Noon, and I arrive at the foreign police office, hoping they're not closed for the noon hour.  I head through the door, and the woman at the front window motions me over.  I do the same Czech song and dance I've done each time, and she directs me to the same room I've been to three times before.

Another two sets of doors, and the fluorescent bulbs light on cluster after cluster of Vietnamese people waiting to see the various workers.  Interspersed are people of various European nationalities, and occasionally I hear an American.  I have no idea where the queue ends, and lean against a column.  Reading, I occasionally look up and observe one Vietnamese man who is acting as advocate; he efficiently navigates back and forth between the workers and those waiting, carrying passports and switching between Vietnamese and Czech in a heart beat.

My knees begin to give, and after multiple position changes, I shift to a seat along a bland wall.  As I read about ethnic identity development, I think of the countless immigrants in the USA and wonder how often they face such queues.  I wonder if they do the same that I'm doing, and rehearse the English (for me, Czech) in their head before the inevitable meeting.  An hour-and-a-half ticks by, and I feel my self-righteousness swelling.  I become defensive as I wonder if others are supplanting my rightful place in line.  As the author writes about Blacks joining with other Blacks for solidarity during self-culture discovery, I think of my American friends who live in the Czech Republic, and how well they could probably empathize with the waiting as I sit paralyzed, knowing that my visa will expire in two days, and not wanting to return to this industrial part of town any sooner than I must.

Eventually, the hour-and-a-half turns to two, then to three, and finally I am at the window--speaking Czech.  Soon the man tells me (in Czech) that he's going to get his colleague that speaks English, and I realize my privilege.  All around, I have heard bursts of accented English as people of various European and Asian backgrounds use my native language as the lingua franca.   Soon I receive the paper that will keep me from getting deported, and I'm off.  I exchange the fluorescent waiting area for a dimming sky which looks on as I wait for a tram.


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