We took a little trip to the Haitian Consultate in New York today, because we needed a piece of paper "certified" to send to Haiti. We usually do this stuff by mail, but we thought this would save time and a little postage.
The experience at the Haitian Consulate was classic. It was like a little slice of Haiti, right in New York City. When we arrived, there was a glass cubicle with three receptions sitting in it. They were all watching the tv in the waiting room, and the glass room seemed pretty bare, save for a few ledgers that looked to be from about 1971. None of them appeared to be working, or even pretending to work, since there was nothing really in the room for them to be working on. Lord knows why three receptionists were needed. They had us sign in on a line in one of the random ledger books, one of them yelled down the hallway to alert someone of our presence, and then they went back to watching tv.
Someone came out to take us back to the office. It was a cramped room with three desks covered in files. There were papers piled all over the place. The most modern piece of technology in the office was a copy machine that I think we had at my elementary school. Our names were written in another thick ledger.
As we were sitting in this office, I could help but think that the office in Haiti where our paperwork sits must look a lot like this, but worse. I thought of the hundreds of adoption dossiers that are probably piled up on a desk much like this one, and thought what a miracle it was that anyone was able to adopt from this country.
We showed the man in charge the document we brought to have stamped, and then he asked to see our passports. Whah?? We didn't bring them. Usually these documents are certified by mail, so obviously they aren't checking our passports then. But he wanted one, and acted like it was a really big deal that we didn't have them.
After several awkward minutes of him staring at our document, and then back at us with an intimidating glare, and shaking his head, and looking dismayed, he finally told us under his breath that he would do us a favor and stamp it JUST THIS ONCE. (Apparently our alternative would have been to come back to California and mail it to him, at which point a passport would not be needed. Okay).
So after he has agreed to overlook our heinous error, he told us it would be another 15-30 minutes, and we could go back to the waiting room. The stamp was sitting right next to the paper. RIGHT NEXT TO THE PAPER. It would have taken 2 seconds to stamp and hand back to us. But this needs to look official, so we get to wait. This is an interesting "fake it till you make it" mindset in Haiti: we may not be organized, but gosh darnit, we will ACT like we are. I can't decide if it's endearing or totally irritating.
True to his word, he did make us wait. We watched tv with the receptionists for a while, and then he came out with a big flourish and handed us the paper, and then told us to pay the receptionists. (Maybe one was an accountant?)
We went to pay. On the consulate website, it clearly states they accept credit cards. On the glass cubicle there is a credit card picture. On the receipt they gave us, there is a credit card form to fill out. But NO, we are told as Mark presents his card: they only accept cash. All three receptionists yelled at us for not having correct change.
Is that why they need three of them?
Mark only had two twenties. It cost $25. I'm not sure how to describe the chaos that ensued over this, but it was very loud and very dramatic as the entire office decided what to do with this scenario. Mark and I just stood there trying not to giggle while they worked it out.
Ah, TIH. As the tourism sign on the wall reads, "Haiti. Like No Place Else."