London Immigration: How long will you be in England?
me: A few days, five I think.
Immigration: And then you are flying back to the United States? To teach?
Immigration: Where are you going next?
me: (thinking) Peru. Yes. Peru.
Immigration: Don’t you need to get back to school? (I filled in “teacher” under occupation.)
me: No… I’m not teaching right now. I was teaching. In South Korea. But now, we’re traveling. (as anyone with eyes and a brain can tell by looking at the visas and stamps in my passport, which was in her hands)
Immigration: How are you finding your trip? (I thought she asked.)
me: Well, I’m really tired… (as it was in the middle of the night)
Immigration: (blankly staring at me) I don’t care.
me: I’m sorry, perhaps I misunderstood your question?
Immigration: How are you funding your trip?
me: Ohhh. funding. Well, with money. (Clearly confused.)
Immigration: How much money do you have on you?
me: In cash? Well… nothing… (thinking we spent all of our euros before getting on the bus heading to a country that doesn’t accept euros…)
Immigration: What about credit cards?
me: Well, there’s no money on them… I paid them off.
Immigration: You have no money?
me: You mean, what money is in my checking account? Of course I have money in there…
At this point Andrew’s immigration officer came over to my immigration officer’s desk.
new Immigration officer: Where are you staying in England.
me: With a friend.
new Immigration officer: Who is he?
me: His name?
new Immigration officer: Yes.
new Immigration officer: How do you know him?
me: We met in Korea. We were teachers together.
By this time, I’m starting to wonder if the rest of my evening is going to be spent in the passport control building. I’m even imagining them inspecting my luggage: full of Haribo gummie candy, a bottle of Absenth, and some pretty well worn clothes that needed a good washing. But suddenly, Andrew’s officer turned to mine and told her that I answered all of the questions with the same answers Andrew gave.
I practically had to pinch myself before rolling my eyes and telling them both we answered the same (and truthfully) because we weren’t terrorists! We just wanted to spend the year traveling around the world! I realized later, when chatting with James and others that they probably suspected we were going to try to find jobs in England. Again, I rolled my eyes. Leave Asia to work in the (technically) E.U.? Sorry friends, but no thanks! I’m taking plenty of chances leaving Asia to work in America as it is!
James’ sister was happy to hear London immigration gave us the run-around. I get it. A run-around is great. I’m all for spelling things out. We have done it before (Israel) but it seemed like a giant waste of time this (very early) morning to mumble non-specific questions and then get frustrated with me when I don’t understand! I’ve also had one too many passport control “officers” and flight attendants look at my old Burmese visa thinking that it is the most important page (with all of my information on it)… so it’s become a challenge for me to know if I should take them seriously or not…
Of course we arrived in London nearly an hour early, just after 5 in the morning. We were exhausted, but once James arrived (with bells on) and we had a coffee, we began to shake ourselves awake a bit. Then came breakfast. A giant English feast of a meal before we hopped on bikes to ride around the city. We stuck mostly along the Thames and I didn’t photograph much, and instead enjoyed the feeling of having a friend again (one we don’t really feel often on this trip) and a friend who made all of our decisions for us! What a lovely break!