Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Little Flag Waving, London part one

On Monday we had an "emergency appointment" to register Elisheva with the American government and also to get her a passport. It was emergency, although we made it a month ahead of time, because you're supposed to book them at least three months ahead of time on-line. Although Avram and I had visited the US Embassy site several times, somehow we had managed to miss this important note, and were originally not planning to make an appointment at all, but rather to just show up to do it. Luckily another American family in our ward who is expecting a boy in July were tipped off by yet another American family in our ward that you need these appointments, so they told us, and we panicked. Then we called and emailed the embassy, and they gave us this emergency appointment. At the time I wondered why in the world you even needed an appointment, let alone one so far in advance.

Then we arrived on Monday morning, and because I had planned enough extra time in to allow for traffic, and there was absolutely no traffic at all, we were two hours early (we arrived in London at 6:30, after leaving our home at 4:30). We ate a liesurly breakfast at KFC (as much as I dislike fat food, I seem to find myself eating it while abroad more than I ever would at home) and then strolled down to the embassy (which is in Grosvenor Square, only the fanciest square in all of 1800s London), and got in line. It's a good thing we did arrive so early, for this was the line at 7:15. You can see Avram in it, holding Elisheva in a red sling.
A close up of Avram
Isn't he manly to be willing to carry Elisheva in a sling? I love slings, especially for newborns because they stay warm and asleep in them, they're easy to carry, and both of your hand are free, not to mention that newborn strollers are usually the size of Cadillacs, and slings are so small.

While walking to the Embassy we had an "only in Britain" experience - we saw these soldiers out practicing their riding skills.
Our appointment wasn't until 8:30. At 7:30 they let the line into another set of lines inside of the outer Embassy gates. There were two lines for Visas, and one line for American Citizen Services. In the picture of the line I took, Avram and I were the only American Citizens in it; we were first in line on the American side, and the only ones in line at all for quite a while. We waited in the American Line, and for the next hour, only about ten people total gathered in our line, while the other two lines filled to the bursting, even with continuous streams of people going into the embassy. The guard who checked passports and let people in felt bad for us, I think because it was cold and threatening rain, and we had a new baby and I was only in shirtsleeves. He kept on trying to let them let us in to the Embassy to wait, but the powers that be higher up stood firm; we couldn't come in until 8:30, the time of the first American appointments. Avram and I laughed about our government; America has equal rights for all, which usually manifests in equally lame service for all, but at least it's equal.

The guard (who was British), did manage to finagle an umbrella for us, so we had that privilege at least. Avram and I passed the time by playing a rousing game of "Guess the State Flag" - all fifty state flags were outside the embassy, in the order they became states. We also talked to other Americans in line, including one woman with a southern accent. I hadn't heard a southern accent since America, so it was a fun nostalgic moment.

Finally 8:3o came, and we went through the trial-by-bureaucracy until Elisheva and her forms were approved. Then Avram and I had to stand and swear most legally that everything was correct, and the consul signed her birth report, and voila, another American Citizen. Elisheva slept through it all, thoroughly unimpressed.

As much as Avram and I joked about our government not caring if its own citizens all equally froze outside, I was truly grateful that we were able to secure citizenship for our daughter. Being an American citizen isn't something that I've thought about very much in my life; it's just something that I am, like I have brown hair and my eyes are blue. The first time I really thought about it at all was when I got my passport for the first time, and in it I read, "This passport is the property of the United States Government. Upon demand by an authorized representative of the United States Government, it must be surrendered," and in another section, "Under certain circumstances, you may lose your U.S. citizenship by performing voluntarily and with the intentions to relinquish U.S. Citizenship any of the following acts..."

After reading those two parts, I couldn't comprehend giving up my citizenship, or relinquishing my passport voluntarily. I know that people emigrate all the time, but for me and my family, I'm a die in the wool American citizen until I die. I know that our country isn't perfect, and I also know that there are plenty of nice places in the world to live. I could imagine living in Britain permanently, and could even be quite happy about it. But I can't imagine choosing to become a citizen of another country, even if I did end up living in it, because I'm thoroughly American.

What does it mean to be thoroughly American? Maybe to have my ancestry be mixed enough that I don't resonate with any other country. Perhaps to grow up in America, reciting the pledge of allegiance and learning, "We the people of the United States, in order to establish a more perfect union," and to place my hand over my heart whenever I hear the National Anthem played while watching our flag waving.

To me government means three branches; executive, judicial and legislative. America means its purple mountain majesties in Utah, amber waves of grain on the plains, and that this land was made for you and me. America is the 50 states, the revolutionary war, the Missouri compromise and Abraham Lincoln.

Most of all, America to me means home. My home. And as of June 2, 2008, my daughter Elisheva's home as well.

And I would gladly stand in all the lines in the world, even through the rain and guess-that-state-flag game for that privilege.


  1. avram i think its just wonderful that you carry your baby girl in a sling! Nothing cuter than a devoted father willing to help out the mom! Thora i am glad you got it all worked out so she is officially american now! brrr though sounds like a cold morning. and i think the last time i got up at 4 in the morning was for christmas when i was 12! LOL

  2. I agree about the sling. Those newborn strollers are sooooo huge, they make me laugh. They're just ridiculous!