Friday, August 28, 2015

Border Crossings

We are driving North again. For a variety of reasons, which may be the subject of further blogs, but for right now, the Summer 2016 RaT (Ralph and Tanya) multi-continent Tour began almost two weeks ago now. As I try to remember all the things I am forgetting, I thought I would blog, of course...

When crossing a border as anecdotally interesting as the US-Mexico border, there are particular things that cross one's mind in anticipation of the Big Moment. I say anecdotal because although we have heard stories, our experiences have been nothing but positive in all 6 cases where we have driven to or from Mexico. 

I anticipate inspections. On three crossings we brought a cat with us. Three times our vehicle was loaded to the headrests of our front seats. This last time was the first crossing as permanent residents. I always expect the car to be emptied. I look for things in our things that would raise eyebrows.

The cooler: We left Oaxaca with our little travel cooler for snacks and lunches for a few days. We had forgotten our ice packs at our friend Lisa's and left a large round tupperware at Wendy's, so this crossing we had an empty cooler with frozen ice packs and an empty large size tupperware container. We are OBVIOUSLY organ harvester/transporters, applying for permanent residency to have our trips go undetected. Watchlist candidates, in the very least.

Contraband: Pick one, any one. One trip I had four pair of sneakers/tennis shoes, three new, one old, two size 8, one size 8.5, one size 10. OBVIOUSLY there was contraband hidden under the insole. Rip the car apart.

Cigars: In spite of knowing the import rules (because I looked them up and printed them off and read them out loud), Ralph always has more than our allowance. Or Cuban cigars. OBVIOUSLY we have a cigar shop and we are trying to avoid paying duty on our commercial purchases. White collar crime crack down. Rip apart the van. Don't forget to look under the insoles of those shoes.
Sheer Volume: The first time we drove down we had a Suzuki Swift+. Hatchback. One Siamese cat. The car was packed full to the backs of the seats, the roof, tight to the windows and there was stuff in the footwell on the passenger seat. I thought there was no way we would be allowed through without inspection. The second time we had a Dodge Grand Caravan. Same scenario. We  OBVIOUSLY have something to hide. Needle in a haystack. Rip the car apart.

The reality: The first time they did not even come out to look at the car, or the cat. The second time I ask if they need to see the cat. (Much to Ralph's dismay, as I had to go looking for someone to ask!) The inspector looked through the window at the cat. Opened the trunk and my four new boxes of feminine hygiene products toppled out. He remarked we had a lot of stuff for six months. I remarked that I was a cook and not prepared to work with less than superior quality cooking tools. He told us to drive safe and have a nice trip. We were asked about our excess cigars and reminded that we were only allowed 20 per person, and the duty was ridiculous, 75% of the value, so we should really try to keep the numbers under the threshold, so they would not have to charge us. Of course, this "first time" there was no problem or requirement to pay. We have never been treated anything but politely, and this last drive up, although the process took 2.5 hours due to sheer volume of travelers, the officer at the immigration desk filled out all our forms for us, and made sure we understood the rules. 

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