Chalk it up to motherly instincts. I was browsing in a favorite State College shop, Nittany Quill, which features cards, notepaper, and sealing wax for that almost-lost art of letter writing. The Union Jack graphic caught my eye. The words spoke to my heart: Keep Calm and Carry On.
In the midst of writing her senior thesis, Marina was applying to a number of grad schools in Great Britain. The Keep Calm slogan couldn’t be more apt. So I sent her a care package with a Keep Calm and Carry On journal, a couple plastic jars of bubbles and glow-in-the-dark baubles from the Dollar Store, and a few other odds and ends to help her and her friends de-stress during the months before graduation.
The thesis was written, the graduation happened, and Marina was accepted to the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Turns out that was the easy part. The difficulty has been in these last two months applying for a student visa through the United Kingdom Border Agency.  She is a U.S. citizen living and working in Brussels, Belgium, and wants to study in the UK…ah, there’s the rub!
We are finding the Brits are masters of bureaucracy, with a hefty dose of verification, documentation, and notarization. Look out 007.
I had to Express Mail a packet containing Marina’s original birth certificate (which cannot be copied according to our government) to prove that I am indeed her mother, along with various bank documents indicating that as her mother I have enough in my accounts to assure she won’t be penniless (or poundless) in London.
Her father had to search through her dresser and desk drawers at 440 Hottenstein to find herexpired passport and overnight it to Brussels.
Marina is living in Brussels, headquarters of the European Union, and she can’t get the necessary biometric scans of her face and fingers now required by UK of GB’s homeland security. (We did take a moment to laugh that this biometric verification technology sounds like something out of our favorite TV show from years ago, Alias.) Even the U.S. Embassy in Brussels couldn’t help. Our embassy only helps replace lost or stolen passports and visas, but does not help our citizens apply for them. “That is a matter between you and the British authorities.”
The hoops to jump through were intense. Would she really need to make a trip back to the U.S. just to get her visa to study in the UK, just a hop, skip and Chunnel ride away?
Well, as it turns out, she could also get the biometric scans in Paris. So, the other morning she boarded the Thalys in Brussels, zoomed to Paris for the scans, a haircut, and lunch at the foot of Montmartre, and was back in Brussels to put in a few hours at the office, and then meet friends for the opening of the Flower Carpet and fireworks at the Grand-Place. The moral of the story: When life gives you lemons, head to Paris for a great haircut? Laurie Lynch
Great Brit-History:In 1939, the government of the United Kingdom printed Keep Calm and Carry On posters to raise citizen morale in case of invasion.  Distribution of the poster was limited, and it wasn’t until 2000 that one was rediscovered in a second-hand bookstore, and re-issued by several private companies.
Roll out the Carpet:Every two years in Brussels’ major square, the Grand-Place, 650,000 to 750,000 begonia blossoms are woven into a magical carpet measuring 77 x 24 meters. This year’s carpet honors Africa.
Begonias, native to the West Indies, have been grown in Ghent since 1860. Surprisingly, at least to me, the tiny country of Belgium is the world’s largest producer of begonia tubers. The Flower Carpet floral masterpiece is ephemeral, lasting only five days. Marina visited for the opening ceremony Tuesday night and again today, and took the photos for this blog.
Yet to Come: The visa is in the processing stage…and Marina still has to find an apartment in London. Keep Calm. Keep Calm. Keep Calm.
Written on Slate:“I am the terror that flaps in the night, I am the slug that slimes your begonias.” –Darkwing Duck

One thought on “Fleur-de-BeCalm

  1. What a bizarre story! The birth certificate business, especially; one can order notarized copies of one's birth certificate from the State/County records (and should.) Hope she made it into the UK.

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