Unfortunately, their Mexican passports have to be renewed EVERY YEAR until they're 3. This means, we make our annual 2.5 hour trek to La Paz, the capital of our state (Baja California Sur) every year on Memorial Day weekend. (Here's last year's first trip and then the follow-up trip. And then our 2011 trip here. You have to see how little the girls are - be sure to look at the 2011 pics.)
Anywho - I live in San Jose del Cabo (bottom of the peninsula) and you see La Paz a bit north.
The trip is slightly stressful and annoying but necessary.
Usually we're denied the girls' passports. Always the process takes hours. Usually I want to throw a fit during the process. Always I declare that I should not have had my children here.
You see, Mexico is different. Governmental offices are never, ever, EVER consistent. Ever. (You think I'm kidding? Ask a Mexican. They'll tell you I'm not.)
Documentation requirements online are never the same once you get to the office. It's ridiculous.
And, each year I have an issue because my name on my daughters' Mexican birth certificates (which is mandatory) includes my maiden name and the name on my U.S. passport excludes it.
No one believes that I'm their parent.
So last year I notarized and apostilled my original birth certificate and a Spanish translation in order to solve my identity pickle. (This was not an easy process.) This year, I took the same paperwork and thought, "Aside from an in-office blood or DNA test, there is physically nothing more that I can do to prove that I am the mother of these little weirdos."
So, the husband and I got up at 4:30 a.m. on Memorial Day. We were out the door with two sleepy (or "sleeply", as Vivi calls it), still-in-their-pajamas little girls by 5:05 a.m.
A few minutes into the ride Lila asked, "Are we going on an airplane?"
Nope. We're driving to the passport office. That's even more exciting than a plane ride.
The car ride was pretty uneventful. Lila sang to Bruno Mars and at one point Vivienne threw up (yep.) And when we talked about it later, she was re-telling the story and summed it up by saying, "Yeah... and I dumped out of my mouth... and...."
We found this to be hilarious because we have never, in any context, referred to anything coming out of her body as "dumping." WHERE DOES SHE get this stuff?
Then after we were all laughing, she confirmed, "I made a funny." Also a statement she's never said before. Also accurate. Yes, Vivienne Kate. You are funny.
Car ride = slightly hilarious.
Day at this poing? Going well.
So we arrived about 30 minutes early to the passport office and got the girls dressed in the back of Craig's car.
This, my dear friends is a classy establishment.
We enter in the lower section of the building. The blue part. And no, we don't park there because if you do you will be there for days.
Thanks to cognates, you can read that this is the Secretary of Exterior Relations office.
We were the first appointment of the day at 8:00 a.m.
All of the employees were fresh and ready -- not jaded and irate as they seem to get as time goes on.
As soon as I walked in, I approached Gatekeeper #1 with my accordion file-folder of information: Original passports and copies, original birth certificates and copies, letters from the girls' pediatrician that included their photos and a copy of her medical license (yep), passport photos, copies of mine and Craig's U.S. passports, even copies of the payment deposit for the passports and the original receipt.
While I was showing Gatekeeper #1 my folder of info, I routinely and casually gave her my notarized and apostilled birth certificate and translation. I didn't say anything foolish, like, "This worked last year, so it should work this year." You know, since no one cares about last year. I just merely said in Spanish, "You will need this since my name is not the same on my daughters' birth certificates and my passport."
She said the equivalent of, "Gotcha - I understand" and off she went to show the wee man (who features an uncanny and unfortunate resemblance to an Oompa Loompa -- I'm serious) who has turned us down time and time again. After a few breathe-holding moments he nodded his head in what appeared to be approval of the documents, but of course he told us that we needed to re-take Vivienne's picture and that we needed to re-copy the payment receipt vertically and not the SO WRONG horizontally way that I had originally done. (Yes, there are rules. Unwritten rules. But rules, nonetheless about receipt copies.)
|Lila's photos were fine. She looks rumpled because they were taken after-school in a photoshop that was at least 99 degrees.|
It's completely common to get to the SRE office and find out that whatever you have is wrong. It's true, usually 1-3 things need to be changed in order for you to get a passport that day. Usually, they involve physically leaving the office (and therefore your place in line!) and walking a couple of doors down to the creepy little copy "store" that also offers "photography" services. And by "store" I mean a shed that somehow has running electricity and a sort of add-on "back room" where you can get a creepy old guy to take your kid's picture.
|(Apparently the country of Mexico was too embarrassed to authorize a passport that featured a mullet (left) so they opted for this new photo (right). Note to self: next time gel Vivi's hair down.)|
So, Craig runs and gets a new set of copies and new photos for Vivienne while I s-l-o-w-l-y and p-a-i-n-s-t-a-k-i-n-g-l-y fill out both the front and back of both girls' passport applications. I actually pre-download the forms fill them in so that all I have to do is copy from the sample form to the real one. I have to do this or else I'd be paralyzed with fear. You see, you CANNOT CROSS OUT OR MAKE A MISTAKE ON THESE FORMS OR THEY WILL MAKE YOU START OVER AGAIN. And that, my friends, will put you even further behind in line.
So, I fill out the forms in this new awesome area that is for old people and people with kids under the age of 6. This is a newly designated area and it was FANTASTIC. Usually I have to schlep my paperwork and try to keep track of my kids while I'm standing at a 4.5 ft tall desk. I swear the desk comes up to my chin. Which is so weird since most Mexicans in my part of the country are my height if not shorter. I digress.
The forms are filled out and Gatekeeper #2 who is oddly nice to me approves our paperwork. We're ONLY an hour in to the process and I'm in awe that everything is going to swimmingly.
The girls' finger prints are taken and Lila didn't even SCREAM AND LOSE IT like she did last year.
Honestly - is this happening?!
THEN, Gatekeeper #2 comes back out from the back room abyss where the Oompa Loompa lives and tells me that since I wrote that the "U.S. Department of State" issued my U.S. passport on the application, I need to re-fill out the ENTIRE front and back of both legal-sized applications because I need to write, "U.S. Department of State" in Spanish.
There it is.
Every year I write, "U.S. Department of State." This time, though, they needed, "Departmento de Estado de los Estados Unidos." You know, because that makes a difference.
Sigh. But seriously? If that's there one issue - I'll do it. Usually by this time I have nearly been in tears twice out of frustration.
So, I re-filled out the applications, we re-signed the forms, the girls re-inked their fingers and we waited...
|The girls hung out outside on this very clean and sterile stretch of ground while I was inside.|
...while we were waiting a woman over the age of 65 came and sat down next to us in our designated area and Vivi proceeded to ask me if she was a "Nana." Because if she was, "I wanna give her a big hug." Sweet girl.
And we waited. And I didn't let Vivienne touch the stranger. Nana or not.
Gatekeeper #2 comes back out and tells me that we're all set. Within 30 minutes fingerprints were taken and we were waiting for the actual passports.
|Craig being AWESOME.|
We were DONE and out of there by 10:30 a.m.
AND, the Oompa Loompa gave me back my originals and I didn't even have to breakout my confrontational Spanish! Score!
Lila is now renewed for SIX YEARS! SIX YEARS! I do not have to come back to this place until Lila is nearly 10 years old!
Vivienne, well, we have to renew hers ONE more time and then she'll be renewed for six years. So, we do have to return again next year... but, I've got it in me to go just.one.more.time.
Everyone was so friendly and so nice. (I can't believe I just typed that.)
This sums up my excitement.
In the hopes that maybe this process wouldn't take too long, we optimistically brought along our beach stuff and off we went to my favorite place...
The drive there is pretty amazing.
Sometimes I'm just astounded by the beauty of Baja California Sur.
And then we were there.
It's calm and heavenly and the water is crystal clear and it laps in and out as if it were a bathtub.
This photo so doesn't do this spot justice...
So we played. And ate mangos. And just relaxed.
These two loved it.
Lila said, "This day is great!"
Lila's sand soup.
The day was oddly and surprisingly perfect.
And everything a Memorial Day should be.
We even posed
And my two ladies slept almost the whole way home.
As we were leaving Vivi was waving to the beach saying, "Bye, bye beach. See you tomorrow."
All of the chaos doesn't matter because I believe that we're making some crazy awesome memories.
I love my little family.