Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best Laid Plans Gone Awry

After more than two years here in the UK, you'd think I'd be wiser.  Everything moves at the pace of molasses in winter and there's not a darned thing you can do about it but grit your teeth and persevere.  In the US, you can get expedited service for a passport or visa, but not so at the US Embassy in London.  

I have been on the brink since yesterday, teetering between a nervous breakdown and screaming conniption fit.  Both of the girls have passports expiring at the end of March.  Therefore, we need to get them renewed before February break gets here since three of us are headed to Kenya while the fourth is going to Romania. We are up against a finite window of time that doesn't allow for the whims of a bureaucratic system in a foreign country.

The whole problem circles around the fact that passports must be valid for six months AFTER we return from Kenya (and Romania) for February break.  So I went online to book a passport renewal appointment at the US Embassy in London for both girls.  I realized we would be needing them before they would return to us on the back of a jellyfish that floated across the Atlantic after going overland tied to the shell of a snail. I've got friends who have expedited passports and/or visas in the US over the course of 24-48 hours, so I was all prepared to pony up the extra cash to get the passports ready in time.

After spending over an hour searching every link, nook and cranny on the embassy website before calling a number only to find an automated voice that never answered my question, I finally located a valid email and asked them about the expediting process.  Surprise, surprise, there is no way to knock it out any sooner here in the UK... at the US Embassy... to get a US passport renewed... for a US citizen with all of her paperwork in order.

Plan K (as in 'kay, maybe this plan will work because I just don't have any spare time to spend in a straight jacket) is to fly the girls to Houston next Thursday for an appointment at the regional passport agency Friday morning.  That means we'll get them either that afternoon or Monday morning so we can haul it back to England on a flight leaving Houston that evening.  The girls will have to miss three days of school and get a fourth for free since it's a staff development day for teachers next Friday and thus no classes.

Since we'll have Saturday and Sunday to cool our heels in H-town, that means we can drive the senior to her two front runner Texas universities for a looky loo now that students have returned to classes for the spring semester. This allows the teen to count two of the three class days she'll be gone as college touring days.  At least there is an upside to this whole passport renewal rigamarole that has had me tied in knots trying to figure out a way to untangle all of it.  It's like I've become trapped in a Dr. Seuss book gone horribly wrong.  The head thunker can't thunk up a solution to the stunk system that makes her wanna get drunk. The bureaucratic cat makes her wanna get a bat and wail on his fat a**. How about that?

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