American Embassy, Budapest
- Do you need help filling out the papers?
- Sure, it couldn't hurt. What kind of papers?
- Visa application. Are you here to get a visa?
- They are going to take away my passport, so I may need a visa.
- Why are they taking your passport? Are you an American Citizen?
- Yes. When you apply for an emergency loan they confiscate your passport.
- Anyway you don't need a visa to your own country.
- What can I do for you?
- I saw on the Embassy's site that you provide emergency repatriation loans. I would like to apply.
- Are you destitute?
- Probably. What's the definition?
- No money to buy a ticket home and no way to get the money.
- I fulfill the requirements. What next?
- You have to prove that you've made an attempt to get the money.
- You have to provide the names of 3 people you have asked and who have refused. Can you do that?
- Sure. There are billions of people I can ask and be refused.
- You have to put it in writing.
- I can do it.
- Give me your passport. We'll do a background check. Take a seat.
- My colleague explained something of your situation. I'd like to ask you for more information.
- You're the Vice Consul?
- Yes. You said you have no money. Can you tell me how this situation arose?
- Whole life story or shorter?
- Start with the most recent events. When did you arrive in this country?
- About 4 months ago.
- What have you been doing?
- Reading and writing. Not employed.
- Were you employed in the United States before you came here?
- No. Doing the same. Reading and writing.
- Do you normally live in Europe or the United States?
- For the past about 20 years, mostly Europe.
- With trips back to the United States.
- How long were you in the United States last time?
- About 9 months.
- Where did you live?
- With friends.
- And before that?
- Here. I was tutoring business executives in English.
- For how long?
- 4 months. And then United States again.
- Are you married?
- Yes. Possibly.
- My wife disappeared, then wrote me that she'd obtained a divorce.
- Do you know you wife's name?
- What if I answer No?
- You don't know your wife's name?
- I'll spell it for you. Do you want to find her for me?
- We're the government but we can't do everything.
- You know, forget about the repatriation loan, just find my wife.
- When was the last time you saw her?
- A year, maybe year and a half ago. Look, is it true you're going to take away my passport if you decide to give me a repatriation loan?
- Yes, it is.
- Couldn't I use, just temporarily, the passport of one of the directors of Goldman Sachs, or General Electric, or Bank Of America? The government took away their passports when they loaned them $900 Billion after they lost all their money in bad investments. They took away their passports, right? They didn't?
- We're not open tomorrow, and over the weekend, and on Monday, an American holiday. Are you going to be alright?
- Where will you be going when you arrive in Los Angeles?
- I don't know.
- You have to provide an address. We can't arrange your travel without knowing you have a place to go.
- Why not?
- We are here to help.
- Are you concerned about my address here if I don't leave?
- We'll try to help.
- Before we can issue a repatriation loan and buy your ticket you have to provide an arrival address.
- I did.
- It can't be a hotel.
- Why not?
- It has to be your residence.
- It will be my residence.
- It has to be your own, or belonging to someone we can contact.
- It's a residential hotel. The address is on my driver's licence. They know me there.
- Show me your driver's licence. What is the manager's name?
- No. We need to be able to talk with someone who will be responsible for you.
- We need to know you will be safe.
- Why? I'm not safe if I stay in Europe.
- As I said, you need to provide us the name of someone who will take care of you when you return to the U.S.
- If I knew someone like that would I now be applying for an emergency loan?
- Then we can't help you.
- How long would this person have to be responsible for me? My whole life? One year? One month? A week?
- Several weeks.
- And there is no explanation for this demand?
- I don't have to explain.
- Why not?
- It's the rules.
- It can't be. What rule?
- This conversation is over.
A reader of spy stories never thinks life will become one. Of course not. That would take all the fun out of it. You'll understand then that this was not fun:
The appointment was for one pm. I waited outside the steel perimeter fence. Usual crowd of security, plus two additional city police standing immobile just within the fence looking out at me. Only at me. You have to wait, said the Embassy employed local security. After about twenty minutes the Vice Consul arrived from the embassy building, ordered the gate opened, and I was allowed to enter between the two steel fences. There, with the security forces and police and Vice Consul looking on, or staring to be precise, a crowd of about 8 or 10, all within a couple yards of me, I was handed a mobile phone to talk with my brother.
To make it all more incomprehensible my brother was apparently talking from his car using a hands-free system and I couldn't understand more than one word in ten he spoke. After about five minutes of me saying, "I can't hear you, it's all garbled, can you hear me?" my brother said he would put on a headset. He did and I could hear him. He proceeded to ask me questions he already knew the answer to from talking to the Vice-Consul about me: why did I want to go to the U.S.? (I'm American), What I am going to do there? (Don't know), Why I don't stay in Hungary, it's cheaper there? (I'm not Hungarian). He had nothing to respond to my answers. Like filling out a form. Finally I said, Anything else? He asked me what the purpose of the call was. I said I didn't know, he'd have to ask the Vice Consul. He arranged it.
My brother asked me to put the Vice Consul back on the phone. I handed the phone to him and l left the Embassy inter-fence territory. I hadn't spoken a work to the Vice Consul other than, "Here's your phone". I did say to the security forces, "let me out of here!"
According to Wikipedia the political title Consul is used for the official representatives of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries.
Their web site warns Americans that the Consulate does not involve itself with the personal, business, or legal affairs of citizens abroad.
If you would like to talk to the Embassy, not the Consulate, and ask if anyone there knows the Consulate says it actually doesn't do anything other than disperse social security and issue foreigners visas, you will be told you can't talk to the Embassy. Can't talk to the Embassy? / No, you can't.
And when the Consulate forbid me to enter the building - I'd committed the crime of saying they weren't right - they instructed the guards also to forbid me entrance to the Embassy, located on the same building. That can't be legal I complained to the guards outside. / That's our orders. / Who are they? Not even Americans. Let me talk to an American. / You can't. / I can't talk to an American at the American Embassy and I can't enter the American Embassy? / No, you can't.
Next I visit the office of a former American Ambassador.
Next day the application for a repatriation loan is approved. Meanwhile a month has passed and the "arrival address" I had to provide the Consulate, complete with the legally documented occupant of that address (confirmed by consular interrogation) taking financial responsibility for my immediate future, has fallen through.
Next a European native talks on the phone for me with my so-called wife's mother. My mother in law (maybe) tells him I'd been declared missing and a divorce had been issued. I then let the Embassy know this in case they want to find my (impossibly) European-divorced wife and ask her why she left me in troubles they, the government, apparently will spend any amount of time getting out of having to deal with.
Next is Spy vs. spy. The U.S. Government, presently one of my most dedicated readers, site stats. say has just been here where you are now. I see too Israel has had the same idea, reading a post about my attempt to get a visa from them the year before.
Israel also wanted also to know all about my marriage. A Facebook message from the so-called wife had told me our marriage had been annulled, so I told the Israelis that. They said they wanted the papers. I said I had no way of getting them from my disappeared wife, and in any case annulment meant no legal standing thus the marriage should not be their concern.
I explained I didn't know whether there'd really been an annulment or if the original marriage was legitimate. But, I told the Israelis, since all you know about the marriage comes from me I say here and now that all I know about the marriage is that it has no legal standing. Believe it or not I won the battle and the visa was issued, though I never went.
Next imagine the great big U.S. Government reading about this so-called possibly annulled marriage, about my so-called wife, who according to a family friend had newly married in the U.S. "some old man" on the basis of this so-called annulment. Imagine the great big U.S. government throwing up their collective hands in frustration and amazement.
Next the Embassy reverses itself and denies the repatriation loan. Upon reconsideration I do not meet the qualifications.