To America

The land of the free and home of the brave waited for us. We hopped on the surprisingly very nice Greyhound towards the United States at 10:00pm from Monterrey, planning to arrive at 6:00am in San Antonio. Given these hours, you can imagine we fell asleep, and awoke to the driver doling out instructions to us in Spanish as we stumbled off the Greyhound at 2:00am at Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Apparently, we had made it to the United States without ever getting stamped out of Mexico. Oops. We promised in our last post that we will return to Mexico, but given this bureaucratic lapse, we’ll see if we will be allowed to. We joined the queue of similarly sleep-deprived travellers and waited to be processed and scanned by the officers.

Our experience with CBP differed- a lot. We went to two separate officers in the line. The officer scanning Emily’s passport briefly flipped through the many stamps in it, asked questions about our trip, and waved her through. She got her luggage scanned but didn’t receive an entry stamp. During the immigration check at a stop twenty or so miles down the road, the officer inspecting her passport didn’t seem to care too much. It seemed that the Canadian passport offered a kind of “relaxed” deal, and nobody seemed to care too much about a Canadian wandering around the United States without any real itinerary.  On the other hand, Laurent got the full “Welcome to Trumpland” treatment.

The last time Laurent was harassed and got his privacy violated to such an extent was when he visited the DPRK last year. The fact that North Korean officials would have no problem going through personal belongings, checking photos stored on a camera and files on a phone didn’t surprise Laurent at the time, but that the US would do the exact same thing to him came as a bummer. After the officer got suspicious due to the many stamps in his passport, Laurent had to explain the reason of visiting of every single country in his passport. That seemed excessive, but not too unfair. However, it went only downhill from there. The particularly thick CBP official that interrogated Laurent, who for a guy working on the border with Mexico had shocking lack of knowledge on Central American geography (no clue where Honduras was), took Laurent’s phone. He then proceeded to go through his Facebook, Whatsapp, Email, Instagram, Photos, Music, and Wechat accounts, while making notes on account details. Even though it was only 3:00am, Laurent got properly agitated, when he was told rudely to back off when he peeked over the official’s shoulder to see what he was doing. So unnecessary. And adding a cherry to the pie, this loony asked if Laurent had been to Cuba (completely irrelevant), after Laurent showed a photo of the Lonely Planet page with hotels in San Antonio, one of which is called Hotel Havana. Laurent showed this page to the officer, because he was asked about where he was planning to stay in San Antonio. He was stupid, ignorant and rude, and we would be lying if we told you that some stereotypes of Americans were not confirmed 5 minutes after entering. We should probably mention that the entire bus was waiting for Laurent and his thick CBP officer for about two hours as these checks were underway.

Well, we concluded, at least things can only go up from here.