Madrid for that.  So, the waiting room was full of foriegners!  GASP!  I wanted some Harvard hotties, some Nascar fans, some cowboys, some men in suits, some sorority girls or anything that would give me a glimmer of the good old US of A!  Nada.  Yea, it must be said in Spanish because that was the language  I mostly heard.

When it was my turn, I was happy that my notary clerk did 1) have a legit American accent and 2) knew that Washington is a state not just a city.  She explained the forms I needed to fill out in beautiful American English and then sent me on my way to fill it out.  When she charged me for my notarized documents, she first told me that amount in dollars!  Eventhough I was paying with my Spanish bank card, I was happy to know how many dollars I was spending, although it was quite a high number.  Next, I waited some more in the not-at-all American waiting room until my number was called again for me to pick up my forms from the Consular.  She also spoke American English, and get this, I actually THANKED her - not for signing my expensive piece of paper, but for speaking my English.  I mean, I speak English all day here, but never with an American.  She kind of chuckled and said, yes it is always a relief in a foreign country to hear your own accent.

With all the fanfare (miliary suit and 2 American accents) over, my time at the Embassy came to a close.  After picking up my camera, cell phone and ipod at security, I walked right back onto the street - no handshakes, no God Bless Yous, no fireworks, nothing.  So, what's the best thing a disillusioned American can do when feeling homesick and incredibly disappointed by her Embassy?  Some of you might have answered get McDonald's, but that I did not do.  No, instead, I got a Starbucks coffee.  I mean, in my dream it was free and served by a green-apron smiling person, but instead I ended up paying for it but enjoyed it just the same. 

Although I was sorely surprised with how mundane the Embassy was, I am quite happy all the paperwork got sorted out.  I am sure some day I will have to return again, but atleast now I won't get my hopes up.  Maybe though, I will wear an American flag T-shirt or pin an American flag pin onto my lapel, to atleast zest up the place a bit and make it feel like home sweet home. 

Kisses!  Big American kisses or I could just say xoxoxoxoxo (also very American)

PS- after a few questions about if this blog is really serious, I would like to say that it's a joke.  a big silly blog :)

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