It was easy to leave the gas station accommodations at 5 AM the next day. Seriously. I cried for several hours contemplating how far it was to the nearest airport that night and exactly what my plan would be when/if I actually returned home…after all, our house is rented for the year and work is organized so that I will teach astronomy online until September of 2019. The smell of diesel all night coupled with the distinct odor of urine and garbage made this short stop seem unbelievably long. But, morning did come, as it always does.
We climbed out of the back, into the front of the truck and headed directly to the border crossing without coffee, without breakfast, and without much sleep.
Throughout Colombia, we were aware of hundreds of Venezolanos walking their way through someone else’s country in an effort to escape their own. Many traveling in groups, looking for food, work or temporary housing. Often, we saw whole families climbing up onto the back of semi-trucks with loads covered by thick tarps. The people settle into the folds and grooves created by the tie-down straps and travel along those winding roads we showed you in an earlier post. The families are carrying everything they left home with…and this is usually not much.
We had read about the border crossing situation earlier this year and thought we were prepared. We had our necessary paperwork for temporary import permits and knew that it could take several hours to move through the process. We had been told that there were two lines at the border – one for Venezuelans and one for everyone else.
If you live near us in Spokane, you probably know that the border crossings near Bonner’s Ferry or Colville are really small buildings with drive through car lanes and only a few federal employees checking passports, inspecting vehicles, etc. Imagine arriving to one of our nearby Canadian border crossings to find thousands of people huddled in groups waiting to be processed simply to leave one country and enter the next. There were two lines. However, the chaos of maintaining logistical order with so many people in such a small space was eye-opening. We watched as Venezuelans, marked with numbers along their arms to help maintain their order in the line, plead with the immigration officers to allow the older children to go through the line with the younger kids and their moms. According to some of the officials a 15-year old girl would be considered her own person and was not allowed to enter with her siblings. She was sent to the back of the line. Her number was 3841.
There was a bathroom at the border, but people waited in line for more than two hours to use the facility that no longer had paper, soap, or proper ventilation. We talked with a man who had been waiting for his wife in the long line…he said he had plenty of time to wait. His number was 5075,
This experience quickly changed my perspective. Remember, only a few hours before, in the dark, safely tucked into the back of my truck with my best friend and warm clothes, I fretted about my accommodations. At the border, I recognized that the people around us would gladly have traded places with me.
Today’s theme – It is all about your perspective.