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Posts Tagged ‘The Terminal’

If you fly into a new country, but only stay in the airport, you can’t put a pin in your map for having been in that country!  International airports are notoriously void of anything representative of local cultures.

You deplane (I really don’t like all these nouns turned into verbs!), stand in windowless rooms with only legal posters on the walls as you wait to have a completely silent passport officer check your passport. If they talk to you at all, they only want to know where you come from, where you are going, and how long you are going to be in their country.  Only in Israel did they actually ask the names of the people we would be visiting.

The passport officer then stamps your passport, waves you through so that you can go get your luggage in the prayer room—I mean, the baggage claim area!

In most countries you have two or three choices of exit doors from baggage claim. One says “Nothing To Declare;” another says “Something To Declare”—I’ve never seen anybody go straight to that line—and then in some countries you have special lines for special citizens. In Europe, both in the passport lines and customs, if you are a citizen of a European Union country, you bypass the more stringent controls for those of us who are “Other passports”. It’s a good lesson in humility for us Americans.

Of course, we do the same thing –maybe worse as non-citizens come to the U.S.  I find our passport and customs controls among the most rigorous.

Now to make choosing the correct line even more interesting, there are some countries who introduce a random search element to the process.  One country we have visited has each person hit a big button which lights up the green Go or red Stop light. Randomly, I suppose, you get the red light and must open all your suitcases.

I’m pretty sure most customs officials work off of profiling passengers. You can bet on some scruffy student being stopped.  Yesterday, upon arriving in Frankfurt from Turkey, we faced immediate passport control by the police before getting ten feet into the airport, then again at the normal passport control. For the first time in thirty years as well, there were German customs officials actually stopping people and looking in their luggage.  I’m pretty sure it was because we were flying in from Istanbul.

If you haven’t seen The Terminal (2004) with Tom Hanks, you should rent it today!  Everything that has to do with the official side of entering a foreign country is perfectly believable!

Today, Sherrylee and I start the last two weeks of this trip. Today we drive to Antwerp, then to the Netherlands, then to Germany for about 10 days, finishing our trip with the American-European Retreat in Rothenburg.

Now, instead of talking with potential LST sites, we are visiting workers and sites that we have worked with for many years with one exception.  But relationships are everything, so we look forward to visiting to encourage them and to find out how we can serve them better.

I apologize if you need now to pull those pins out of the map for places you just flew through the airport! No cheating! You can’t count that country unless you have really had a conversation with someone other than the passport officer!

And if you need help finding that conversation partner, we at Let’s Start Talking would love to help you!

What are your experiences in international airports?

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