greetings from the old world, after much delays and rather shocking discoveries about the 'real' world. after two straight days of sleeping, im semi-conscious and extremely lazy. so i figured perhaps this may be the right time to recollect what kind of impact the 'border control' would have on monkey consciousness.
it all came down to the fact that i have not bought a return ticket. this would be the very first time that i am travelling with one way ticket as getting an open ticket would cost even more than buying two separate tickets and with charter airlines, it isnt even an option to get an open ticket! so i figured, great, when march rolls around, i will know exactly i need to get back to toronto for work, so i will just get one way ticket. WRONG.
after much delays (3 hours! the british stopped the airport because of some pansy snow! how inconvenient for me! haha) and super chatty ultra-christian formerly mechanical engineer businessman who plays the keyboard for his church, and another final delay at the runway (something about the stairs being frozen or something very bastardy like that), i was finally or funnily at the border control.
and came the unexpected encounter with the 'real' world. my passport, south korean, allows visitor's stay for up to six months in uk. and ive been travelling to/from europe at least once a year since 2000 so i wasnt expecting any problem at all.
officer: .. so your purpose of stay?
monkey: to visit friends and to have an audition in january.
o: and when do you head back?
m: i am not sure sir, im scheduled to work at the university of toronto in march so probably march?
o: how do i know that you are going to head back and not stay illegally?
i was completely flabbergasted. are you serious? didnt i just tell you that i wont overstay what my visa allotment of six months? i never thought of the case they wont believe me or even worse, assume me as a possible lying-illegal immigration squatter. i suppose the problem was the one way ticket.
officer: but you have only one way ticket, how do i know you will leave?
m: i have other things to tend back in canada, i will be back in march. i bought one way ticket because the date of my return has not been finalized.
o: why didnt you get a open ticket?
m: because if you fly charter, you cannot get an open ticket. you could only get it if you get it through major airline and that's over my budget.
o: you are telling me one way tickets are cheaper?
m: if you are flying non-major airline, yes sir.
o: well, what do you do?
m: i am a musician.
o: and you plan to stay and do nothing for awhile?
m: well i just finished an internship and yes, im taking the time to sort things out.
o: (gives a weird look)
m: ... it is somewhat common for us to do in music, to take time and sort things out-
then things got even more dicey.
o: how much money are you bringing?
m: with me at the moment, zero, as i was expecting to hi up the cash point. but in my bank account back at home, i have x amo.
o: how would you prove it?
m: i donno, shall we call my bank phone service line? or i suppose i have my credit card as well.
o: what is the limit on your credit card?
m: x dollars a month sir.
o: i want to see it.
so i hand over my visa card and came the most unexpected part of the conversation, even more insulting.
o: ... well dr. lee, i will go do some checks and come right back. do take a sit by there.
he eventually came back and stamped my passport with grave face full of mistrust and warning.
o: now, you have taken a great risk by coming here with no papers
m: but you see, i thought there is no required information on your border services website about bringing any sort of papers-
o: well, you must be able to prove that you will leave and not stay
o: seriously, i would suggest that you would leave by march though you could stay till june, if not, you may be denied entrance on your next trip.
with slew of 'recommended' list of papers and such damning warning, i crossed the border. and i realized that this is the first unpleasant business-like human transaction i have had since i left banff. in banff, i really was living in a spaceship, where all interactions, not all of them pleasant of course, but they were all without pretension or lies. all my folks who i consider friends, we had no reasons to mistrust or doubt one another and it was an environment where all of us were able to be without big helmets and protective gears. natural. easy. truthful communications.
and to have it broken like that, it really left a dent in my head. i am still working through it. the man did not wanted to believe what i had to say, nor he really cared about what my plans are. he just wanted to see some papers so that he may do the portion of his work and go home. he didnt care whether the paper be real or not. he didnt listen to anything. for him, all i was a suspicious non-eu alien who may become burden to the united kingdom. it was such a crazy idea to be not trusted, even worse, to be questioned like a criminal.
i have friends i want to see, that makes me a criminal? what?
then another crazy point. after he saw my stupid cred card with dumb 'dr' on it, his attitude changed a great deal. as if he could trust me for extra 25 percent or something. give me a break. what if i was to tell him i have a phd degree, but it wasnt on my visa card? would he believe me? i dont think so. i didnt even thought about the power of those two letters before my name. i got the title changed on a card out of a dare. so apparently from being a lowlife illegal immigrant criminal, i suddenly transformed into a careless dr. of music. what a concept.
what are we all afraid of? why are we so paranoid and fearful? in conversation with a friend, he expressed such a disappointment about the recent poll against erection of minaret towers in various parts of europe. why are we so closed and what is the point of having a community if it means to keep everyone whose not included absolutely out of the circle? if one is not to trust the other, why do we even bother asking questions? call me naive or stupid, either way, the interaction at the border was something that was completely unexpected and shocking. the first real break on the monkey life, which, up to this point, was nicely shielded and protected from the normality of median-mean life.
he couldnt believe that i was just take three months off schedule and be what i needed to be and to travel and do whatever i would please. he was questioning if i was sane or if i was just a liar. i do realize it may not be the norm to take chunk of time off from the rat race, but you see, i havent had a 9-5 job until this date and i dont plan to change it if i could help it. i like the freedom i have, yes, i could use more money but money is just money isnt it? why is it so difficult to believe that i need the time, or rather i would take the time for my own self? is it so out of norm to not to care so much about the financial stability? but such things do exist? i dont really know anymore.
so as i collected my bags and came out, i was really tired. worn out. broken. hurt. baffled. i, unfortunately, despite of my wishings, met mr. salamander with the longest face and less faith in the world. and all i wanted was to be in europe and be close to my dear friends and perhaps be really lucky to see them in spring and have a kick butt audition. however, all i had was the impact of the punch in the guts: mistrust, paranoia and fear.
after sleeping most of past two days, i am well and happy. im typing this right by the real coal fire after having a nice tea and fire-toasted bread. it's snowing outside in derbyshire and im warm and well-taken care of. but i cant help to re-taste the bitter reality of some people's daily life- mistrust, fear, hate, lack of willingness to really listen and to respond to another human being. border control is not humanistic, but more like a cattle farm. depending on your tag on your neck, you may be sent to sausage factory or to the pasture. great. is this what we have all hoped for as responsible individuals of a society? im not saying canadian customs officers are much better, but for the europe being proud of their own heritages, i say shame on you. shame on all defensive, fearful citizens and bureaucracy, not just europe, but everywhere. europe, you have claimed over the centuries about your superiority and maturity over the red-faced savages of north america and slant-eyed asians. well let me tell you. you arent much better. as a general collective, you have failed to install human values in your conduct.
it is our only hope that individuals, despite of the shortcomings of the larger collectives, still are conscious and willing to be good humans. as i think of all my friends, i am renewed in my belief in humanism. as i am breaking bread with friends, as i pour them a glass of wine, i am glad to take another fresh breath in, air of genuine human connection. as i read another line from distanced friends, i am relieved and cared for, not as a suspicious individual, but as of a person with ideas and feelings.
so came the first puncture on the banff balloon that have protected monkey so nicely for the year. i guess it was due. now, lets see if i could keep my head straight to keep the most of banff, as much as i can, as the harsh 'real' world does not have to bey my reality. it is someone's. but i much prefer the nicer universe i can belong to. and that i already belong.