In the first place, I got up at 6 a.m. to get ready for our 8:30 appointment, because the embassy hotline person advised me to be there at 7:30. Anyone who knows me knows that I never get out of bed before 10 if I can help it, and cannot be expected to perform higher brain functions until 11 o'clock and my first cigarette. But up I got at the butt-crack of dawn, and hauled my poor, equally-nocturnal daughter out of bed as well, to prove to the consul that yes, I do have a child, which is why I need the nanny.
We arrived at the embassy at 7:15, only to be told that, so sorry, we don't let 8:30 appointments in until, well, 8:30; but don't worry, because we will then let all the 8:30 applicants in at the same time. I valiantly restrained myself from glaring at the guard because it really wasn't his fault.
At approximately 8:30, we were let in through the gates. I headed straight for the embassy pavilion, only to be stopped by a guard who insisted that I should line up at Window C. I showed him our documents and told him I thought we were supposed to line up at Window 1, but no, said he, non-immigrant tourist visas should queue at Window C. So we did, for about 20 minutes, before we finally got up to the window, where we were told that we should have gone first to Window 1.
So off we went to the pavilion where Window 1 was located. As we walked in, we heard an announcement calling for 8:30 appointments at Window 1, so we hustled into line for another 15 minutes, only to be told at the head of the line that no, so sorry, this line is for 8:30 seafarer appointments only; since you're not seafarers, please proceed to Window A.
And of course, by the time we got to Window A, we were told to go back to Window 1, which was now serving non-seafarers. Then Window 1 stamped our documents and sent us back to Window A, who stamped our documents and sent us to the original window, C. I looked around for the meddling guard who really was at fault this time, but he was nowhere to be seen; and anyway, it was probably best that Sage didn't see her normally even-tempered mother savagely chew on a strange man's metatarsals.
By the time we finally got into the embassy building proper (We had been out in the heat all that time), I had become savvy enough to question why we were being herded into yet another queue, which turned out to be for retired U.S. military personnel collecting veteran's pay. We adroitly slipped out of line and into the non-immigrant visa waiting area.
Which was chock-full of people who shiftily refused to make eye contact with anyone, for fear of having to give up their seats to old people, the disabled, or harassed mothers juggling armloads of paperwork and a forty-pound child. But I tried not to mind, because, hey, if I'd been lucky enough to snag a seat, I wouldn't want to give it up, either.
Because the wait was not only interminable but infuriating. At Window 1, they handed you a queue number on a first-come, first-served basis, which was supposed to determine your priority in the interview line. In theory, this number would be displayed on the big board in the waiting room, letting you know when it's your turn. In practice, the numbers were indeed displayed on the board; however, the priority in which the numbers were called had nothing to do with the order in which the numbers were given. Numbers 1064, 3012, and 2470 were all served before we--number 1125--were. I asked the nearest guard if there was some kind of hidden logic behind this that I was not following, and his sterling answer to this was, "Ganyan talaga 'yan, ma'am. Walang nakakaintindi." ("That's the way it is, ma'am. No one understands.")
So I had a long time to stand around and observe, during which poor Sagey suffered a bout of prickly heat, consumed a bottle and a half of milk, went number two and had to be cleaned off in the rest room, got tired and needed to be carried, got bored and needed to be entertained, and obligingly attempted to watch Dora the Explorer with no sound on a nearby TV. What I would have done without Diovine there, I don't know.
This gave me time to decide that I would be able to deal with any of the consuls at any of the windows, except for the woman with frizzy brown hair at Window 5. In the first place, women who don't know how to manage their own appearance generally don't like me. In the second place, she had already turned down every single applicant who had gone up to her window. And in the third place, one of these turned-down applicants, a man who wanted to accompany his sick father to the U.S. for an operation, had raised a big stink over his denial, refusing to leave the window until the woman granted his request (which she didn't). So she was a bad bet in general and in a bad mood, to boot.
Naturally, when our turn finally rolled around at twelvish, we were summoned to--surprise, surprise--Window 5. The conversation went something like this (much abridged, of course, and considerably less diplomatic on my part):
WOMAN: So your nanny has only been with you for around two years.
NIKKI: Yes, because our daughter is only two years old.
WOMAN: It doesn't look like she would be able to afford the trip.
NIKKI: No, but I'm paying for all her expenses and her pocket money.
WOMAN: I see that she's never been out of the country before.
NIKKI: No, she's never had reason to before, and besides, she couldn't afford it.
WOMAN: And she isn't married and has no strong family, business, or community ties.
NIKKI: She has family in Zamboanga. She helps them out financially and visits them for at least two weeks each year. She's actively involved in a number of business ventures and has served as an usherette and choir member at her church for fourteen years.
WOMAN: Well, I'm sorry, but I have to turn down your application, as she's had no previous travel, and I don't see any compelling reason why she would be likely to return to the Philippines.
NIKKI (thought balloon): Are you HIGH!?
Argh! Why couldn't they just tell you in the first place that you can't bring domestic employees with you unless they (a) have been working for you over the last quarter-century, (b) have so much money and are so well-traveled that they don't actually need to work for you in the first place, and (c) have so many familial and business obligations that they don't actually have time to look after your child? It would certainly have saved me a lot of time, effort, aggravation, two-hundred-plus pesos in taxi fare, and a hundred fucking dollars of visa application fee that I'm never gonna see again.
Still not shouting, though, Eric-kins. But I do sulk with the best of them.