October 23, 2013
I have been cursed at a Chinese border. In Dubai, my passport was studied by three veiled women for over an hour and my suitcase completely dismembered. In the Philippines I had to bribe someone in order to get my visa extended for a few days. Borders, they can be tough, especially in countries known for corruption.
But never, ever, will I return to the United States of America.
– Excerpt from a must read article by Niels Gerson Lohman
Recently, one of my best friends from college had a horrific experience at the Canadian border. He told me he would write about his experience and allow me to post it on this site, so I hope to have that up in the near future. In the meantime, please take the time to read the story of Niels Gerson Lohman, a Dutch writer, designer and musician who had such a horrific experience at the border he has vowed to never return to these United States. This is an utter embarrassment and reminds me a lot of one of the more popular posts ever on this site: Why I’m Leaving America by Michael Fielding.
From the Huffington Post:
After a year of traveling, I had planned a last, short trip. I was going to take the train from Montreal to New Orleans. The travels I had been undertaking earlier this year had brought me to places that were meant to form the background of my second novel.
This trip, however, was for my dad. He, a trumpet player, loved New Orleans and had died a year ago. It felt like the first sensible trip I undertook this year. I had been searching for ways to forget about the last hours at his deathbed. He had been ill for 15 years and his body just would not give up. It was a violent sight. I had decided the trip to New Orleans would put an end to those memories.
The customs officer walked by and asked everybody on the train a few questions. Where they were from, where they were heading. The usual stuff. Everybody who was not a U.S. or Canadian citizen was to head for the dining car to fill in an additional green form.
I had not finished my novel yet, but my passport was complete. It was filled with pretty stamps. He did not like the stamps.
First, he saw my Sri Lankan stamp. The customs officer raised his eyebrows.
“Sri Lanka, what were you doing over there?”
“Surfing. Traveling. My best friend lives there. He is an architect.”
The officer flipped on, seemingly satisfied. Secondly, he found my stamps from Singapore and Malaysia.
“What were you doing over there? Singapore and Malaysia? Aren’t those countries Islamic?”
Looking over my shoulder, his eyes searched for his colleague’s confirmation.
“Malaysia, I think so, yeah. But not Singapore. It’s a melting pot. A very futuristic city. Airconditioned to the ceiling. To Singapore I went mostly for the food, to be honest.”
“Nothing. And how about Malaysia?”
I explained flights departing from Malaysia were cheaper compared to Singapore. That I only went there for a few days, but also, a little bit, for the food. The customs officer went through some more pages. Then he found my Yemeni visa. He put my passport down and stared at me.
“What the hell were you doing in Yemen?”
“I went to the island Socotra, it’s not on mainland Yemen. It’s a small island closer to Somalia. A very special place, some call it ‘Galapagos of the Middle East.’ I think 85 percent of the plants and animals there, are indigenous.”
In the five hours that followed, I was questioned twice more. During the first round I told, amongst others, my life’s story, about my second novel’s plot, gave my publisher’s name, my bank’s name and my real estate agent’s name. Together we went through all the photos on my laptop and messages my phones had been receiving for the past months. They wrote down the names of everybody I had been in touch with. In my pirated software and movies they showed no interest.
“So… what’s the verdict?”
“We are under the impression you have more ties with more countries we are not on friendly terms with than your own. We decided to bring you back to the Canadian border.”
They brought me back. In the car, no words were said. It was no use. I was defeated. To the Canadian border they said:
“We got another one. This one is from the Netherlands.”
Yep, you got him alright cowboy. Thanks for embarrassing an entire nation.
The Canadian officer looked at me with pity. She asked if there was anything I needed. I said I could use some coffee and a cigarette. She took my passport to a back room and returned within five minutes, carrying an apologetic smile, a freshly stamped passport, coffee, a cigarette, and a ticket to the next bus back to Montreal.
This ladies and gentlemen, is what we have become.
Full article here.