Friday, July 6, 2007

Crossing into the United States

We crossed back into the United States last week after four months in Guatemala and Mexico. Unlike most people the cross the border, we had all the necessary passports and paperwork. Everywhere we travelled on our trip we had run into people that had crossed into the US illegally, sometimes as many as 15 times. For some it was a weeklong treck through the desert. Other people said it was a 30 minute hike to a shuttle bus. I guess it depends on your contacts.

With proper paperwork the experience was a horrible. Many travellers that I have talked to agree that the United States is the most unpleasant and unwelcoming border that they have ever been too. Lara has a British passport, which means she needs to get fingerprinted and retina scanned. This involved walking over to a crowded office and waiting for about 90 minutes until a grumpy man gave her a form to fill out. In filling out the form she accidentally wrote her birth date on the wrong line, so she crossed it out and wrote in the correct place. When she got back to the man he circled the correction with a big red pen and said "You made an error. I need you to fill out this form again, correctly!".

"In my country the customs officials are clever enough to figure out corrections", was my reply. Fortunately it was my inside voice speaking.

As Lara was filling out her form a second time a group of Japanese tourists who had come in realized that they hadn't taken a number. The customs agent decided to help them out of order rather then make them wait like everybody else. Unfortunately, they lacked a common language and for the next half hour we waited with our completed forms for the agent to finish abusing the Japanese tourists.

After a little more then two hours Lara finally got fingerprinted and retina scanned and allowed into the United States.

Now we know why so many people swim across the Rio Grande!

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