(Subtitled: When the guy with the semi-automatic weapon tells you there's nothing to worry about)
So, as previously mentioned, I'm doing some odds and ends in the capital city for the expats down at the hospital- a 9 hour drive away. Today, my task was to go to the US Embassy to have copies of some US driver's licenses certified. this is one of the documents needed when you submit your paperwork in search of a Gabonese drivers license. I had actually been to the embassy last week for the same thing but, due to an all-too-common communications mix-up, found out that this couldn't be done without having the original on hand. Bummer. Thankfully, a colleague was driving up from the hospital a few days later and was able to bring the originals up.
So, today, with the copies AND originals in hand, I made my way back to the embassy.
The embassy is located in downtown LBV, on a busy corner. They are planning to move from this location to have a newer, more secure facility. For the time being they have a high concrete and steel gated fence surrounding the complex and concrete barriers providing a buffer zone beyond the wall.
To enter the embassy, you must show a piece of identity, like a passport or residence card, to verify that you are a US citizen. This initial check is done at a window along one of the exterior walls. Once verified, you enter a room where you empty your pockets for a security check. Your stuff goes through the scanner and you walk through the metal detector.
Today, this all went well. The surreal moment happened just after exiting the metal detector when I saw an embassy worker, who was an acquaintance (let's call him "Kevin"), walk into the room with his hands full. We greeted one another and chatted briefly. When he asked how our family is doing, I said "fine" but Alace and I are a little concerned about the upcoming elections. He conveyed that it is a situation that the embassy continues to monitor, but feels there's not going to be anything to worry about. As we started to part ways, I caught a glance of one of the items Kevin was toting around with him. You guessed it- slung over Kevin's shoulder and hanging at his side was a semi-automatic weapon! Back in the 'hood, we used to call those things "street sweepers".
I couldn't help smiling as I collected my things from the security scanner belt and moving onto the consular's section of the embassy. Here's a man, whom I've never seen carrying a firearm, toting a semi-automatic weapon and telling me that I have nothing to worry about regarding upcoming national events in the country. Hmm...
So, please join me in praying for the country. Pray for peaceful elections and wisdom in our decisions.