The Border Experience – beginning of September 2004

Crossing the Border back into Turkey:

We reached the border at 8:00 AM, eager to beat the stifling summer heat. Instead we waited and waited, some four hours, before the nightmarish ordeal was over and we found ourselves in Turkey. The problem was that we had arrived too early; customs didn’t open until 10:00. The customs house was in the middle of cotton fields, and we arrived to find men sleeping on beds outside, underneath mosquito netting which enveloped the beds. We were taken inside the office, and most of the men were still sleeping on bunk beds. I was not happy. It was getting hotter by the minute. I tried to write, but found it impossible with the large audience crowding around to watch over my shoulder. One man insisted on waving a Pokemon toy two inches from my nose over and over again, as if either he or I was 3-years old.

The customs office finally opened two hours later, and it took almost an hour to put a stamp on our passports. They asked a load of questions. One man reading directly from an official customs paper in halting English: “What is your name? Where did you go? Do you like Syria? Is it good? Very good?”

Finally, with our stamped passports in hand, we passed to another small building, where a man sat on a broken car seat in the only shade of the building and had a grand ol’ time opening most of our bags and inspecting the contents while we stood perspiring in the 110-degree heat of the direct sunlight.

Amazingly, when he finished, the Turkish border was still closed! It was almost noon by the time it opened up! There was a crowd of angry men pressing at the gate, screaming in Turkish and Arabic. We finally passed through, at the hottest time of the day, and there was no shade anywhere in sight, and I was not in a good mood. The crowd of boys running after us and begging for money didn’t help.

Oh, right, and even with my French passport in hand, I had to hear one last time about how evil America is. As a kind of parting souvenir….