Saturday, June 4, 2016

"Do you have anything to de-clay-ah?"


I have to tell you about my new obsession: "Border Security: Australia's Front Line."  Apparently the show has been around for a while but it only recently hit my radar when I found it on Netflix. It's just about the most fascinating thing I've ever seen. It's like a psychology course and a sociology course all wrapped up in one.

The show is filmed at several airports and mail centers in Australia. Sydney and Melbourne are featured heavily. Agents are tasked with keeping people from bringing naughty things into the country - and Australia's definition of "naughty things" is very broad indeed.  A lot of the people who get stopped do not speak English. However, it matters not because the declaration card they were given is printed in every language imaginable.  "Did you understand the cahd?" the agents often ask.

If you declare your shit - your mangoes, your cigarettes, and such - it's usually fine. I mean, they will take it away from you if it's not allowed, but they won't fine you. It's the people who take their chances by checking "no" who are really in for it. It amazes me what people pack in their suitcases! I mean, I am not a world traveler but it's just common sense that you don't try to travel with all kinds of nutty stuff - particularly not in a post-911 world.

My favorite part is how unfailingly polite the Australian customs and immigration officers are. "So, you use cannabis but not cocaine, sir?" Nothing fazes them, either. One agent opened a container of dead fish and found swarms and swarms of ants. I mean, these ants had their own little community set up - they had built a hospital and a post office and everything. The two ladies who were trying to bring the fish into the country seemed completely nonchalant. Like, "Oh well, an infestation of the food we were going to eat. C'est la vie." I've noticed that I have to try to suppress my innate cultural bias when watching the show, because a lot of the folks traveling from Vietnam and China bring things that make me think, "WHY WOULD ANYONE EVER NEED TO TRAVEL WITH A CONTAINER OF DUCKS' EGGS?!"

The immigration officers also pull aside and question anyone who makes their spidey senses tingle. If you are on a tourist visa and plan to work, they will figure you out and send you packing. Australia doesn't mess around. If you said you are a tourist, and your visa says you are a tourist, you will TOUR AND YOU WILL LIKE IT! Do not try to earn any money!

Anyway, check it out if you get a chance. Just don't plan to get anything done for about 10 hours straight. Also, if you ever plan to travel to Australia: do not bring any fruits, vegetables, nuts, or meats. Do not hide drugs in any of the holes on your body. Don't bring too much cash, but also don't bring too little (or they will ask you how you can afford your trip). Don't act nervous, but also don't act too confident. If the dog sniffs you and your stuff and then sits, that means he found something. Run for your life.

Have a good day, mate.

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