From reader Sarah, I heard the story of Dutch writer Niels Gerson Lohman who describes what happened to him as he was trying to enter the US from Canada by train. He had spent the year traveling all over the world and had hoped to end the trip by visiting New Orleans, a city that his father had spoken of fondly. But the US Customs and Border Protection people had other ideas. After a lengthy questioning and searching of his belongings on the train, they then took him off it so that the train left without him and took him into a corrugated tin shed.
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.
He was told that he could not enter the country and had to go back into Canada. His crime? After looking at all the countries that his passport had showed him passing through (some of which were Muslim-majority) this is what the US immigration officials told him: “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.”
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.
We really know how to make friends, don’t we?