Passport Renewal and we broke our tent…

Most of you know that we have been trying to get Kaden’s passport renewed since April, when the world shut down. Because we were planning on going back to the USA over the summer before the world closed, we didn’t have any of our birth certificates or important documents in order to get his passport renewed overseas. I ended up having to order all of our birth certificates and our marriage certificate (just to be on the safe side in case the embassy asked for all of it) and patiently (or rather, impatiently) waited until mid-December for the embassy to open.

Each of our birth certificates cost a different amount and they could only be sent to an address in the USA, they won’t ship internationally. I had all of those applications notarized so vital statistics department couldn’t refuse to send the documents. We had them sent to a family member who then was able to FedEx them to us in Guatemala. The cost to ship an envelope with 4 letter size envelopes that weighs less than 1 lb was $140.00. Plus the $50.00+ per birth certificate and $40 for our marriage certificate and the $115.00 for the passport (and 9.00 for passport photos), the passport renewal here cost us over $400.00. The lesson here is to make sure you bring your birth certificates and marriage certificate with you. That was the costliest part of the entire renewal.

Once I had the documents in hand, I e-mailed the US embassy and requested an appointment. I explained our travel situation and about 48 hours later, they sent me an appointment date and time, scheduled for two weeks from that day.

The day of our appointment, we decided to drive to Guatemala City really early because we needed to drop off our Dometic fridge for repairs because the temperature sensor was malfunctioning.

We drove around the city trying to find a place to park because you cannot park at the Embassy for security reasons. We found a parking lot a couple of blocks away. Knowing we couldn’t bring any of our electronic devices in, no purses, no bags. We showed up for our appointment about 30 minutes early, just to be safe and were told to wait in line and we would be called up when they were ready for us. The funny thing is you check in with the security guard out in front of the embassy. He takes your name and looks you up to confirm your appointment. Once verified, he tells you to stand in line. He speaks in Spanish, and very broken English. This could be very frustrating for US citizens that speak no Spanish, but not impossible. After verifying our appointment, he kindly asked us to stand in line and told us that there were two other families ahead of us.

While we were waiting in line, another man waiting to renew his passport struck up a conversation with us. He explained this was his third attempt at getting in for his renewal because each time he had one of the “prohibited” items. This time he literally brought only his ID and a manila envelope with his paperwork. He was called in pretty much right away and wished us luck. Apparently we need really good luck to get into the US Embassy as US citizens. The security is tight, but the guards are kind. All of them are Guatemalans and most don’t speak any English, but it’s easy enough to understand what they’re trying to convey if you don’t speak Spanish.

After an hour and fifteen minutes of waiting outside, we were finally called in for our appointment. Keep in mind if you do have to come here to get your passport or any other US citizen service, there are no places to sit except for ONE lone concrete bench that seats 4 adults. You will be standing in line the entire time or sitting on the ground. Once we were in the security screening section, we emptied our pockets and put all of our stuff on the conveyor belt for scanning, just like at any airport. We went through the metal detector and when Bronson put his keys in his bucket, the guard told him that the key fob couldn’t pass through because it is electronic and would need to be left outside of the US Embassy grounds. After trying to explain that it was our vehicle keys and without them we can’t get into our vehicle or lock our car, the guard remained unbudging. Good thing we brought the dog with us that day and parked in a private parking lot with guards. However, that doesn’t mean the guards wouldn’t try to take whatever we had in the vehicle. Bronson dropped the keys off in the car and locked it with the valet key. He returned to the Embassy and had no problem going through the security screening this time.

Once we got into the Embassy building, we were directed to another room by a guard inside. As we approached the room, it literally resembled a DMV office of the USA. Take a number, grab an empty chair and wait for your number to be called by a worker behind a bullet proof glass window. This part was pretty quick. About 5-10 minute wait before the woman at the counter called us up and took all of our paperwork. She asked for Kaden’s birth certificate, verified that we were his parents, took our passports, marriage certificate and the application for his passport renewal and started filling in the rest of the paperwork. She had us sign the application, gave us a ticket and told us to go to window 4 to pay the passport fee and come back. We went to the window, paid for the passport and went back to the little room.

It would be about 40 minutes before another man came to the window, asked us to give a sworn statement and pledge that we were truth in fact, Kaden’s parents and all the information we gave was correct and true to our knowledge. We did so, he returned our vital statistics certificates and passports, gave us another receipt for the passport payment and told us to return in 8 days to pick up the new passport. I asked if he was sure it would be ready on that day, he said not to worry about it, the passport for sure would be ready. He gave us a “return on” slip which you show to the guard at the embassy to let him know you are returning to pick up the passport because they don’t schedule a date for pick up.

We left the embassy and had a bunch of other things to do, Bronson needed a new computer, so we decided to stop at the Oakland Mall and see if the iShop had any in stock or available soon. As we got to the parking garage, our vehicle stands at 2.05 meters, the height of the parking garage said 2.1m. We knew we were cutting it close, but behind us was a long line of cars waiting for us to go in and there was no way to back out or go around because we were surrounded by brick walls on both sides of us. So in we went. We were fine at first, until we made the decision to go in the far left lane to get out of the flow of traffic. Well, in this ONE lane, there were lower lying steel beams that sat at 1.8m and we ended up scraping on one of them and crunching the top of the iKamper roof top tent. Before pulling any further into the garage, we parked in an unauthorized parking spot, took out an indicator light that designates the spot as open or closed and the sign that told us that this parking spot was off limits.

As we contemplated how best to get back out of the parking lot, we had a few options. 1) Wait until one of the owners of any of the vehicles in the surrounding parking spots returned and left, 2) go back the way we came and risk more damage to the iKamper or 3) take the roof top tent off and drive to a part of the garage that is 2.1 m and put the roof top tent back on.

We ultimately decided that taking the RTT off was the best option. We enlisted the help of 4 parking garage attendants to help us remove the tent. We placed it on the ground while deciding where to park the car and put the RTT back on. We took pictures of the damage, the parking garage attendants took pictures and the attendants told us that we should carry the RTT to the loading dock where all the big trucks come and do deliveries. We could park there and put the tent back on.

So we all carried the tent through the parking garage, up a flight of stairs to the loading dock. Bronson went to get the car and drive it around to the loading dock where the attendants helped us put the tent back on before taking pictures of our tent and parking stub. They said just to pay the parking stub when we leave since there isn’t a charge for parking for the loading dock and we don’t qualify as a delivery truck. They were so polite and helpful. They didn’t ask for anything and they noticed right away that we were having a problem. They were quick to see what we needed help with and they were really fast in finding a few strong and capable people to help when we needed it most. I will forever be thankful for these gentlemen. Very professional and eager to help and asked for nothing in return. The true spirit of humanity.

Once we finished picking out Bronson’s new computer, we were told the computer would be delivered between Monday and Friday of the following week. We were going to have to come back to the city to get Kaden’s passport anyway, and we decided we’d make a trip of it. As we were leaving the city, we sent a message to our friend Axel and told him about the iKamper. He went out of his way to buy us the things we needed in order to repair the tent. He left all of those things on his work bench and told us that we were free to use his garage and that all of the materials were there and ready for our usage.

On the way back to Antigua from the city, Bronson called our friend Axel and told him of our woes of the day. Axel went out of his way, bought us a bunch of fiberglass repair materials and allowed us access to his garage to fix our tent when we had time. As we were on our way to his house, we got caught in HOURS long traffic. It felt like being back in Los Angeles at the 110/405 intersect during rush hour. It took us 3 hours to drive 2.5 miles. The entire 16 mile trip took us just over 4 hours, but we arrived back at our little rental and decided to call it a day, the tent repair would have to wait for another day, literally the very next day. I bet Bronson never knew how handy it would be to have developed the skill of repairing surf boards when we lived at the beach.

Fixed and ready for the next adventure. Stay tuned for the upcoming shenanigans as we put his handiwork to the test.

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