Saturday, May 9, 2009

Doesn't everyone carry machetes in their suitcase?

Found a group blog post at Bearshapedsphere where folks are sharing their best customs story and since we've had our share of chuckles with customs officials I decided to jump in.

After spending a year in Uganda, we were heading home. 9/11 had happened during our stay overseas so we knew to expect some heightened security. Ha! We were clueless...

The easiest part was leaving Uganda. Although the customs official who x-rayed our bags (those we checked through) was considerably puzzled by the several large panga knives. "Are you going camping?" he asked us. "No." "Oh, you are going to garden!" he guessed. "No." "You are clearing land for a house?" he tried one last time. "No. They're to give as gifts, souvenirs," we explained. He looked confused but let us through.

We'd grown accustomed to men carrying big guns while living in Uganda (almost every store had a security guard with a big gun) but it was a shock to see men in uniforms with big guns all over every airport during our trip back to the U.S.

In Brussels my daughter's purse was emptied because they noticed something that looked suspiciously like scissors while scanning her carry-on. It was her eyelash curler which we know is wicked dangerous in the wrong hands.

Our luggage was all bulging with an excess of items and also a little the worse for wear so the hubby had literally goat-roped it all shut. It's called goat rope because its primary use is to tether the goats but it is simply a strong handmade sisal rope, usually in lengths of two or more yards. He'd basically used enough to weave a netting around the suitcases so they wouldn't bust or fall open. I'm not sure what customs at Heathrow thought, but they cut the ropes off one of the suitcases whereupon it immediately fell apart and I lost one of my favorite sandals. Not sure if anything else was missing because I hadn't made a comprehensive packing list. I think once they saw the condition of that suitcase and its pitiful contents, they determined the remainder of our bags posed no threat.

In the end we made it home with almost everything. One suitcase even arrived before we did after being lost in the bowels of Heathrow for the two weeks we visited friends in Ireland. But that's a story in and of itself.

We have other stories, especially the big one about getting our container through customs when we moved here last year. But the memories are still too fresh and painful and we just can't talk about it yet without getting emotional. The side stitches hurt too much to re-visit that experience. Another time.

Meanwhile if you'd like to read other, much funnier, stories about dealing with the customs officials of the world, stop by Bearshapedsphere.


sara said...

my favorite story here in the US: my mom came to visit a year ago. i have the silver services from both of my grandparents. Well, my mom decided she'd like to take one home (it matched hers). So, we rolled it all up in the brown cloth, each fork and knife in it's own slot and tied them up....12 of each. and I assumed she put it in her check luggage. I dropped my mom at the airport and left her to go through security. About 35 min. later, she called me and was so excited "Sara, you are just not going to believe how interested the people in security were with my silver. They unwrapped each one and just ooo'd and aaaah'd over them!!!" "mom, What?! you took the silver in your CARY ON?! AND they let you through with 12 knives and forks?!!!" About that time she realized what really happened. "mom, do NOT leave security on your layover in Dallas!!! and do NOT tell anyone you have that!!"

too funny...ya, they took away my lip gloss, but let my mother go through with 24 potential weapons!!! go figure!

riTa Koch said...

Great stories!
Not much time to comment, the grands are running around chasing e/ other. It's dangerous! No machetes, though.

Eileen said...

Thanks for contributing, and the link to your blog is live. We do have fun, don't we? The goat rope reminds me of my sister's duct-taped duffel bags on her way back from living in Israel. That was years ago, though, and they let her through. Which is good, because she didn't have any spare duct tape with her.

And sara, your silver story is great. Want to blog it and I'll link to you?

Happy trails to all.

Katie said...

All of your anecdotes were great - I especially liked the goat rope. ;) I can only imagine the nightmares you went through in getting a container past customs in Argentina. I think about the grief they put me through just to retrieve a tiny package...

Skoots1moM said... could certainly write a memoir of travel happenings...what a blessing to be such a world traveler :)