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Visa Quest

January 2011 | The cab line in front of the airport had gas lamps warming waiting clients. Nevertheless my nose is frozen, that is the inside of my nose. Weird feeling. “Salt does not work here in winter because it is too cold” says the taxi driver from the airport to Ottawa city.

“Canada – what a great nation” said Paul Giamatti at the Golden Globe awards the other day. Already at this at stage I totally agree with this statement. A nation that manages to survive comfortably in such harsh climate conditions deserves admiration.

Byward square in the centre of Ottawa. Lots of nice looking bars and restaurants, most of them deserted though except for 2 Latin-American places in defiance of the climate. Inside here they still use salt to frame the margarita glass. The tequila is indeed helping against the cold, and it might even assist in getting the long US visa application form done.

The US embassy building thrones at the head end of Byward market. The first security guard that checks my documents for completeness feels that the photo in my passport taken 13 years ago looks just like me. Under normal conditions a compliment I assume.

The person from the consular section that i called a couple of days ago said that for G4 visas “you can just walk in.” One can hardly call it a “walk-in” though. The next security guard does admittedly exercise great care while checking my backpack. Yet it is slightly disconcerting to see him disassemble my camera and mobile phone. I had taken resolutions to approach the security check with a Zen-like attitude, but as always the guard’s commanding tone challenges these. It is something I will never get used to.

Finally reaching the visa counter, the lady in charge of diplomatic visas receives me with firm and commanding politeness comparable to the one of the security guard outside. It surprises me therefore to experience the total change of attitude when I mention my pregnant wife waiting in New York and my daughter who actually is a citizen of the US both. It seems that I might have my visa much faster in the end.

Next day, bright sunshine and the atmosphere of the city totally changed. It is still lousily cold outside, but with the sunshine and my newly acquired clothes adequate for an Ottawa winter it is very nice to walk around.

At one o’clock my American cell rings. It is the lady from the consular section speaking fluent German to me and confirming that my Visa is ready for pick-up at 3 o’clock. Now, this is unexpected. More so, the security-check at the embassy somehow feels less offending. The lady at the visa counter inquires whether my wife has already delivered in my absence, hands me over the passport and suggests I better get myself back to New York. Her husband in fact missed both of her deliveries, she adds.

It might all be just because of the sunshine. There are seats available on a flight back to New York tonight. Mission completed. I am on my way home. And I do agree with Paul Giamatti.

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