Did I ever tell you how much I hate taking care of official business? I grew up in Saudi Arabia, where going to the bank, getting papers signed at the consulate, renewing passports, and getting visas were all my father’s job. It never occurred to me that one day I’d have to do that kind of thing.
Well, today I had to pay a visit to an embassy in D.C., and I took my two 19-month-old girls with me, since my husband was at work.
After we had left the house and were on our way, it occurred to me that I might get lost, so I prayed out loud so the girls could hear, and asked Allah to guide me so we wouldn’t get lost. After a few miles, it occurred to me that I might not find a parking place, so I prayed for that, too. After a few more miles, it occurred to me that things might turn out very difficult, so I prayed that things would be made easy for me.
Once we got to D.C., I found my way perfectly, easily found a parking space, albeit two blocks away – long walk for little kids, and parked. Surprisingly, the girls hadn’t fallen asleep in the car, and they were raring to go. So I put their lion harnesses on them, got my handbag, the bag of books and pull toys I had brought to entertain them, and my file of important papers, and away we went.
When we got to the gate, I pushed the button and a voice said, “How can I help you?” I said I needed the consular section, and we were buzzed in, and walked up to the heavy doors. Inside, I had to put my bags to be checked in the machine, and we all three walked through the metal detector. The man was very nice and held the door open for us, then pointed us downstairs to the consular section.
After our ordeal of getting down the 30+ steps, with the girls sitting on their behinds to get down, and me trying to not let them do that on who-knows-how-dirty steps, we entered the room, which was pretty full. In those situations, when there are too many people for my liking, i.e. more than one person, I tend to lower my gaze and just look at the floor. But as we entered I caught a glimpse of a covered lady – a rarity in the country of this embassy – and I said salam, and she replied. I then unloaded my stuff onto the nearest empty chair, told the girls they could play with their pull toys if they wanted, and stood in the line. Of course, everyone was eyeing me and trying to see what language I spoke, as I don’t speak the embassy’s language. I tried to seem cool, and just stood looking straight ahead. Alhamdulilah, there was another covered young woman two people ahead of me, so I felt I was in good company. The line was pretty much standing still. Very slow.
When my turn came, finally, I stepped up to the window, and told the woman what I needed. She asked for two pictures (I had them!), my I.D. (I had it!), and a whole bunch of info. Then she asked why I wanted it, and I told her briefly. She said she highly doubted it would work, since that is a very strange thing to do, and why didn’t I go to the Saudi embassy, or get it done as an American. I told her my reasons. She said, again, that most probably it wouldn’t work, but that if it didn’t it would be MY problem, not HERS. I wasn’t about to let her dissuade me from my mission, so I said that was ok, thanks. Then she said she needed the filing fee, about $40, cash. Well. I don’t carry that much cash around, but I have my debit card. We don’t take cards, she said. It has to be cash, and there’s an ATM machine in the Islamic Center right across the street, or if that doesn’t work, then there’s one in DuPont Circle.
Well. I had no idea where DuPont Circle was, so I said I’d go to the I.C. She said she wouldn’t start working on my papers ’til I brought the money.
I gathered the books and toys, dressed the girls in their sweaters and lions, and away we went. Up the stairs, out the door, out the gate, and across the street. Up the stairs, through the door, and..
“Out of Service”.
Part II will be published on Saturday, inshaAllah.
Asiya Akyurt lives in Virginia with her husband and twin daughters. She is an active MAS member with an ijaza (certificate) in Qur’anic recitation and tajweed, and enjoys teaching, interpreting and translating.