Happy Solstice, good Kwanzaa, felicitous Festivus and Merry Christmas (Chanukah is past for this year).
The holiday weekend has begun, only a vice-consul’s work is never done. One part of my job is American Citizen Services, which is usually easy stuff like renewing passports and helping folks with voting, but every now and then an AmCit gets himself (or herself) in trouble with local authorities and I’m called, even if the Embassy is closed for the Holidays.
You should know two things:
- You have a right to see the American Consul if you are arrested in another country and
- We can’t get you out of jail
Most people understand 1 from seeing someone asking to speak with the American consul in some movie or TW, show, but they’re confused about 2.
What can we do?
We’ll see you within 48 hours of arrest (usually much sooner). We’ll give you a list of local lawyers who will take the cases of Americans. We’ll make sure you’re not being abused while you are held, and ensure you’re being fed and have access to any medications you need. We’ll contact friends and family you want us to (and not contact those you don’t). If you are destitute, we can even loan you some money for food and medications. So long as you are in jail or prison, we’ll visit regularly to check on your condition and bring reading materials if you’d like.
But we can’t get you out…sorry…that’s between you, your lawyer, and the local country’s judicial system.
Nevertheless, here I am in the office on a day that’s a Federal holiday. Because that’s why you pay us “the big bucks.”
Don’t ever get yourself in the situation where you need our help for this reason, but if you want to check out the details before traveling, here they are: travel.state.gov.
Now, on to the streaming video. Up until now, high speed Internet in Benin wasn’t, In theory you could get it, but the cost was excessive, so we all settled for various verisions of medium speed Internet which would allow audio Skyping but could take 12 hours to download a TV show.
That all just changed. There’s a new wireless Internet system here that works through the cell phone system and provides download (glory be!) fast enough to stream video. I mean, I did it this morning! And after you buy the receiver which plugs into the USB 2.0 port (it looks like a big thumb drive) for about $90 service is about $30 a month, less if you buy in advance.
And the world gets smaller.
Next on the agenda – video Skype!