Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Stories from far away

"Sept histoires qui reviennent de loin" (Seven tales that come from far away) by Jean-Christophe Rufin is my holiday travel read this year. I am back to Alexandria Eschate and I want to share my own little story that comes from far... 

Every time I cross that border I swear to myself to lay it down on paper, but when I make it through I am so glad its over I am happy to forget about the whole ordeal.

On that check point I usually make indifferent look and on a question "Where are you coming from?" I try to say as nonchalant as I can: "Switzerland". The reactions may vary from little speeches about Sweden to admirative nods towards Swiss neutrality. I take compliments with calm dignity as if the responsibility of Switzerland's political decisions lies entirely on my shoulders. (Usually my response also eliminates the next obvious question: "Whats up with the melting chocolate in your suitcase?")

Then follow minutes of paper filling and exchanging glances with a female, heavy set border police officer holding a fly swatter. The officer asks irrelevant sarcastic questions to a poor little old fellow who wants to cross the border to visit some relatives nearby, I think. The poor fellow wears a miserable look and wipes his forehead with an old discolored cotton scarf. It is 45 degrees Celsius outside. About 40 inside. That explains the fly swatter.

My turn. The fly swatter officer asks me to open my suitcase and the handbag. She slowly goes through my personal belongings with a look suggesting that it is my turn to offer one of those pretty little bottles

They liven up seeing my laptop.

- MacAir? with a mixture of dispise and admiration says another officer.

- What is the password?

- WHAT??? The neutrality look evaporates against my will.

- The password. We must check it for presence of religious and pornographic materials.

Right. I am not worried about pornography. I am a little worried nonetheless.

I must explain. See, I discovered The Mentalist lately… Or I discovered Simon Baker , to be precise. As I don't manage to sleep on a plane I downloaded a few episodes for the flight. Some pirate copies, I am afraid…

I reluctantly announce the password. They chuckle, but take a serious look right away: bold capital letters stare at them from the screen of my computer: DO YOU WANT TO BECOME A MENTALIST? (publicity for some book, i suppose). It is my turn to chuckle: how am I going to prove that I am not a member of some psychotic sect, that I simply have a crush on Simon Baker?… The following silent scene makes me think of Gogol plays. I am slowly becoming hysterical.

Meanwhile the heavy set lady fishes my little airplane read out of my handbag. Her narrow eyes become suspicious and at the same time she lookes kind of triumphant.

- Translations?…

- Errr, a book? I offer a little sarcastically.

- Why are you reading in French? she asks, almost accusingly.

- Everyone has his vices, I offer.

She misses the sarcasm. Again.

They let me go. I stand in the other little line that consists of the little man visiting his relatives. We are waiting for our passports to be stamped. It is still 40 degreed Celsius inside. I absently follow the gestures of the little man, he hands his passport to the guy behind the glass screen. Suddenly I see a little bundle of money folded inside the passport. Suddenly I see the eyes of the guy behind the glass shield: he sees that I see the money. We stare at each other for a second. He declines the passport and I hope the little man is not in trouble because of me.

My turn to get a stamp. I am out. It is around noon and I feel the temperature crawling steadily up the Celsius scale , but I feel free and light. One kilometer of desert before me for another check point - this time its a Tajik border and I know that everything is going to be fine. I am almost home.

Hope you have an adventurous week.



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