Saturday, October 29, 2005

"It'll be OK -- Just Take a Deep Breath"

As we scurried as fast as we could with baby in tow up to the security gate of the American Embassy in London, almost 30 minutes late for our appointment to get Ellie's passport, the guard's kind words were music to our ears. As we babbled about the late train, getting lost, and our 2:30pm appointment, he calmly reassured us: "It'll be OK — just take a deep breath."

One would think that 45 minutes would be plenty enough time to make the short journey from King's Cross train station to the embassy. But by the time our train was 15 minutes late and I sent us walking in the wrong direction from the Oxford Circus tube station, it turned out not to be so. We knew we were cutting it close, so we were hurrying down the London sidewalk, thinking to ourselves, "We like our little city of Durham — what a crazy crowd!" It's tough to move faster than the herd when shoulder-to-shoulder with the world.

But after walking for about 10 minutes, I was thinking more and more that we must be going the wrong way. We stopped to ask someone which way the American Embassy was (not really the most casual question when trying to keep a low American profile....) and sure enough it was back the way we came. So we redoubled our pace and fought our way upstream.

Eventually Grosvenor Square appeared before us and we scanned the security roadblocks for the way in. We arrived breathless, flustered, and thinking we had blown our 3-month-ahead-of-time appointment to get Ellie's passport for her trip home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The security guard wasn't the only kind person we encountered. Once we entered the embassy, it was like everyone we encountered was a friend — or at least a fellow countryman. Everyone cooed over Ellie. One woman was there to renew her child's passport and gave us a litany of reasons why it was better to live in England than in the U.S. (I could agree up to a point but when she talked about them eating better here, I could only picture all of the schoolkids around us eating their chips (=french fries) and gravy for lunch). The couple behind us had come to England for L'Abri Fellowship. They noticed my Regent College folder and commented that they knew people who had studied there. We sat down next to two older couples who were vacationing and had had a purse stolen so were trying to get a replacement passport before flying home the next day. Everyone was in a good mood (well, except for the guy dressed like a court jester who didn't believe his recently-laundered passport needed replacing) and everything proceeded smoothly. Even the staff were kind and friendly, admiring Ellie and being very helpful.

We were happy to get Ellie's certificate declaring her to be born American, and we look forward to receiving her official passport in a couple of weeks. Since we had a little extra time before our train home, we did some relaxing over coffee and then headed to the National Gallery for an hour or so. Not knowing enough about art to enjoy the obscure, we headed for our favorites: Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt and Caravaggio. I was particularly struck by Rembrandt's "Balshazzar's Feast" (I'm a sucker for Hebrew script) and "An Elderly Man as St. Paul", and Sassoferrato's "The Virgin in Prayer".

One picture of Ellie and Crystal in Trafalgar Square with Lord Nelson in the background and it was time for our three hour train journey home. Whew -- a good warmup for the trans-Atlantic plane journey that awaits us!


Blogger abigail said...

What a relief that's done! Glad it worked out and you can go home to introduce Ellie! I hope you have a great trip. See you when you return!

10:51 AM  

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