Monday, October 04, 2004

9 Days in a Week
from the mind of  Evan Kruse.

This last week, I had a 9 day week. How's that? Well, flying back from Japan at the right time of day makes for a week that consists of M T W T F S F S. I took off from Osaka on Saturday, crossed the Int'l Dateline before midnight bumping it back to Friday then changing to Saturday again a few hours later.

So, with a week that is so much longer than normal (18 hours longer, I think) one would think that more could be accomplished in that week. So, in order to do this, I thought I would take the opportunity to pay attention to the 3 different border control and customs agents that I would encounter. I from my observations, I can claim three things. 1) people wishing to do harm to the US should enter from the east instead of the west. 2) Canada practices racial profiling. 3) US border agents are serious about their jobs compared to the other countries' counterparts.

1) The searches I encountered going from Japan to Canada (My flight went from Kansai Airport to Vancouver to Portland.) was non existent. Now, I'm sure I don't look like a terrorist, but I had all of my stuff that I had over there for a year. I'm sure that some of the odd camera equipment or hard drives (not attached to computers) should have thrown up flags. The only extra checks that I endured was my film, which I requested to be checked by hand. In Japan, they didn't even swab the film, they just opened up the ziplock bag and kind of looked at it. I think that Japan would be an easy place to come into N. America with naughty pieces.

2) As I was coming off of the plane in Vancouver, I was on a plane with 3 main 'groups' of people. Japanese, English speaking white people and French speaking white people. From what I could see, there was only one person on the plane that didn't fit that description. When he showed his passport to the initial border guards, they grilled him. I tried to see what his passport said, but I think that he was from Russia (I think I saw a 'RUS' on one of his documents. He looked to be from the area near the 'Stans' in the southern part of the country. All guesses on my part, I must add.) Boy, oh boy, did he get grilled. If it had been in the US, and the ACLU had seen that, I'm sure that the guard would lose his job. Or more. Not one single Japanese looking or 'American looking' person was even asked one question. We just held up our passports and cruised right along. All I have to say is, good for those border guards.

3) Even though they were practicing things that are 'illegal' but valuable in the US fight against domestic terror, all in all, their border controls are much more smiley and much less serious than the US border controls. In Vancouver, there are actually 2 sets of customs and border guards. This allows all people flying into the US to be pre-cleared by customs which simplifies the process once the traveler arrives in the US. So, side by side, I got to compare the two experiences. The US agents asked everybody very stern and serious questions, where the Canadian agents engaged me in small talk. The Canadian agents did employ a swab test to my film and camera equipment, but no further searches were done. In a way, it was a little disappointing to see so little attention paid to me. I had many interesting things in my bag that I thought would set off flags for the screeners, but it wasn't so. So, either the screening equipment is very thorough or the security is relaxed. They did not give an image of being a tough security environment.

So, I'm back in the USA. It's good to be home. Travel is educational, and living abroad can be even more so, but the best part of going away is always coming home. I love my country.


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