Apparently, people disappointed by the recent election results in the USA are so upset they are thinking of leaving the country. I know just how they feel. I was greatly dismayed when Bush won re-election and and also decided migration was a good course of action.
If you want to move, I strongly encourage you to go for it. Not because it effects me, I’m already abroad and you’ll vote from wherever you are, but because immigration is an excellent opportunity for personal growth. It’s also a logistical challenge but manageable. Don’t let property concerns stop you! I own a house full of furniture, but found very reliable tennants.
Where to move? I wanted someplace adequately foreign and distant but that wasn’t bewlidering. I was fairly monolingual. My first choices were EU countries where English is not the dominant first language. I won’t lie: the language gap of living in France was extremely challenging. I’ve ended up living in England and, although this is not because of language, it is really a luxury and a relief to be able to communicate in my native language.
Those of you who have political issues now will have additional concerns, of course. Basically, every developed and many developing coluntries have socialist prgrammes in place, such as healthcare. Still, one of the privileges of being an immigrant is that bizarre or poor chloices of your host country are not your problem. You’re just a guest. Don’t let naysayers stop you when they point out your choice country is lead by an atheist or has social programmes you disapprove of. There is no stable country that has a libertarian government which means that there is no utopia to go to. So what? We live in an imperfect world and you can at least get away from the meltdown of your own homeland.
My advice is to start thinking about how you might immigrate and where you might go. Do you have skills that are in demand? Does your employer have overseas operations? Is there an educational program you can enroll in? (Some countries do not charge fees for students and may even cover your living expenses, although this is pretty socialist and there are usually age restrictions.) Look out for fellowships for career development as many of these are industry funded. Some countries will allow Americans to set up businesses, so if you own a bakery here, you could instead have one there. Many countries have shortages of people in skilled trades, like plumbers and nurses. Some just have demographic worries and will take anybody willing to work. If you’re American, there is definitely a country that will take you!
Once you arrive, don’t ghetto-ize! It’s a good idea to make some American friends where you go, as they’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with you and can help show you the ropes, but make sure to have non-American friends as well. Expats who live entirely in American bubbles seem to get kind of bitter. And no wonder as they are perpetually in between places, niether in America or fully in their new country. Remember, whether your migration is temporary or permanent, you will live where you live. Try to have at least half your friends be non-American and at least a few native friends. There will be people around who want to practice their English or who have experience of living abroad and will have empathy for your moments of confusion. Join a local church. Meetups are also a good way to meet people.
It took me a couple of years to organise my move, so don’t worry if you can’t rush. Moving abroad isn’t easy, but it can be very rewarding. Your ancesgtors thought so! Give it a go.

Try This

Twice in the last week, I’ve had Brits complaining to me about how immigrants don’t even try to integrate and get too many social services. They don’t mean me, of course, they mean other immigrants. I think they might be missing some crucial data points when they make these allegations, so therefore, I encourage everyone who thinks this (regardless of their country) to try the following:
Apply for a visa to move abroad. You’ll need a mountain of paperwork. Also time and money. Start well ahead of time. If your target country speaks another language, try to also squeeze in language lessons.
Try to find a place to live in your country of destination. Write to any friends or friends of friends or friends of friends of friends to ask for advice on this. They might invite you to stay with them while you look. This is good, depending on visa requirements. Otherwise, look on the internet. Expect to pay 10-20% above market rent to anybody who is willing to rent to a foreigner via the internet.
Pack up things that you can afford to move. Sell, give away or store those that you can’t. Don’t know when or if you’ll have those things or things like them again.
Say goodbye to all your friends, coworkers, family, drinking buddies, fellow choir members, congregation and everybody that you interact with on a day to day basis. Promise to write and visit when you can. Don’t actually know when or if you’re moving home.
Arrive in the foreign country and have interactions with the police and foreign bureaucracy immediately while trying to register as an immigrant.
Immediately contact any person with whom you have any kind of connection in your new country. Hope they introduce you to all their friends.
Try to have conversations with new people around you who speak too quickly and use a lot of slang that you’ve never encountered. Hope they are willing to try to understand your odd accent.
Get used to being the alien other all the time. Best case: harmless and quirky. Worst case: dangerous. Many people will feel they already know everything they need to know about you based on your nationality. Any changes you make regarding their perceptions will be applied to your entire nationality, not just yourself – unless they know a lot of people of your nationality.
Try to integrate: feign enthusiasm for terrible food and nonsensical customs. If you try to retain your own customs or spend too much time around other expats, you may be failing to integrate fully and thus be responsible for discrimination against your nationality as group! Remember, everything you do reflects on your entire group! (Get rid of the idea of being an individual.)
Apply whatever funds you can to getting a whole new wardrobe in the style of your new country. Otherwise, you may be failing to integrate. However, be careful not to buy clothes of the wrong social group. How to determine which clothes go with which social group? Try really hard.
If you’re seen as quirky, play it up. Your failure to conform (accidental or not) will become charming. If you’re dangerous, well, try really hard to conform, but in a non-threatening manner.
Do you have a job? If not, start collecting all the mountain of paperwork you need to get one. Did you know immigrants are taking all their jobs? Since that’s true (hahahaha), it should be really easy for you to find something despite your limited language skills, strange accent, and wrong interview clothes.
Try not to miss all your friends and family too much. Remember, this new culture you’re living in is much better than your old one. If you don’t think that, you’re the wrong sort of immigrant and no good and should probably leave. You new language is better. Your new clothes are better. The new food is better. Your new leisure activities are better. The new weather is better. You should acquire some self-hatred, especially in regards to your culture, but don’t be too blatant about it or you’ll make people nervous.
Do you still have that accent? Why don’t you just go home? Can’t you even try to fit in?
How was the first year? Novel! Interesting! Ok, how the second set of holidays away from home? The ones they don’t even observe over here? How’s the third set of missed holidays? Did you know your best friend just got married to somebody you’ve never met? But isn’t this adopted culture just super, bloody, fantastic? You’re the right kind of immigrant now! Not like all those other immigrants who are much less quirky and aren’t even trying to fit in!
So, why are you doing this? On a lark? To get better opportunities for your kids? Because your home country discriminates against you? Because of warfare at home? Because your new country has a stronger economy? For educational opportunities? Because you really love pasties and wanted to be near more of them? For nicer weather? Because you really wanted all these government services that immigrants are getting (but obviously don’t deserve)?
Although I’m turning into a bitter expat, I actually really like living abroad. I get to see and do all kind of things. Sunday morning, I was completely lost, biking through the English Midlands at 1:00 AM – on a Dutch bicycle. I like the novelty, for sure. And the educational opportunities. And to know more kinds of people. And, as an artist, my economic prospects are somewhat brighter here. There’s some kind of Catholic penance aspect going on at an unconscious level too. Also, I thought maybe Europe had all the answers. I mean, they have nationalized healthcare and mass demonstrations for progressive causes. But they also have right wing politicians getting into office. They have xenophobia. They have greedy big businesses and corruption. Sometimes they have mass demonstrations for regressive causes. Europe is neither better nor worse than America, although some European forms of government are more democratic than the American system. But people are the same everywhere. As one Algerian-French woman said, to me a couple of years ago, «il y a des bons et des cons.» There are good folks and assholes wherever you are. This is true of countries and it’s true of immigrants.
I don’t know why people would think it would be appropriate to attempt to engage me in conversation regarding the worthiness of other immigrants. Because when I’m around, they’re thinking about immigration and I’m the “good” kind? Because I subconsciously make them nervous? To make certain I know I’m not entirely welcome? (Your government has already made that entirely clear, don’t worry.) But seriously, if you think immigrants have it too easy, you need to go abroad for a while. Not a semester in Spain while you’re an undergrad but something more protracted. Then we’ll talk.

Torchwod Recap

Torchwood is a Doctor Who spinoff which features aliens, explosions and sexy dialog. I’ve been watching it because I liked Doctor Who when I was a kid and because the male lead is like a bisexual Indiana Jones / 007 / I want to be him when I grow up. Right, So season 2, episode 2.

The Torchwood team exra-legally kidnaps a black woman whom they suspect is an alien. They subject her to torture. Because aliens are trying to sneak into Britian Earth to gather information. Yes, Cardiff (a town in Wales), humble Cardiff, is at terrible risk from alien sleeper cells bent on committing acts of terrorism.
So the have the alien other, the black woman illegal immigrant, and they’re denying her rights to due process, because, of course, she’s alien, and because it’s clear as soon as they even suspect that she’s alien, that she’s up to no good. I mean, why would anyone want to come to Wales if not to wreck up the place? You have to keep your eyes peeled for aliens because none of them are peaceful and they’re all walking amongst us, plotting our doom.
This alien is under the terrible misconception that she’s integrated into British society and is so devastated when she finds out that she’s actually not British, that she begs for death and gets the Torchwood team to kill her. The end.
And that’s everything wrong with this bloody country in a nutshell.
Clearly, they need to introduce a points system, where aliens can apply on their own planet to be allowed to come to the UK as a high skilled migrant. Once they get to the UK, they can be issued an alien ID card, with an RFID chip that makes it easy for local authorities to monitor their comings and goings. Furthermore, the aliens should be denied access to sensitive information unless they can pass all kinds of security checks. Therefore, universities and employers wanting to take on aliens will have to provide evidence that they’re not allowing said aliens access to anything they might be able to use when it’s inevitably revealed that they’re inherently evil beings bent on colonialism and destruction.
Of course, this is folly, because , as one Torchwood person pointed out, “everything about her is a lie.” You can’t expect ALIENS to tell the truth on application forms! Lock down the borders, that’s the only solution.
It’s kind of funny that Brits are so terrified of being invaded by outsiders, subject to violence and economically exploited. They’re such a rich and powerful country! How could they possibly have such concerns?
Um, anyway. In other news, my shower finally got fixed. Apparently, it was broken for more than 4 weeks. I don’t know what the letting agent think they got out of stalling so long. It’s not like they could get away with not fixing it. I suspect that they just didn’t bother because the house was occupied by three Africans. Not for financial reasons, just because it didn’t seem important. The plumber who finally came explained that they’d all completely forgotten! How funny that it didn’t remind them when I called last week. Huh. I called twice this week. I think what pushed it over the edge was my using words like “flabbergasted” and “appalled.” My vocabulary showed I was worthy of consideration. Meh.
Oh, that last link up there is really terribly funny, btw.

Crossing Borders

The first time that I realized that I was consistently passing was the San Francisco airport. It’s an odd thing to realize at an airport. I further realized that it meant if I had to go, I had to go to the men’s room. I start rationing fluid intake at that point. I’ve used men’s rooms before, but not such high traffic ones. It would be just my luck, the first time out, to end up next to Larry Craig, who got busted in an airport. Right.
In general, it was really, really weird. I was walking around the non-secure parts of the airport, holding hands with Nicole and straight people smiled at us. Later, a straight, older woman acted flirty with me. Nobody treated me like a criminal. I forgot to take off my hat before going through the metal detector. The TSA guy asked if he could see my hat. I apologized for having forgotten it. He said it was ok and just peered inside it. Later, when a TSA person checked out my synthesizer, she apologized for the inconvenience. Either SFO has changed for the better recently, or TSA agents treat white guys with a lot of respect.

I was not suspicious or threatening or criminal or degenerate. I was a pillar of society. I was . . . I don’t even have words. I wasn’t even dressed that nicely. Being middle class white guy is really different than being a middle class dyke.
Fortunately, as soon as I got to England, I resumed criminal status, by nature of being a foreigner. Or maybe it was the ‘F’ on my passport. Who knows. I thought I was being all smart, as I put my landing card in my passport next to the page with the student visa. In any other country that I’ve travelled to, a visa gets you a stamp right away. And it seemed to be going that way when the border guard scanned my passport through the computer. “Why were you denied entry in November?” he asked. Shit. “Because I didn’t have that student visa yet.” He told me to wait and I did for about an hour. Then he came back and asked me again and I repeated my answer. “Doesn’t the computer tell you?” I asked. “Yes, but it says medication was found on you and maybe you were returned because you were sick.”
The whole brouhaha where I had to get a doctor to let me take my zoloft last time. . .. Augh. Jetlag makes me feel like shit and I didn’t want to have Zoloft withdrawl at the same time, so I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to be allowed to take it. And now it’s in my permanent record. And of course, I felt a slight wave of panic. If they searched my backpack this time, they’d find a collection of hypodermic needles. Augh. I imagined the exchange. Was I planning on coming to England to get free medical care? Yes. But damn it, I’m a postgrad student and postgrads are fucking people and people have fucking medical problems. I’m not some kind of fucking money-bearing robot here to stimulate your fucking economy and get nothing in return.
Anyway, I was admitted, obviously. Later I saw a news story saying that immigrants seeking citizenship would have to “earn” their rights by taking a test to prove that they were worthy. What the fuck? First of all, rights aren’t “earned.” The whole point of rights is that they’re not earned. You have rights by nature of being alive, by being a human, not because you somehow earned it. The whole concept of “rights” is meaningless unless they’re bestowed intrinsically.
Secondly, I’d have to take a test to prove that I’m as good as the fucking Brits? Why do they think people want citizenship? Do they think immigrants are just hopeless anglophiles enthralled with every stuffy, tawdry aspect of British culture? Do they just wish we were? Of course, the reason they want us to pass a test to prove that we’re maybe (never) as good as them is because they hate us. They know we don’t worship them and wish we did. I’m not opposed to tests for immigrants gaining citizenship. I’m against the presumption of unworthiness. I’m against the presumption of criminality and guilt. I’m against being treated as a suspect every time I try to come into the country. If I wanted citizenship, it would be to avoid harassment and to make bureaucratic processes simpler and so I could vote. So I could come and go with my benign prescriptions without having to disclose my mental health issues to a fucking cop every time I try to cross the border of this tiny country.
So to prove my Britishness, I plan to get so fucking pissed that I fall into a canal and then have drunken, sloppy sex with an 18 year old and regret it the next day. Then, I’m going to riot after a football match. Um, and I don’t know. I don’t want to be treated like a criminal, but I don’t know what to do with the straight, white, male privilege that Americans were suddenly foisting on me. I was anticipating the actions of the border guard during my whole trip. In North America, I thought, “Any second and they’ll read me and I’ll go back to being a dyke. These aren’t bad people. I mean, it’s not just the TSA agents. It’s the guy the other day at REI. It’s everybody. They’re good people, or at least as good as anybody.”
I don’t get it. I don’t get why Nicole has always been invisible when standing next to me. I don’t get why even women and POC are immediately ready to treat a white guy like he’s special. Why don’t they treat everybody that way? Of course, I knew that sexism and queerphobia existed. I mean, I’m 32 years old and have been read as a dyke for a long time. But SFO was astounding. White guys: you have no fucking idea. Dress in drag for a day for comparison.

Same Language, Different Culture

I’m feeling extremely frustrated about my immigration status. I haven’t written anything about this for a while because absolutely nothing has changed. I still need proof of lodging and I still don’t have it. My letting agent agreed to send it about three weeks ago. I just assumed that he would. I feel like I’m sitting around with my thumb up my ass, waiting on people who couldn’t care less whether I can come back or not.

I called last night, leaving a polite message, asking them to ship me (another) letter via express mail. Well, I assume it was polite. Due to the time difference, I’m never going to get to speak to a live human. I don’t know how to leave a message which will communicate my urgency. Should I yell and be angry? Should I throw myself at their mercy? Should I just wait a few more days and avoid calling?
They didn’t email me back, which has left me extremely frustrated. I think I will go to my academic supervisor for help. He’s (anglophone) Canadian, though, so if yelling and abuse is called for, he’s not a good go-to guy.
I don’t want to drop out of school because my letting agent can’t be bothered to send me a vital document. But my school can’t be bothered either. If the two entities which derive an income from my presence don’t give a fuck, why should I? Put me in detention, be all transphobic, send me home, don’t give me any documents I need – I’m starting to feel somewhat unwelcome.

Happy Thanksgiving

Every 4th Thursday in November is the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It is basically a harvest festival where people gather together with family and friends to stuff themselves with food and feel grateful for things that are going well in their lives. Traditionally, people eat turkey and other autumn foods like cranberries and pumpkins. It became a federal holiday in 1941. There’s a cultural idea that this festival dates back to early colonial times. It’s true there was a feast of thanksgiving back with the Pilgrims, but it was in honor of a military victory and not repeated the next year. There would be similar festivities to celebrate other victories and these were held at any time of year. The had mostly fallen out of favor by the mid 1880’s, until Lincoln declared two of them in honor of Civil War victories.

Some folks who I’ve talked to described hearing this like learning there was no Santa Claus. Sorry. Personally, I like the idea of having a harvest festival and having a national holiday that is secular and non-statist-patriotic. It’s a cultural disaster that we’ve established this connection to that particular feast with the Pilgrims. It’s as if Germany established a holiday and said it commemorated their successful invasion of Poland. So I’d like to reject the Genocide Day aspect tacked on to what ought to be just be a harvest feast.
One of the traditions associated with the holiday is making a list of things that they are thankful for. I’m thankful that I get to see my family today, since it’s unexpected for me. Also, that I have the resources to deal with my immigration problems and will (eventually) be able to return to my school. I’m thankful that I had a useful telephone conversation with the foreign student office. I’m thankful that I will soon be getting one last needed document in the mail. I’m thankful for their advice. I’m thankful that stupid “anti-terrorist” restrictions on who can learn about what kind of technology in the UK won’t apply to me. Indeed, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to laugh at the idea of a Silicon Valley native sneaking overseas to get access to sekrit British technology. I mean, not that they don’t have any. At one time, they had a total monopoly on the secret of excellent musket design. It’s just that, well, the silicon wafer computer chip was invented in my neighborhood, so to speak. The ipod was invented in my home town. (My dad worked on the nano.) Alarmingly, as the US now spends very little money on R&D, it may be the case that Brits do have some advanced technology not available here. Um, but we invented MySpace. Anyway, I’m getting off topic.
As soon as my admission letter and proof of lodging come in the mail, I forward them off to my visa service who goes and stands in line at the British consulate in LA and then I should be able to travel very shortly afterwards. I want to believe it will be like a week longer, but that’s overly optimistic. I need to get plane tickets (it turns out that same day sales are rather pricey (my credit card bill is for $1500)) but I don’t want to do it until I have a better idea of when exactly and at the same time, I need to be concerned about financial details. Maybe I can fly standby. So, yeah, I’m thankful that it’s all going to work out, hopefully soon.
Sometimes people say “Happy T-day” where the T stands for both Thanksgiving and turkey. However, I’m a vegetarian. My friend Sarah sent me a poem in honor of this:

The turkey bird,
it cannot fly.
I’d rather have
a piece of pie.

Continuing From Where I Left Off

When last I typed, I was sitting on an airplane which I had been placed on by British immigration agents. I wondered if the cabin crew was aware of my situation. They didn’t act like it. They offered me wine when they offered everybody else wine and did not treat me differently than other passengers. When I asked if they had any extra vegetarian meals, the woman handing them out found me one and then started to give me a form to request one for my next flight. So perhaps she didn’t know.

When we landed, I hit the call button. The airplane aisle was was jammed with people. One of the cabin crew caught my eye and made hand symbols to ask if I was asking about my passport. He told me to go to the front of the plane. So I guess they did know.
I got off and there was a man there holding the envelope that I knew to contain my passport. I asked for it back, but instead he brusquely told me to follow him. The people working in detention in Britain had all been fairly friendly and scrupulously polite. They explained what was going on and what was about to happen. Nobody got cagey until I asked who was paying for my ticket home. This man, however, did not explain anything, but walked ahead with his lips slightly pursed. He wore an airline uniform, but seemed to consider himself some sort of diplomatic, immigration agent. He took me to American immigration, and gave the border agent my passport. He spoke about me to the agent as if I was not present. I began to detest him. Some people are just doing their jobs and some people see themselves as above you. He was the latter. Since he treated me as invisible burden, I will do the same to him for the rest of this story as a sort of a petty revenge for having to spend time following his wordless, brisk-walking arrogance.
I had to go to a secondary interview to get back in the US. I had hoped that I would just get back my passport and be on my way, but alas. I was told to sit in a big room with many chairs and two or three american immigration agents, seated behind tall desks. There were only a few people in the room. I looked at them and guessed they were foreign. I wondered what would happen if the US wouldn’t take me either. Didn’t they have to? After a short wait, I was called forward. A sympathetic agent said, “so what happened?” I explained about how the NYC British consulate’s web page gives incorrect information as to how they accept visa applications and my mistaken belief that I could get in with a tourist visa. She was entirely empathetic, but then pointed out that America would have done the same thing. “I know!” I said, “you have to stop doing that! Well, I guess it’s what you have to do by law, but still.” She blamed George Bush. For being required to hassle foreigners and for my having experienced the same. Damn him.
She stamped my passport and returned it to me. Huzzah. It has a refusal stamp in it, something that will probably cause me problems in the future. Or not. I think Britain has a reputation. From immigration and customs, I went to ticketing. To pay for a last-minute transatlantic fare. Well, that answered that question. The fare was a bit over $1000. My credit card was denied. I called them and they asked, as a security question, for the cell number I had when I was in Connecticut. I failed security. Finally, the officious jerk who had been leading me everywhere, and seemed to think my fare to be far too low, grew impatient and left. The ticket agents didn’t like him either. The guy I was talking to, who was clearly family, said it happened to everybody. The woman next to him said her niece had been sent back when she went to study at the London School of Economics. And she had a visa! The friendly ticket agent said even some cabin crew had been caught up in British immigration. He blamed George Bush. The other agents concurred. Damn that guy!
My credit card company relented and I paid my ticket. The guy I was paying told me to fly west with Jetblue, since they would have the cheapest tickets and the most flights. Then he took me down to the baggage office. He was so nice. “It happens to everybody!” he kept saying. Then he said that he used to live in San Francisco and if I did fly an affiliate airline, he would tell everybody to be nice to me. I gave him a bag of reeces pieces.
The baggage office, also friendly and polite had more bad news. My bike hadn’t made the flight. I explained that I was continuing onward via an out-of-network airline and they took my address. My bike will be arriving via fedex delivery, probably tomorrow.
I went over to the Jetblue terminal at JFK airport and walked up to a customer service agent and purchased a ticket for the next flight to Oakland. “Do you have any bags to check?” “No.” I said ruefully. The last minute ticket was $120 or $130, I forget which. I was amazed at my good fortune. I spend two or three hours waiting in the airport. I called Nicole who empathized and Ellen, who offered me a ride from the Oakland airport and finally my dad my said, “You know what you should do?!” in the tone of voice he gets when he’s got an outside-the-box idea. “You should go see if there’s an Irish consulate in San Francisco.” He left a pause, waiting for my reply.
“But I’m trying to go to England.”
“You should find out how Irish you have to be to get an Irish passport.” He was giggling now, very taken with his suggestion.
“I’ve got just as many British ancestors, but that didn’t seem to help much.” Indeed, I had mentioned them to the immigration agent who interviewed me.
“But Ireland needs labor! You might have to promise to work in Ireland!” he giggled more.
Suddenly, the exhaustion of having gotten so little sleep and then being up for so many hours hit me. I told my dad that I regretted not having his phone number memorized, since I therefore couldn’t have called him from detention. As I type this, I wonder what suggestions he would have had for while I was detained. Mostly, I think I wanted somebody to know where I was. We hung up.
I got on the next airplane. It was a much nicer plane than the last two. I had a row to myself and lay down across it and slept for the entire 5 hour flight. Ellen met me at the airport and took me home, where I now sit. Still tired. I need to contact a consulate, either the one in New York or the one in Los Angeles or both and ask what to do. I need a copy of my Mills College transcript, to send it with my visa application. I need to make copies of my house keys, since, of course, I didn’t bring them, since I wasn’t going to be in Berkeley at all. I need to take a nap.


I am sitting on an airplane, waiting for a transatlantic flight. It’s my second in less than 24 hours. I don’t have my passport. The captain of the plane is holding it until we get over the ocean. The passenger next to me has just told me what time the flight arrives. It’s the first time that i’ve been told. I haven’t paid for the ticket, but am concerned that i might have to.

Alas, i am not describing a confusing dream, but rather my current situation. After a red-eye flight and 6 hours of detention, i’m totally exhausted. I’ve been refused entry to the uk and am on my way back to new york, where i’ll have to find my way back to san francisco. My tearful parting with my girlfriend last night is fated to be shorter than we either anticipated.

I was in new york to apply for a student visa. They no longer accept in-person applications. Their web site, though, allows you to file for one, but not to make the appointment. I was flattened with stomach flu before i could discover why their appointment-making system was constantly broken. My time scheduled in the us was drawing to a close and i had not submitted. I decided to mail in the documents from the uk and get the visa during winter break. I bought return tickets yesterday morning, so i could prove my plans if asked.

Then, i got on my plane. Concerned about visa issues, i left my bass guitar with nicole. I didn’t want to seem as if i was trying to sneak in to play gigs and earn money. However, i didn’t make it as far as baggage claim before falling into detention.

The immigration officer seemed friendly and chatty. It was six-something am and i hadn’t had coffee, but tried to be friendly in return. She asked why i came. I said i was visiting the university. This answer has been satisfactory on several previous occasions. This time, I had noticed signs up advertising delays. They noted that extra security takes extra time. The extra time in this case included her asking for some clarification on that. She seemed so personable that i didn’t become alarmed when she began taking notes. It wasn’t until she asked what kind of dog i had that i started to become alarmed.

She told me not to be alarmed, but to follow her to a waiting area. At heathrow terminal 4, there are some lines leading to immigration agents. In the very middle of the lines, there is a little pen with some seats. It would seem like it was just a waiting area for old people or folks with kids, if it weren’t for the chair-height barriers surrounding it and most especially the door of the same short height. The door had a latch on it, so when the friendly agent lead me there, she flipped up the flimsy piece of plastic to let me in and flipped it closed after me to keep me inside. That non-lock was useless for imprisoning someone, but the psychological impact was clear. “Oh fuck.” I said, as she left.

A man came around some time later to lead me to baggage claim. We got my bike and put it and my backpack on a cart. He had me follow him to the customs area, where he searched my bags. I thought this might be the end of a process where i would soon be on my way, but all he searched for were documents and his questions were repetitions of ones the first agent had asked. Then, he lead me back to the immigration area, but to a security door on the right of the room.

The door opened to hallway full of parked luggage carts with glass-walled waiting rooms on one side. He told me to park my luggage and then took me to a foyer between the waiting rooms, where i was asked to empty my pockets and patted down. I was allowed to keep my wallet and change and lip balm, but not my keys or cell phone. I tried to retrieve on of the many bags of reeces pieces that i had purchased immediately before my flight, but was told that candy was against the rules.

Then, i was deposited in the waiting room where i spent the next several hours. There were signs up indicating that pictures were disallowed and (perhaps to protect themselves against possible artistic talent) my pen had been removed, so i have tried to commit the room to memory as much as possible.

It had one exit door which was unlocked and lead to the foyer. One long wall was glass. The other two walls had many doors leading to small rooms where detainees could be questioned, finger printed, photographed. The room had two long rows of ugly chairs, facing each other. Near the middle were two small tables. It looked much like other police waiting rooms that i’ve seen.

I wished aloud for a cup of coffee and a woman, also waiting, told me that i could just ask for one. So i went back to the foyer and asked for it and got nescafe from a vending machine. I announced my intention to retrieve and take my zoloft, but was told that i could not. A doctor must be first consulted. Also, the door from the foyer to the hall was locked. This seemed to make my situation seem more serious, but, when i was told then to have my photo taken, i was called sir. I felt happy to be passing and a certain thrill of excitement at being held. This was kind of exciting! At least, when it wasn’t incredibly dull. I felt homesick and had a perverse desire to be sent back so i could see my family. But then i thought of my boarded dog and other tasks in birmingham and hoped otherwise. I wondered what it meant that my happiness at passing surpassed my dismay at being detained.

I had to sign forms. I was given documents. I waited. I wondered if my passing was going to screw up my paperwork. I waited. I tried not to eavesdrop on other people’s interviews which were highly audible through thin walls.

I heard my name from the foyer. “Not a man, but a woman dressed as a man.” Laughter. “Why would she do that?” Laughter. Then, “I just patted her arms.” amid more laughter. They were teasing the man who patted me down. I wondered how this changed my situation.

An officer came to interview me. He asked all the same questions. I complained about the new york consulate and stressed that i had a return ticket and that the dutch consulate told me it wasn’t illegal. The officer said that he wouldn’t have had me detained and he would recommend that i be let on my way, but that i had knowingly tried to enter with a tourist visa when i was aware of student visa requirements would count against me. Apparently, ignorance of the law was an excuse.

The officer took me to the medical officer to discover if i would be allowed to take zoloft. Somebody there took the pills from me and googled them or something to make sure it was legal and a reasonable dose. There was no doctor present. It was decided that i would be allowed to take my meds. I wondered if needing them went into my file.

The pat down guy acted the same as before. Another guard, who apparently missed that conversation, was very insistent at correcting the officer when he said “she”. I guess clouds have silver linings.

I used the room’s pay phone and my credit card to call my berkeley home number, since i had it memorized. It was late so i left voicemail.

The officer came back and told me that i was being sent home, but it would not hurt my ability to get a student visa. He gave me a document which stated this. I left another message with ellen and then called jean, who has a very memorable phone number. It was 2:30am at her location, but her tone changed when i explained the situation. I wished i had my dad’s number memorized.

Some Quebecois were also detained. Most everyone sat in silence but the two animatedly shared their stories and opinions. The man had been detained because he was staying with a friend and didn’t know the address. As it happened, he knew the friend’s mobile number and that the friend was waiting for him at the airport. H was finger printed, photographed, questioned and then hopefully somebody thought to talk to the friend to get his address.

The canadian woman had come back too soon after a long stay. So much for the commonwealth.

And then more waiting. Somebody came around to collect me an hour before my flight. She had me take the luggage cart through security. My bike was xrayed. Then, she walked me to the gate. I was allowed to use my cellphone and to sit, while she held my passport and watched my luggage. I called my kennel, my supervisor and my afternoon date. When it was time, i was told to pre-board. My bike was left at the top of the jetway, to be moved to the hold. I was the first person on the plane.

And now i’m on the plane. Too much airplane food. Not enough sleep. Too many carbon credits in debit. The novelty of the situation long since worn off. My morale is low.

As he was giving me bad news, the officer said two things that stick with me. One was to imagine how america treats those with paperwork problems. I got this more than once, from different people. America’s stupid anti-foreigner policies are hurting citizens.

The other thing was that britian had to be extra vigilant because other european countries weren’t. He painted a picture that seemed to put britian as the outer defenses of fortress europe. The enemies were at the gate, but britian stood strong. I congratulated him on having successfully defended britian in this case.