Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hanoi: The Italian Embassy


Even after a near sleepless night due to a farcically loud performance by drunken backpacker teens in the budget guesthouse room above us, Gavin and I still managed to make our way into the misty morning with high spirits.  We peeled upon our swollen eyes and hit the pavement before 8 am, slurping down some broth before making our way around mystical Hoan Kiem Lake.  This day had been almost a year in the making and the impetus behind our trip to Hanoi - a bureaucratic odyssey that was now going to culminate in Gavin obtaining his passport from the Italian Embassy.

Anticipation fueled our limbs and we arrived at the embassy ridiculously early.  After taking a few pictures and enjoying the Colonial architecture on the tree-lined embassy row, we explored the area a bit.  While I perused a local shop looking at toiletries and trinkets, Gavin disappeared and went outside.  When I found him he looked unsettled.

He regaled me with a tale about the scene he had stumbled upon - one of murder and travesty.  He had come across an outdoor abattoir and a middle-aged couple hacking away at various creatures.  The most striking image is captured below - a basket of ensnared frogs vainly attempting to escape their cruel fate.

Hoping to encounter better luck that day than our amphibious friends, we headed back to the embassy and were curtly welcomed at the gates before being shuffled through a metal detector.  The consular attaché appeared pensive from the start and it quickly became apparent why:  a certain machine that was essential to the passport process had taken ill and we would have to return to Hanoi in a couple of weeks when it was feeling up to the job.

This was bad news.  Hopelessness and despair came over me as a fist-sized knot started to grow in my stomach and surge upwards though my core - all the way to my heavy eyelids.  We had dutifully completed each step of the exhausting process, confirmed the date with the embassy two weeks prior, built up naive expectations... and now this congenial government lackey was telling us better-luck-next-time.  After a persuasive bit of pleading on our part, the attaché left us with a none too hopeful "Well, let me see what I can do".  Gavin despondently plopped down at a wooden desk in the waiting room and asked me for a pen and paper.  Here are his thoughts from that anxious ten minutes:

"Eyes unsteady after a torturous night of insomnia, he dismally yawns and feels tears welling up behind bone-dry sockets.  The news isn’t devastating, but it surely isn’t good.
Just moments before arriving at the embassy, he’d watched a pair of butchers slice apart live frogs on a makeshift tarp spread across the sidewalk.  Instead of focusing on the mound of tri-colored entrails and the writhing, skinless legs, he chose to watch the death-queue.  Those frogs that fate had deemed expendable could smell death beside them.  They shivered through the breathless morning cold.
Waiting in that room, he presently shuttered alongside the thought of those beasts as it was hard for him to believe that things would turn out any better for him in this sullen land.”

Despite the gloom and doom predictions, things did indeed turn out better! The weary attaché returned with color in his previously pallid cheeks.  They could indeed complete the passport that day and we would not have to make a return trip!  Strange what a little bit of arm twisting can pull off.  Just another couple of years and I too can start the dual-citizenship process!

1 comment:

Carol said...

Yeah Gavin!