10 July 2012

Happy belated fourth

Eloi's American passport and "consular report of birth abroad" (his American birth certificate) came in the mail today. This is remarkable because we only applied for it one week ago. Two days after we filed the application I got an email saying it was ready. And we didn't have to pay any expediting fees.

This is why I love America. And this: 

The morning of our big excursion to Brussels to the embassy, I realized that the paperwork for birth certificate, passport, and social security number involved a little bit more than I had thought. I needed, among other things, a non-standard-size passport photo, proof that I had lived in the US for more than five years (transcripts, tax statements, etc.), a translation of the Belgian birth certificate, a list of everywhere I had ever lived in my whole life, an affadavit about Eloi's last name not matching the Belgian birth certificate (the Belgians had to follow the Spanish naming standard using both parents' last names but we want him to just have M's), and an envelope with a registered mail stamp. 

The proof of US residency was required because only one of the parents is a US citizen, so they need you to show that you haven't been living abroad your whole life. My mom had brought a bunch of documents with her but when I looked through them that morning it turned out only my college transcript would work as part of the proof, covering three years (not including junior year abroad). So at the last minute I emailed M. at work and had him print my (unofficial) grad school transcript. 

I google-translated the Belgian birth certificate and sent it to M. to print along with a list of (slightly fudged) residency dates (they wanted day and month I moved to every city I've ever lived in!) and the name affadavit, ran to the post office and bought exorbitantly priced envelopes and stamps and then promptly put the stamps on the wrong corner of the envelope, caught the train to Brussels, and rushed through the city to the one photo processing place listed on the embassy website that would make US-standard passport photos and that was in the neighborhood of the embassy. Our appointment was in a half hour.

The photo place was closed. As in, out of business, an empty storefront.

I already had made passport photos of Eloi, propping him up in a photo booth, at two weeks old (even caught his eyes open!) and now hoped they would work even though the instructions emphasized how Belgian photos would not be accepted. 

Thus sweaty, stressed, and leaking milk, with Eloi nestled in his wrap against my chest, I met M. at the embassy and we went through the security check. We had to leave all our bags behind. I was sure we would have to do this all again after they told us the photos and/or proof of residency and/or something else wasn't in order.

Yet, once our number was called, the lady behind the desk couldn't have been nicer. "Oh, I just love Mondays!" she gushed. Monday is the day they schedule the babies. She took our paperwork and barely glanced at it. Didn't bat an eyelash when I gave her the Belgian-sized photos. Told us that passports are usually ready in two weeks, probably less (we're traveling in mid-July so needed it asap!). 

We then waited for the formal interview, where the proof of residency would be examined. Once we entered the little room, the official started joking around and asking us all about our studies. He had my transcripts in front of him, and made comments about a bunch of the courses I had taken, and about M's training, and talked with us about European history and made a joke about Belgians. Completely jocund. Of course, this was an interview (probably a more effective one than a "formal" approach) but it didn't seem like one. He took our incorrectly-stamped envelope and said, "Oh, we'll figure something out!" (When it came today I saw that they had coaxed off the stamps and taped them to the right corner.) He held the passport photo, trimmed to specification, in his hand, and gave us the rest of them back. That was it! Everything was completely fine! No problem!

And that's why America is awesome. Even if the bureaucracy is complicated on paper, in person nine times out of ten people are friendly and can-do and help you out and want to make it happen. In some other countries that shall remain nameless, the instructions would look simple and then the official behind the desk would study the papers, looking for problems and finding them, never looking at you or starting a conversation, then deny your application and tell you to come back with additional, more complicated forms or papers. 

So. Happy belated fourth of July! There are many reasons I'm happy to be an American, and this is one of them. And now, so is little Eloi! I didn't get a passport until I was 19, so he's way ahead of me in cosmopolitanism. 

06 July 2012

Baby brother

It appears that I went and had a baby, and suddenly, a month later, I have a one-month-old baby! Isn't it funny how that works. I meant to post about it oh, probably every day since he was born, but I was either A) in the hospital, B) fiercely protecting the one-on-one time with baby while husband/mom/dad handled the toddler (and meals and cleaning and so forth), or C) handling the toddler and the baby and meals and cleaning and so forth. You know how it goes.

Plus, thrown into the mix I have been trying to work (revisions on an article), my mom got sick, M. went to Barcelona twice (the first time was right when my mom got sick and could barely get out of bed, and the second time, the baby got sick in the middle of the night, OF COURSE), M. turned 40 and we had to celebrate as a fortieth birthday calls for, and various paperwork-y kinds of things like getting birth certificates and passports at embassies involving three different countries.

I will try to catch-up post and write about labor and birth (kind of crazy long labor but went well in the end--couldn't have been more different than Gabriel except that both were no-epidural and perfectly healthy), the overall experience with Belgian hospital birth, and the aftermath: this newborn vs. that newborn, what it's like to be a mother of two (still getting a handle on that, actually, since my mom left only this week, and Gabriel has completely melted down since she has been gone).

In the meantime, presenting Eloi Daniel, our lovely baby. He was born on June 5, one day before the due date (thank goodness!). I went into labor literally as my mom was arriving from the airport. (But then spent that day, the next day, and two nights in labor...) He weighed 3.7 kilos, or about 8 pounds 5 ounces. He's very different from what his big brother was like as a baby, sleeping easily for the most part and generally calm and mellow.

Glamour shot.
Wide awake, with cowlick. 
Walking home from the hospital!
A yawn. 
Gabriel sees his brother for the first time.