Consular services

Dec 22nd, 2009 | By | Category: International

A Facebook friend has joined a fan group for the United States’ Consulate in Belfast.  Intriguing that a Consulate should have a fan group; visions arose of crowds gathered in the street waving and cheering and getting very excited every time a car arrived or left. The Consulate’s Facebook page explains what the group is for:

Welcome to the U.S Consulate in Belfast, Northern Ireland. America has had a consular presence in Belfast since 1796. Please become a fan for updates on our many services and activities that support peace, prosperity and cultural exchange.

‘Peace, prosperity and cultural exchange’ – you can’t ask for much more than that, even the United Nations can’t do those.

Sometimes, though, driving along Ailesbury Road, the embassy district in leafy Dublin 4, the odd doubt arises as to whether all these buildings and their staff are really necessary.  What do they do all day?  There are only so many cocktail parties one can bear, and there can’t, surely, be so many non-nationals arrested by An Garda Siochana that junior staff are constantly being dispatched to visit cells.

Foolishly accepting advice back in June, that brochettes bought at a roadside stall in Burundi were quite safe to eat, two days later in Rwanda, I was being bundled into a jeep to be driven to a clinic in Kigali.   “If the doctor we use is not there, you must drive him to the Belgian embassy”, the driver was told.

I wanted to object that I was a British national, and that the Belgians would not want to see me, and that if I was going to be repatriated I wanted Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to be sorting things out, but the nausea was so severe that I was afraid to lift my head.

Helped into the clinic, the doctor was mercifully there, ‘we must do some blood tests’.

‘But it’s from the brochettes’, I feebly protested.

Tests for various tropical diseases ensued.  (My wife, calling from Dublin, was told I was being tested for typhoid, and posted this on Facebook, only for people to be disappointed when it was nothing so nearly exotic).

The doctor looked sternly over the test results.  “You have microbes”.


“You have food poisoning.  What have you eaten?”


“That was very foolish”.

“It was”.

A lengthy prescription was written and I was accompanied back to the jeep.

I never found out what would have happened had I been taken to the Belgian embassy.  I feared I might have to use my French, (which is so bad that I had told a Rwandan pastor that I had once been a student in Uganda, a country I have never visited in my life).

A friend suggested that it was not that they would have provided care, but that they would have known the best doctor to whom I should be directed.  This was reassuring; the thought of vomiting over some second secretary had not been inviting.

Perhaps fans of the US consulate in Belfast would receive similar wise advice. “A bad kebab? We know the doctor who is just the man for you”.

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