Writing from Philadelphia, PA – here for the weekend en route to Jamaica (yes, i know – alright for some – but please be assured that it is for a Langham preaching conference at which I will be working VERY hard, and so that you don’t get jealous, I’m going during the hurricane season). Staying with old family friends in Philly having a lovely time (more in future post perhaps) – but i have to say that i always feel a slight flutter of nerves going through US customs & immigration.

I’m one of those types who presumes personal guilt before going through some sort of security or bureaucratic checkpoint despite of course always being innocent. I even have suspicions that I’m hiding something when asked if anyone has had the opportunity to tamper with my bags. An American friend once joked that they recruit for immigration from those who failed selection for the federal prison service – well if true, it doesn’t surprise me. But i have noted the subtlety with which they always adopt a vague nonchalance while asking a few well-chosen questions to expose even the slightest loophole in one’s story. I remember one time explaining to the guy that i was over in the US to do some fund-raising for KEST, the college i used to teach at in Uganda. He asked what KEST was – i said ‘it’s a Bible college’ (trying to use common American parlance – which in retrospect was a mistake). ‘A SURVIVAL College?!??’, he quickly enquired with a steely glare and nearly dropping his date stamp. So i quickly put his mind at rest – and mine. It could have been bad. Then of course there was my minor transit experience en route to Peru which i’ve mentioned here before.

But for all that, i think the experience that really takes the biscuit must be that of the first men on the moon. I recently discovered that even these great explorers had to submit to the bureaucracy of American immigration. This is a copy of the actual customs form that they filled in:

Just to be clear, note these details:

  • Departure is from MOON
  • Arrival at HONOLULU, HAWAII, USA
  • Cargo carried is listed as MOON ROCKS AND MOON DUST SAMPLES
  • Known illnesses are NIL but, interestingly, “Any other condition which leads to the spread of disease” is TO BE DETERMINED. The Apollo 11 astronauts along with NASA engineer John Hirasaki spent 21 days in quarantine to guard against the introduction of alien germs which we now know do not exist on the moon.

The key consolation then in all this is that there is no favouritism. Which is great. But i can only assume that if I was one of those astronauts, i would have beenfretting about the narcotics i was not smuggling from the moon.

To find out more about this story, CLICK HERE


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