Like a child on her first day of school, my aunt walked me up to the formidable grey building. The slick stone wall is engraved with the words ‘EMBASSY TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’. There is a length of velvet roping sectioning off a clearly marked pathway to the door. Standing between me and the door is a severe looking security guard. He glared and watched as we approached. His arms were crossed over his broad chest.
I handed over my passport, and looked up at him nervously. I felt like a kid trying to get past a bouncer. He nodded, and muttered something into a walkie talkie. I entered trough the thick doors as tourists walking past stared. I was led to another security guard, who stared me down with a similar glare.
I handed over my cell phone, iPod, and my headphones. He put them in a special cubby. I would get them back when I was ready to leave. My first-world brain panicked for a second. What would I do without my phone?
Wanting to kick myself, I walked through a metal detector and over to a big window, behind which sat a Marine in full uniform. He stared at me through the glass. I smiled weakly and slid my passport under a slot in the window. He slid back a red pass reading ‘Visitor. Escort Required.’
I was given a tour of the building, as well as taken through the different floors meeting people. I shook hands and introduced myself. The more people I met the more I was struck by how everyone working in the Embassy had such a wide variety of skill sets and backgrounds, the incredible breadth of education being used. If you were a math major, you could find work at the Embassy. If you were a foreign language major, there was a place for you. Communications, Sociology, Political Science, Management, Media Science, Journalism, everything under the sun was represented in the people I came in contact with.
In the afternoon I took an art tour of the Embassy with some of the other interns. The Embassy is chockfull of exciting art, including a piece by Andy Warhol dusted with diamond dust, and four Jackson Pollocks. This was not something I had expected, and it seemed to me to be a little bit of a shame that these incredible works of art were there in the building but only for those who could get past security to see.
I ended my day with an interesting and informative WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) presentation. This presentation went over what we should do in the case of an attack using WMDs. This does not mean bombs or guns; the building is well equipped to deal with those, but rather in the event of specialized biological attacks. Mustard gas or anthrax, for example. Working in such a high-risk environment puts you in a potentially dangerous situation, or rather as the presenter put it; as soon as you put an American flag on a building, you may as well be painting a big target on the side of that building.
After learning how to use the nerve agent neutralizer syringes, I appreciated the surly security guards a little more. After all, they had everyone in the building’s best interests at heart. When I left for the day to take the S-Bahn back to the apartment, I grinned at the guard standing outside and told him to have a good night. He nodded back at me and glared.