Border Control

†     Passing the Northern border in Corozal is always a touch and go experience. You never know if you will get stopped and asked unnecessary questions, and even after all the hoopla and youíve touched Mexican soil, those guys manning the border with their scary guns tend to instill a bit of fear in you. I had the pleasure of spending a night with some friends who decided to take us out to the movies. Belizeís version of theater is one in his or her jammies, with a pirated DVD of either dark images with silhouettes of people walking up and down and across the screen, or the more expensive one that has been edited and cleaned, but unfortunately shows up two months after the release in theaters. Some things we just have to live without. But when the opportunity presents itself, an actual theater is a treat.

    †Naturally the movies were in a mall. Heh! Show a girl a mall and she will drain your wallet. I proceeded to pick up items I love and canít find for cheap, if at all, and was actually a very good girl. I only got the bare necessities. When cereal works out to cost less than $5 BZ dollars, itís good to grab a nice big box of it! Just one. No need to drop all that hard earned cash out of the country.

    Thatís the thing. The entire time I was browsing the mall, with that feverish, glazed look in my eyes, I still kept thinking, do I really need this? Donít we have our own brand of that? What is the cost in Belize dollars? (At this point Iíd proceed to whip out the cell phone and use the calculator Ėamazed at the actual value). I came up with a budget, and stuck to it at just under $3. As a responsible Belizean, the last thing I want to do is spend more than I have to outside of my country. Not that anyone gives a flying f&^%. It seems everyone is happy to take their hard earned cash and throw it out the borders. But, thatís another story for another day.




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    After all that lovely shopping and movie watching (Spanish cartoons no less), and of course, the requisite Mexican beers, it was time to go back home. The drive was uneventful up until we hit the Belize border. What a rude reception that was! A very curt (and obviously sleepy) patrolman hustled us off the car, insisting we take all our bags to declare. Sure, no problem. That is the way to go, make sure no-one is carrying anything illegal. Right?

    Wrong!

    We didnít have to open our bags; we didnít have to bring out the receipts of purchase. We did nothing, except hand over our money.

    Thatís right. We walked over to a nice gentleman who apologized profusely for his supervisorís behavior, and explained he was ordered to write out a receipt for a set amount, which, please, could we hand over? We did, because of course, what else do you do in a situation like that? The thought of spending the night dealing with such crap at the border wasnít too tempting. (Have I mentioned I am pure chicken?)

    I am ALL for legalities, and ensuring that prohibited items are tracked. But when itís an outright money-making scam, I beg to differ. I wonder how many more people had been scammed that night. Everyone complains that they have to open all their bags and declare any number of things, and often times the least suspect of items get confiscated. The joke is that whatever the customs officer needed that week was what got pulled. We left the border unscathed, with only a couple coffers missing from our pockets, but man, were we steamed!

    All that I could think of was that here were these people who had no enjoyment of life or their work, using their job description to eke out whatever bit of power they can. Itís all about the power. Ministers and CEOís (who can bloody well afford to pay duty), are granted bureaucratic immunity to import any number of prohibited substances, yet a regular (read: poor and hard-working) Belizean has to put up with inflated prices, monopolies (yes, Iím talking beer here), and little Mister Patrolman whose title as border patrol has inflated his ego into thinking he is almighty. Again, I ask, what the hell kind of country are we living in? Backwards we go. To the dark ages we descend. Itís the little things that we let slide that add up and create a large gaping hole. Try not to fall into it, who knows how deep that abyss is.

    I am writing that letter of complaint (with some suggestions) and making some calls.

Epilogue:
Upon landing in San Pedro, we were greeted by the customs man, who proceeded to open our bags, pawing through dirty laundry. Iíll take comfort where I can: as soon as the bra was pulled out, the bag was zipped up post haste and we were sent out the gates and heading home!
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