Thursday, July 14, 2011

Finding a Notary Public

During my 13 years at TDS, I was fortunate enough to build up a nice little pension and in an effort to keep things organized for our retirement, Brian and I decided to move said pension with our other investment accounts. Simple enough we thought, but it's been a 4 month adventure to do so (and we're still not finished!).

My 401(k) transfer was a piece of cake - complete a form online and have the money sent to our Investment company and we're done. For some reason (aka legitimate legal safety precautions that I don't appreciate because I haven't needed them) I couldn't request my pension funds by email or phone, but had to submit the forms via the original paper. The additional headache is that they couldn't email me the forms to complete, but also had to send those via snail mail! Seriously?! I begged, pleaded, offered to sign a waiver and finally realized there was no choice but to do this the old fashioned way. Oh yeah, and one more wrinkle. For some reason, Brian is hesitant to have docs like these sent to our PO box here in Abu Dhabi. I haven't really figured out why - I mean, my trashy celebrity gossip magazines arrive just fine (okay a few weeks late, but hey, we're half way around the world) so why wouldn't my pension paperwork arrive safely as well? :) So, we had the added hassle of having to get the docs sent to Epic under Brian's name who then Fed Exes the teams' mail every week or so. Simple enough, but it took more than a month to arrive. Still, no big deal, not like I can touch that money or it makes any difference for a while.

Got the docs, got my portion signed and then realized that WI law requires Brian's signature to be notarized. Again, I understand there are some shady spouses out there and that this was just to protect his interests, but really? Where am I going to find a Notary Public in Abu Dhabi? Thank God for the internet once again. I found one in the Abu Dhabi Municipal courts and at the US Embassy, and since going to the Embassy is a pain (more on that later) and the AD Municipal court had evening hours, I decided to try that.

Wednesday evening and Brian gets me from work and we head to the court building. After explaining what we needed, we found the right office and waited outside for the woman at the desk to become available. About a 10 minute wait in all, so not too bad ... except she took one look at my documents and said, "these are in English?" "umm, yeah, in English"  "No, I cannot notarize in English, only Arabic"


Never occurred to either one of us that this might be an issue. Now, in hindsight I guess it makes sense. So back home we went to figure out Plan B.

Plan B was the US Embassy. I'd been to the Embassy before and as a result was not looking forward to this trip. The first inconvenience is that they only have service hours from 1-3pm Sun-Thu so we had to figure out a time that Brian could take off work. That settled, we headed out there one afternoon.

My problem with the US Embassy is the clash between what I expect to find and what is really there. For some reason, I expected the Embassy to be this nice, comfortable, welcoming place where they show pictures of the Grand Canyon, New England in the fall, lush corn fields of Iowa and the California coast to a soundtrack of John Denver and Lee Greenwood. A place where US citizens can get a decent  cup of coffee, get business conducted and renew their passports. Instead, it's a cold, formal utilitarian place that looks like a prison where UAE residents and expats go to get their visas. It's not welcoming in the least and you feel a bit like a criminal as you work your way through all the security to get in. Let's just say that the Embassy here doesn't do much to portray the US as a warm, welcoming, or friendly place to visit. ;)

Upon entrance you go through the metal detectors (like at the airport) and a security guard looks through your bag, makes you turn off and hand over your cell phone and lets you take in your wallet and any necessary paperwork the rest of the way. You're then 'wanded' by another security guard just to make sure you're not trying to smuggle anything in. Next, you walk outside through a brown, dry dessert 'garden' to the main building where another security officer has to buzz you in (you see why it doesn't feel so welcoming). You are then handed a number and asked to wait ... with the hundred other people waiting. Since they're only open for 2 hours each day, the place is always packed.

The good news is that the process to get Brian's signature notarized was pretty straightforward. The bad news was that it took more than an hour and cost us $50 USD! Can't you get things notarized at almost any bank for free back in the states? $50?! (sigh)

In any case, mission accomplished and now my pension paperwork is complete and on its way back to the US to be processed. And, I won't have to make another trip to the Embassy until later this fall when I'll need to renew my passport - can't wait! ;)

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