“here we are: RUSSIA and ROMANIA walking around the halls of the National Lab”

Having spent over 10 years abroad in several different countries and continents, I’ve learned to be thick-skinned about any kind of treatment, but there are still things that amaze me sometimes.
While doing research in North America, my advisor (who is also a foreigner) and I finally had the opportunity to use a “fancy instrument” in one of the famous national labs.
As usual, since I’m coming from a former Communist country, I had to go through a security check before being admitted (for any kind of administration, cold war is still ongoing in their minds and instructions). As usual, they don’t think it’s important to let me know that they approved my application, not until I bother them several times. All of this was part of the routine and I already got used to it. It took me several months to get my single entry student visa, I skipped one semester of graduate school because of this, and I have not left the country for over 4 years because my vacation is only 2 weeks long and I can’t wait for a few months to get a new visa (which also requires traveling several hundred kilometers from my hometown to get to the nearest consulate). I thought nothing could surprise me.
Finally, my advisor and I are at the National Lab. The security department is issuing our visitor cards. Our names are printed on a card in small letters and are kind of hard to read from the distance. By contrast, the names of our counties of origin are printed in gigantic, super-bold capital letters on a glaring red background. So here we are: “RUSSIA” and “ROMANIA”, walking around the halls of the National Lab. Not everyone can read my name on a badge, but everyone can easily see where I come from. I’m not the person, I’m the state.

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