Yesterday we made an essential trip to the American Consulate office in San Pedro Sula (3 or more hours drive each way, from Gracias) to start the renewal process on some of the family passports. Children's passports are renewed every 5 years (until age 16), adult passports come due every ten years. In the next few months, Bethany, Rachel and Gus' passports were expiring, as well as mine. Happily, Rachel and Gus are both old enough to receive 10 year passports this time (which are no more expensive than the five year version). So, in five years only Bethany will need a new passport.
So, with the cost of passports, photos, gas and fast food, we spent a quick $500 we don't really have, but of course this wasn't an optional expense, so we'll just tighten the belts a bit more, until finances get back to a more even keel. (Things are tight financially everywhere, and we're no exception to this rule!)
Happily, except for the money, this was an uneventful trip - but it was a close call! The consulate is only open three afternoons each week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), for 3 hours each day, and they have had more people to help than they've had time to serve them. When we arrived, an hour before the consulate was due to open, there was already a long line of people in front of us. Then, there were also a few people who arrived with a previous appointment, because they'd been turned away on earlier days.
Numbers were passed out at the door; we were number 19. Number 11 was called up first. After 20 minutes, Allen started to worry. He had already done the math, and realized that if every applicant needed 20 minutes (or more), they wouldn't likely get to us before closing time. In fact, the first person in line worked with the consulate official for over an hour! Things were looking quite unlikely for us to get in before closing. We were already discussing our Plan B, in case we couldn't be seen yesterday. Driving home and back is huge, but staying over for two nights in a hotel (there were 6 of us there: Allen and I, Rachel, Gus and Boo, plus David), and eating restaurant food, was an expensive option.
Happily, not everyone's business took as long as the first group, and we reached the front of the line with about 20 minutes until closing. The official immediately said there was no way he could complete 4 passport renewals in 20 minutes, but he went ahead and started in, knowing he'd be stuck staying late in order to finish our paperwork.
One part of the passport renewal process is placing an order for the express mailing of the new passports, and this has to be paid at the bank, on the first floor of the same building. Allen grabbed that paperwork, and ran down to the bank before it closed, while I juggled photos and birth certificates and such at the consulate. We finished all four applications 25 minutes after the office should have closed - we are so grateful to the consulate office for being kind enough to handle this in spite of the timing - but we felt bad for others, some of whom had come from a great distance as well, who will have to come back to the office again to complete their business.
Thanks to all who pray for us, without always knowing what craziness we might be experiencing. We are always very grateful to have a safe and successful trip such as this behind us!