Saturday, August 20, 2011

Assumptions + Mistakes = Waste

In my last update, I shared how Willow had finally received her passport on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning we woke up and headed for Chicago yet again. Both my brother and my mom had to work, so Emma went along with me to help with Willow. We were trying to get to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago before 10 am so that we could apply for visas and receive them in the same day. We did arrive in timely manner, but there was such a crowd of others waiting that by the time our number was called it was 11:30 and we would not receive same day service. Picking up the visas the next day wasn't not a huge problem. What was frustrating was that I had to have copies of Emma's and Willow's birth certificates. Because of all the passport mayhem that happened earlier in the week, I had a copy of Willow's birth certificate in my diaper bag still. But I did not have Emma's. I had read what I needed to bring on their website three times and had even googled what I needed to bring for minors applying for visas--and this never once showed up. Another day wasted. My first mistake was forgetting Emma's birth certificate. My second mistake was not going to the Secretary of State's office. I knew that I should have gone, but at the moment it didn't seem necessary--sleep deprivation messes with one's decision making skills.

(Willow, in line at the consulate)

Thursday, Brad helped me to go to the Chinese consulate. He dropped me off around 9:30 am and then he went to his city apartment to clean up a little before his semester begins. It was really difficult to get out the door in the morning. My days had been so busy, exhausting, and stressful that I was completely wiped out--and it doesn't help to have a baby who doesn't sleep through the night and thinks its fun to play from 3:00-6:00 in the morning the day that you have to wake up at 7 am to go to the consulate again.

Equipped with Emma's birth certificate (and every other important document my mom could think of --just in case), I pulled a number at the consulate. There were almost thirty people in front of me and I just hoped that I would be able to reach the counter before 11 o'clock. Everything went well once I got up to the counter and I was given another pink slip to pick up Emma's visa at 2pm that day.

While we were waiting, I decided to walk down to the Secretary of State's office to get Willow's birth certificate authenticated. I spent the next hour walking down State street, taking in the city sights and smells while Willow slept, oblivious to the world. It was a nice day, not too hot with an occasional breeze. I thought that it would be no problem to get her birth certificate authenticated. I had filled out the little form and I would pay the $2 fee.

(I wanted to have some pictorial proof that Willow was in Chicago during her first year)

(Thanks Joanna and Jay for lending us your awesome stroller and carseat! It has been a money saver and helped out a lot!)

Anyway. It was very nostalgic walking around down town and I enjoyed the experience. But once I got to the the Secretary of State's Index Department things took a turn for the worse. The employees refused to authenticate Willow's passport. There were markings on her certificate and they said that that made the document invalid and illegal to authenticate. I was very frustrated at this point. Having dealt five days with stupid bureaucracies already, I was not in the mood for them to tell me what they can and can't do. The office was small, hot and stuffy. The employees were gross and insolent. I had had it. I started crying for the second time that week in front of everyone. "I need this to be able to keep my daughter in China." To which the reply was, "We don't care. We can't sign this because it's against Illinois law".

I was so frustrated! "It isn't for Illinois use--it's for China and this is what they want".

I'm so tired of China and the USA not seeing eye-to-eye on how things should be done. It makes for a grand mess when both require extremely specific results and wont accept the other's--even though they say that they will.

Finally, I left that office, feeling very upset. I found a corner behind the public restrooms to nurse Willow because she was just as upset. I sat there fuming, frustrated, and dreading walking back to the consulate. Here was another empty handed moment. I realized that I would have to pay for a new birth certificate that didn't have any marks on it and then I would have to return to the Index Department on Friday and hope that they would authenticate it.

I walked back to the Chinese Consulate, picked up my mom's, Emma's, and Willow's visas while my baby screamed the whole time. As soon as I had their passports in hand, I left the Consulate and walked down the hallway to where the building is under renovations so that I could feed my screaming baby. She was upset, I was frustrated--and there we were sitting on a dusty construction floor.

On the way back home, Brad and I picked up two new copies of Willow's birth certificate.

On Friday my mom had had a hair appointment, doctor appointment, and we were planning on having a few friends come over to meet Willow. We had to cancel everything. My mom and I left early in the morning and headed downtown for the 6th time. She dropped me off at the Index Department and went to find parking. I went inside, applied for the authentication, paid the fee, and waited five minutes for the service. I also had our marriage license authenticated because I started to have a feeling that this would need to be done--and knowing my luck it would be a huge mess that would be tricky to solve once in China. Since the process took no time at all, I wish that I had had a cell phone. Then I would have been able to call my mom before she found a parking space and paid for it--but I had no cell phone. So I waited for my mom to walk to the office building on 17 N. Sate Street. Then we walked back to where she had parked, got lost in the parking garage, and finally drove out and headed towards the consulate.

I'm still not sure if we were supposed to get these document authenticated at the Chinese Consulate or not. I'm not sure if the Secretary of State's seal was enough or not. I don't remember doing this at the consulate two years ago, but this is what the website told us to do. I am tired of having so many things go wrong and if this was over kill, then I was ok with that. Hopefully this was the right thing to do and will be accepted in Shenyang and not cause more problems. And if someone tells me that I didn't need to do this...well, they just better keep their thoughts to themselves.

We arrived at the Consulate a little after 9 am. I grabbed another number. There were about 20 people ahead of me. I thought that it would be no problem to get to the counter before 11. It was Friday and so same day service was necessary....our plane leaves on Monday!

At 10:50 there were still three people that needed to go before me. I started to think that we wouldn't be able to get the rush service and we started thinking of a plan B. I probably wouldn't be able to pick the papers up on Monday because I had a doctors appointment. We needed a copy of someone's driver's license who could pick up documents, so I ran over to the xerox machine with my mom's license.

At 11:58 my number was called. The man took all the papers:

Willow's birth certificate plus a copy
The application form
The Secretary of State's letter/seal plus a copy
Copy of her passport
Copy of my passport
Marriage License plus a copy
Secretary of Stat'es letter/seal plus a copy

He placed all the papers in the correct order. Then he started filling out the pink pick-up slip. "You will pick-up on Monday".


"I am leaving Monday. It's still before 11am.." I said, looking over his head at the slow clock on the back wall. He looked as well and then scribbled a new date on the pink slip. "Ok. Pick-up at 2pm".

Yes! Finally. No arguments or tears or worrying about coming to the city again. I had the final pick up slip and the end was in sight. I didn't have to come back again.

We went out to lunch at Chili's. Then I fed Willow. We walked to Moody and visited their bookstore. It is weird being on campus and not knowing a single soul. We were back at the Consulate at 1:30 to stand in line. I paid the rush service fee ($100), and was back in the car with my mom and Willow by 2:30.

Willow has probably had the hardest time of it all. The government has caused me to, in a sense, neglect my baby. I wasn't able to feed her or change her when she needed it. I wasn't able to play with her or let her take naps when she wanted it. But she was a trooper, and tried her best to be a good girl.

Here she is playing on the floor after 8 hours of sitting in a car seat. She was so happy to be free!

Willow is now 6 weeks old. She has spent the last 10 days sitting in the car for 4-7 hours every day. She has been to more federal offices than she wishes to know about. She has had to stand in many lines with me and get carted around all over the place. Poor baby.

So happy! I think she knows that she gets to see her dad again very soon. :)

Uncle Brad is very good with babies and has been a really good help to me this week. He held Willow a lot while we were standing in offices. He drove us around many hours. He went out to eat with me and dealt with my mistakes and stupid assumptions that caused more trips. He brought me to the city three of the times. He also helped by returning something Adam had bought and promptly broke to Best Buy--a task that I hadn't asked him to do, but it was very helpful of him. Willow likes Brad.

Now it's Saturday, and I'm having my first day in over a week where I can sleep longer than 4 or 5 hours at night and not have to rush out the door with adrenaline pumping and a knot in my stomach. After 11 visits to several different offices (village of Libertyville, Social Security, Passport Agency, Chinese Consulate and the Index Dept.), 6 trips to Chicago, a few tanks of gas wasted, one long walk, two emotional breakdowns in public, one frustrated shopping spree, $1,000 in rush fees, expedited services, gas, food, I now have everything I need to take my baby to China...and hopefully keep her there with us.

What remains frustrating is that this could all have been accomplished in two days--with all the money I spent on rush services, it should have only taken two days. But with my mistakes, my poor decisions because of lack of sleep, and with the government being a pain to work with, it took much longer. Now on the other side of things, I wish that I hadn't had to go through all that, but I'm glad that it is over.

This process has taught me that I am actually looking forward to sitting through a 14 hour flight with a fussy baby and that I will not miss America and its bureaucratic nonsense. We are leaving on Monday. I will miss my family and friends that I am leaving. This summer has been great for many reasons and I wish that I had been able to visit with everyone.

I'm ready to be back in Shenyang.


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