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Visiting The US Embassy in Beijing

The hotel I had checked into was about a 12 minute walk to the Embassy. I timed this Monday night when I checked in. My appointment was for 10:00 Tuesday morning. I scheduled it for 10:00 because it sounded like a good idea to make it late enough in the morning that I wouldn't need to be in a rush to get there. When I woke up spontaneously at 6:30 I wished that I'd scheduled it earlier. And had I known then what I know now I would have just gone then.

For a strange reason that I can't really explain, standing outside the Embassy and looking at it from across the street filled me with a strange sense of foreboding. All I could imagine was marines tackling me to the ground and throwing me into a dark little room. I could hear them asking me a million little questions. One of those questions was of course; why were you standing across the street looking at the Embassy building for so long? What were you looking for?

As far as I can tell there are no marines anywhere near the embassy. There are a few soldiers but they're all Chinese which could be better or worse depending on how you look at things. All the security is Chinese and most of the employees seem to be Chinese. They're Chinese with extremely good English. They probably get an 8.5 or a 9.0 on the IELTS tests but they all have that little hint of an accent that lets you know that English isn't their first language. The whole time I was there I only glanced two Embassy employees whom I'm absolutely sure were Americans. Not too surprising I suppose.

I was standing outside about an hour before I needed to be there. There were signs posted everywhere in Chinese and English (I'm assuming this is for other nationalities who just happen to be in China). These signs were all for people who were applying for visas to enter the US. They all stated that you would not be let in until 30 minutes before your appointment. I kept looking for an obvious entrance for Americans. I figured there would be a sign somewhere but there really wasn't. The website said to go through the East gate but I couldn't really tell where the East gate was. There were a couple of places where cars could go through but only one place where I saw people walking in. I even made the block (with the imaginary marine in my head shouting “why were you casing the parameter?” as he pours coke down my nose) and I could only see one obvious entrance. So this is where I went. I got into the line at 9:20. Once I was already in line behind the rail an Embassy employee told me that it didn't really matter but I could have just gone straight in on the side.

Passed the gate everything moved really quickly. I had my passport in one hand and a black folder containing my appointment information, photos and other junk in the other. All that mattered was my passport. They barely looked at it. The only stop I had to make was at the metal detector to deposit my cellphone in a locker. The moment people saw the little dark blue book they waived me pass all the lines and straight through all the doors right to the second floor. It good seeing people standing in a line and not shoving or elbowing each other to get ahead and then to actually be able to walk pass them. I imagine similar to the feeling hot girls get when they go to a nightclub and the bouncer waives them through pass the throngs of people waiting to get in and straight to the VIP area.

The actual process was smooth. Go to this window. Sign here. Talk to this person. Give them my passport. Go to the next window. Give them money. Take receipt to another window. Talk to lady. Take passport back from her. Sign here and you're done. While waiting in line I even actually served as a witness for someone. All I had to do was sign and date something and I had nothing else to do anyway.

When I collected my cellphone from security on the way out I looked at the time. It was straight up 10:00. I had thought that this would take half a day but everything was done in maybe 30 minutes and ahead of my scheduled appointment time. And at no time did anyone pour coke down my nose which is always a good thing to not have happen to you.

I did not take any photos of the outside of the Embassy because I left my camera along with my computer in my bag with the hotel staff.

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