recently had to go to San Jose to renew my passport at the American Embassy. I was a bit skeptical because the United States certainly has its share of bureaucracy, and I assumed that if it were surrounded by Costa Rican bureaucracy, it might take me a few years to get a new passport.
However, after 9 days I got an email from the embassy informing me that my passport had arrived and that it was ready to be picked up. Excuse me? 9 (nine) days? Far away, in a foreign land? When it takes upwards of 6-8 weeks to do the same process in the US? Indeed, it was true. I got my new passport this morning:
As you can see, it's the newer "biometric" style of passport, which means that it has the RFID chip embedded in the cover. A more tangible result of the redesign, though, is that I was issued what my friend Annie called the "America: Fuck Yeah!" Passport. This picture above shows the page right above my picture, and it's not terribly subtle. In fact, each of the 52 pages has a different quotation from a "model" American, as well as a picture of some genuine Americana (for example, Mount Rushmore, Cowboys riding around on buffaloes, NASCAR, and lots and lots of freaking eagles).
Don't get me wrong; I consider myself proud of my country, but I do wonder if the sharply increased passport fee might have something to do with this redesign. Plus, this sort of ostentatiousness won't exactly smooth things over or impress the officials at foreign immigration booths. I don't apologize for my dislike of eagles, however. There's just something about them that strikes me as comical, and I crack up every time I see one. Maybe I just side with Ben Franklin in wishing our national bird were a turkey: at least that way we'd be able to be both thankful and patriotic every Thanksgiving.
In any case, all bitching, moaning, and joking aside, I was truly surprised at how fast, efficient, and even polite the staff at the San Jose embassy was (to me, at least, but I can't imagine non-U.S. citizens get such a warm welcome). It literally took about 4 minutes from the time we entered the embassy to the time I had my new passport in my hands. In fact, Angela had to wait longer in line for the women's bathroom. And to celebrate my heritage even more, on our way out of San Jose we stopped at the other American Embassy: Denny's! (Let it never be said that I don't know how to treat my lady right.)
I guess there's only one thing to say about all that: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!