Saturday, February 22, 2014

On the Road Again

This week I had the chance to mix things up a little with a 3-day consular outreach trip to counties Kerry and Cork. While the day-to-day demands of consular work keep me in the office most of the time, we took advantage of a mid-term break in the Irish schools to take our show on the road.

While most adults can renew their passports by mail, by law all minors must appear in person with their parents before a consular officer. For our clients this normally means piling the whole family in the car or on the train, traveling several hours to Dublin, and possibly paying to stay overnight if there's not enough time to get there and back in a day. Not the most convenient thing in the world. So, at least once a year, we head out to one of the more distant parts of the island to take applications, do notary services, and answer questions for our American citizens. The consular officer comes to them for a change. It was a whirlwind trip, and I think a very successful one. We got a lot of work done and everyone was very pleased to see us. I only wish we had the time and the staff to do these more often.

In addition to being my first consular road trip, it was my first time driving on the left side of the road. I was more than a little nervous about this, but it turned out not to be as big a deal as I was afraid it would be. When there are other cars around you can use them to figure out where you're supposed to be, and when there aren't any other cars around it doesn't much matter. The hardest part for me was sitting on the right side of the car; all of my instincts on where mirrors and shifters are were completely wrong, and I kept drifting left in the lane because I'm so used to being on the other side. Driving a giant boat of a sedan did not help, especially on Kerry's narrow winding roads. But in 12 hours of drive time I only clipped a mirror once, so I'm willing to call that a win.

Now that I know I can drive in Ireland without unduly endangering myself and others, I'm thinking of taking more road trips for fun. The downside of all this productivity was not really getting to see anything but paperwork, hotel rooms, and vague blurs of passing scenery through the windshield: a shame, because there's so much more worth seeing.

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