How the Russian Consulate Led Me to Morocco

Ever hung out at the Russian Embassy in DC? Excuse me, the Consulate? You have to be invited to the Embassy - fancy Muscovites keep it real. Anyway, imagine this GIGANTIC, imposing beast of an embassy, all glorious and exempt from property taxes... and just down the hill is the consulate. A gate, a door and a table with one of those silver beaded cords that should have a pen at the end, but instead just swings in the air...mocking you. I even once experienced the desk officer pulling down a "break" curtain just as I stepped up to the glass. That, my friends, was the Russian Consulate.

I work for a foreign policy non-profit, so I spent a lot of time in that dank, little office space before they switched to their current, more efficient system. You quickly learned you needed to bring the following with you if you wanted to get out of that place without feeling like an abysmal failure: physical passports with AT LEAST three empty visa pages and valid for AT LEAST six months after the dates of travel, a stapler, white-out (oh yea), pens, back-up pens, a letter of invitation TRIPLE checked to make sure all information contained therein was correct, a Telex number and...a CHARGED cell phone.  Other consulates offer some of these amenities (a stapler is like gold people, GOLD!)...but not this one. All business, all the time. Except for smoking breaks. Then no business, just smoking and maybe some coffee. I don't know, I wasn't invited.

So there I was one day so many years ago, in line with my folder of information ready to go. I am pretty sure I had been turned away a few times for not including x,y, or z, but on that hot, muggy day in our nation's capital, I held the golden ticket. Well, 12 golden tickets, stapled into each delegate's respective passports.  The guy behind me? Not so lucky.

As I gathered up my plethora of office supplies and dropped everything into my bag, I couldn't but overhear tension building between my compatriot and the consular officer sitting on the other side of the bulletproof glass. It wasn't pretty. I meekly offered the gentleman applying for a visa my phone and he accepted...making the necessary calls in a corner of the 12 square foot space.  Soon after, he returned the phone to me as well as handed me a business card with "2" handwritten on the back. My 23-year-old self was perplexed by his cryptic note and fairly stoked for whatever it meant.

Fast forward a few weeks later and Mr. Swirley and I  show up, on time, for our reservation at Marrakesh restaurant only to find a nondescript door (unless I read Arabic, then it's pretty self-explanatory) on a salmon-colored building. This, my friends, is right up my alley. I LOVE salmon-colored anything AND mysterious eateries.

Well, this is confusing.

Well, this is confusing.

We knocked, they answered and the night began. Let me just say that whoever signed that card must have been someone special because it was an evening we will never forget; seven courses later, we were so grateful to have been given such a generous gift for such a unassuming favor.

Lessons learned?

1. Sharing is caring

2. Moroccan food is always amazing

3. I am obviously a sadist as I found myself feeling somewhat nostalgic when I heard the Russian visa protocol had changed in January 2013 and we no longer need to worry about staplers, smoking breaks or having fingers wagged for reasons that still confound me.

4. And, I suppose the gifted poet, Christina Aguilera, said it best: “The roughest roads often lead to the top.” And, sometimes that road is DC's Wisconsin Avenue, NW and it leads to a sweet ass dinner.

Thank you stranger. I am happy you got to go to Russia and we got to jet to Morocco, even if only for an evening.


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    Annie Swingen

    Chicago-based hyperbole enthusiast. Mom to a kid and sometimes my mom. Overboard (1987) obsessed weirdo. I like the funnies in life.

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