Live from Istanbul, Sweden

I had become accustomed to thinking that there is nothing in my life worse than dealing with Turkish bureaucracy. But then I encountered something even more frightening: Turkish bureaucracy in Sweden! Combine the macho inefficiency of Turkey with the macho inflexibility of Sweden and Viola! You have the recipe for one of the most frustrating experiences of your life.

So, as we had announced a few weeks ago, Julie and I are selling Caravansarai (the business and the building.) In an awesome example of bad timing, I picked September 24th as the date I was going to move to Stockholm. But before I can start to actually live in Stockholm, I am doing a residency of my own in Xiamen, China for three months. I only give these personal details as a way to explain how I found myself in the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm a mere 20 hours after I left Turkey.

In the past months leading up to our final exhibition and my imminent departure, I had forgotten to give Julie the authority (invested by the Turkish government) to sell my shares of the Caravansarai business in my absence. That gives me exactly 3 days to take care of this little, piddling piece of bureaucracy before I head to China. “No problem”, my lawyer says.

I’m not sure if the agent who authorizes power of attorney was constipated, or hates women wearing green coats, or Americans with red hair and green eyes and small hands, or didn’t like the way I spoke Turkish, or what. All I know is that at some point in our interaction it because clear that this man did not like me and that would cause a “Big Problem”.

He seemed on my side as I explained in Turkish what I wanted to do. He told me, “We only do that in the morning.” Which is sort of funny because their consular service hours are 9-12 in the morning and then again from 2-3 in the afternoon. We arrived promptly at 2 in the afternoon with the expectation that we would probably have to come back in the morning. And as we all sat there, waiting for the agents to arrive at the windows, the clock ticked away. Finally, at 2:21, one agent approached the window. He took a customer. Then another agent called another number five minutes later and quickly told those customers to take a hike. After them, we were called up.

So I am supposed to come back the next morning. But what am I supposed to bring with me for this very simple procedure? I considered that a pretty reasonable question in my position. He asks me, “Are you Swedish?” I say ‘No, I’m American”. “The partner you are giving the power to, is she Turkish?” “No, she is also American”, I reply. A small groan from the guy. I start to feel nauseous.
“Let me see your passport.”

Keep in mind that throughout this entire time, we have been speaking Turkish. He then asks me, “Can you understand Turkish”. And I reply that yes, we have been speaking Turkish to each other for the past five minutes. But then he decides he is going to test me, so he grabs the paperwork of the previous customer and asks me what it says. First of all—major violation of that person’s privacy! Because, guess what? I can understand what it says. Fortunately for that Turkish citizen,whose documents I was asked to read, the sentence he chose only said that all of the things recounted in the succeeding paragraphs are first hand accounts of.and told by, the person himself. So I told the agent that. And he said, “No, how do you say it in Turkish!” And I pointed out to him that that sentence IS already in Turkish and I was telling him what it says in English—the only other language I can speak relatively well. He snatched away the story of the poor, violated Turkish Citizen and asked me, “Can you speak any other languages?”

At this point, I realized that he did not believe I had the ability to understand the power of attorney document written in Turkish. And probably, I couldn’t. Who understands legal jargon in any language? He then told me to go and have something or other translated in Swedish (huh? I don’t speak Swedish) and then notarized and bring it back in the morning.

We just came back in the morning and hoped we would get another agent. And we did! But after explaining to her in Turkish what we wanted, she summoned the guy we had the day before! And he was just as grumpy. But this time, Arni (my husband) had strategized that he would use his Icelandic charm. I still am unsure what that means theoretically, but in practice, it meant that he told Arni he was not going to help us and that we could just take the document written in Turkish by our lawyer to a notary public and have my signature notarized. But without any explanation of why and what we were to do then. He said, in Swedish, “We are finished here, I am not going to help you.”

At the notary public we found out that we needn’t have ever subjected ourselves to the abuse of the Turkish-Swedish bureaucrat because all we needed for this procedure was an Apostille. Thank you Hague Conference on Private International Law and thank you Maria Lindkvist and Mikael Bratt, Notaries Public, for providing your little oasis of civilization and sanity as contrast against the pathetic, dismal display of consular ‘service’.