While in Singapore, I went to the embassy to get more pages put in my passport. I had about four still blank, but I anticipate doing a lot more traveling over the next year and a half and also visas and travel permits in Indonesia take up a lot of pages. Thus, since I was in close proximity to an embassy, it was time to procure some very overpriced pieces of paper for my passport.
The process actually turned out to be quite simple. I made an appointment a day beforehand, printed out the paper they told me I had to bring with me, and counted out $82 in American bills. After six months using the multicolored Indonesian paper money, it was a bit odd seeing money that was all the same color and all the same size.
The next day I went to the embassy with my friend. The building was surrounded by a low wall, the gap in which was guarded by an Indian man who indicated where I needed to stand in line and informed my friend that she could not come inside. I handed her my camera (the only piece of electronic equipment on me) and waited to be called inside.
While I waited, I read over the sign listing items prohibited inside the embassy. Besides the expected computers and laptops, “calculators and other computing devices” were banned, as well as vacuum flasks. I hoped that at some point in the past someone had taken a vacuum flask inside a US embassy and chaos had ensued, prompting the banning of vacuum flasks forever afterward.
I was finally permitted to enter what I thought was the embassy but what turned out only to be an anteroom. There my bag was scanned and determined to contain no electronics or vacuum flasks and I walked through a metal detector. I then exited that room and walked down a long path before entering the embassy itself. I walked through another metal detector and presented my bag for a manual inspection.
The man checking my bag asked if it contained any live animals.
“No,” I said, looking at it to see if it was moving of its own accord. It was not.
He let me through, and I finally entered the embassy itself.
A helpful sign indicated the room where services for American citizens were provided. I took a number and sat down.
To tell the truth, I was half-expecting some sort of feeling of homecoming, some sort of sign that I was on American soil. But I guess since I was already in Singapore and had already done crazy things like drink water straight from the tap, entering the American embassy didn’t feel that much different.
The only thing was, the numbers tunred out to be completely unnecessary. People went up to the one open window seemingly at random, much to the annoyance of the man who’d come in right before me when someone cut in front of him.
Things moved quickly, though. He went up to the window next and a couple with a newborn baby went to another window. The man finished asking questions about his two passports and left. I glanced at the other woman who was waiting―she’d gotten there before me.
“Do you have an appointment?” she asked.
I nodded and at the same time the man at the window called out a mangled version of my name, signaling that it was my turn.
I handed over my passport and attempted to give him the paper that the embassy website had prompted me to print out. He didn’t seem interested in that. Instead he asked for a form.
“Oh,” I said. “What form?”
Apparently there was a form I was supposed to have filled out, though where I was supposed to have acquired said form remained unclear.
He handed me the form.
I sat back down to fill it out, a task that turned out to be harder than I might be expected. I puzzled over the questions asking me to detail my trip―Where would I be going? How long would I be traveling?―for some time. In the end, I just put down Indonesia, figuring that was the simplest answer.
The form completed, I returned to the counter. After establishing that yes, I could get two passport pages for the price of one and yes, that’s what I wanted, he accepted the form and my passport and told me to go to the cashier to pay.
I exited with little fanfare, went to collect my friend in the outdoor waiting area, and we went about the rest of our day.
I had to return the next day between the hours of 3:00 and 3:30 to collect my passport.
This time, instead of lining up outside of the small wall, I was instructed to line up on the inside. I was soon joined by a few other people. Like me, they all wanted to collect their passports as well. I watched with amusement as some of them, apparently not knowing the process, attempted to bypass the line altogether and walk right in. They were stopped by the Indian man (a different one than the day before).
“This is like trying to get onto an army base,” one woman remarked as she was informed that she’d have to turn her phone off.
This time around, I was not asked about the trained killer chinchillas that I carry around with me at all times, and once I was past security it took all of three minutes to pick up my passport and walk back out. This time I didn’t even bother taking a number.