Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Swedish Embassy in Washington DC

When I went to the Swedish Embassy in 2011, all I could remember was a tiny creek beside it, so I remembered it as "Sweden on the Puddle." But then I went back in spring of this year, and I see now that I never turned around to look in the opposite direction. The embassy really is right in front of the Potomac. So they call it "Sweden on the Potomac." It is a beautiful view.

A very nice flag flying footloose and fancy-free on a beautiful day in DC!

 The mighty Potomac in front of the Embassy

In 2011, there was a little red house, no higher than my waist, out in front of the embassy, that looked like a tiny version of Bullerbyn. But this time, the lawn was bare except for flowers.

At first, I thought we'd somehow come to the British embassy by mistake because there's an extra flag flying over the embassy and that's the first one I could see. I don't know what that's about. I thought it was the British flag, but on closer inspection, it was some other country. Sweden is always sharing.

It's a big building, full of glass, but you can enter but a tiny part if you're just a lowly citizen come to renew a passport. I was there with a friend who needed to do just that.

The entrance hall seems like one giant stateroom that takes up the entire first floor, with glass walls all the way around. It has a nice wood floor, honey-colored. Peeking in from outside through the glass walls, it seems to be almost entirely empty. You step inside, hoping to see more, but instead, everything is hidden behind the big desk blocking your path, and the security guard standing there, querying for your attention. So you don't have time to be nosy. After the guard asks about your business and does a search of your bag, you can go to the door on your left - a big, heavy, wooden door, all in the same warm honey color as the floor, with big glass panes in it. I think the entire embassy is glass and honey-colored wood.

All the passport renewal work is done past that heavy door in a reception room. When I was there, a man was holding his baby girl, dressed in overalls, in front of the counter, trying to get something sorted out. And there were two older women in a corner, seated on two black chairs. They were also trying to sort something out.

When we walked in, we were right behind a man in a suit, and another older man in a military uniform - not camouflage but those lieutenant outfits with a row of distinguished buttons and a name tag, but I didn't catch the name. So I'm not sure if the military man was Swedish or American.

The two men told the receptionist that they wanted to see Magnus. So Magnus was called down. Magnus came from somewhere else in the building and emerged into the glass corridor behind the reception room, where I would not be permitted. And then Magnus led the lucky men in suits and uniforms away and into the inner sanctum.

The receptionist was so nice. She had on a very beautiful silk yellow blouse and black jacket. And she alternated with a man dressed in a formal blue suit, and he was also so nice, and had such a nice smile.

I sat in one of the two white chairs right by the door. The man with the adorable baby girl was beside me now - he was waiting on his wife, who was soon finished. Behind us was a table with brochures. One was full of Pippi Longstocking pictures! It was advertising an exhibit. I was wondering where amongst those empty glass walls I could find the exhibit, but then I saw it was for the American-Swedish museum in Philadelphia.

When it was my friend's turn to get her photo/passport done, she just went into an alcove behind the reception. So you don't get to go anywhere special at all, even then. And there's just a curtain that separates you from everyone else. There's another nice lady back there, and she takes your photo and fingerprints.

The only further penetration I managed was by asking to use the bathroom, which I really did need to use - I wasn't making it up. You go back out the heavy door of the reception into the greater glass entrance hall. You leave an ID card with the guard at that entrance desk, who was now a woman. She writes down who you are, and then you can go down on the elevator. The elevator is in a glass shaft, so that's pretty cool to travel in. The ground floor with the entrance is on Level 2, and the bathroom is on Level 1. So you just go down one floor.

One Level 1, through the elevator glass, I could see a group of four people standing at the end of a large room, next to a table upon which was a spread of food. And there was a lovely river of rippling water - I guess more properly a fountain - that made shadows and brought light all the way along the edge of the room. Water against a dark basin.

But the elevator door opened the other way - so I couldn't see any more. I just saw the hallway with the bathrooms. At one end of the hall, black block letters were hung on the wall. They spelled out, "ALFRED NOBEL." I guess maybe that's the name they gave to the hall with the river.

The bathroom was very nice - very clean and black marble. Or maybe it was black granite.

Then I left the Embassy and sat outside it on the grass, where they have signs about protecting the Potomac from pollution and overfishing, and watched the flag soar in the breeze!

Outside the Embassy, they have a special Embassy bike parked to a bike rack!

The end.

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