The strength of travel is in observing new things, with these new things leading to increased knowledge and the expansion of one's world view. This expansion can be of how other people live, talk and eat or it can be observations about politics, flora and fauna, or geography. We find it all fascinating and we thrive in newly discovered ideas as well as terrain.
On our recent trip to British Columbia I was particularly observant to how it felt crossing the border into another country, especially after the recent broadening of border security. We've crossed the border into Canada many, many times over the years, rarely finding it completely stress free. These days that stressful feeling is ramped up. Our nation's days of discontent increase and our border crossings feel more threatening. They are tense.
Ed was born in Saskatchewan, so he often gets questioned by border patrol in more detail than I, especially by U.S. Customs. Two years ago, Canadian Customs pulled us over so they could run a background check on me. Other times we just breeze through both U.S. and Canadian Customs. Sometimes we must dispose of food or answer a barrage of seemingly strange questions. We always try to be prepared with passports and Benton's vaccination documents ready; we carry no liquor; limit food on board; and have receipts for new purchases. But still, we wonder, "what this time?" We feel a touch of angst as we wait in the long line approaching the booth.
Coming home, back into the U.S. on this most recent trip, a passenger, about three cars in front of us, was pulled out, cuffed and led off, to who knows where. It's difficult to completely relax in any situation where the officials have such a high degree of control, and the citizens must comply both physically and in attitude, or risk their escalation of power.
Generally speaking, though, the back and forth between the U.S. and Canada is not too difficult or stress generating, and if you pass through customs at the Peace Arch, it is an inviting and beautifully welcoming park in both directions. Flags from both countries wave together in camaraderie and peace.
Our southern border with Mexico is quite a different experience, and has been for as far back as I can remember when my family and I visited relatives in the Imperial Valley, close to the Mexican border. Although we have not crossed into Mexico for a few years, we have passed through check points often in our close-to-the-border travels. And we are familiar with the past stress of entering and exiting Mexico. Both Canada and Mexico are our neighbors, but equal treatment is no where in sight and it makes me sad. This inequality is due to many reasons, but I suspect largely three -- economics, skin color and language. The differences are staggering.
Along the U.S.-Mexican border, friendship arches and dual-country flags flying to show the camaraderie between our two countries are non-existent. There are miles of fences and walls, expanses of cement, barbed wire, trash and filth everywhere. And U.S. southern Border Patrol is tough.
Walking between countries is prison-like…
And then there are the ecological disaster walls impeding wildlife…
Humans are impeded too, by land and by sea…
Ed and I are left wanting to reach out. To apologize. We want to show we're friendly. We want to honor our neighbors to the south, as well as to the north. Our encounters with the Spanish people have always been wonderful, both here in the U.S. and in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking nations, like when we spent a month in Ecuador. Friendly people with easy smiles, who dance and sing and welcome us with delight. People who love their families above all. Religious people. And the food couldn't be better!! Just try, I dare you, to find a fish taco in the U.S. that tastes as good as a fish taco in Baja.
In Trump's call for wall designs, this one was submitted. How healing and respectful and loving would this be? It's still a wall, like at the Peace Arch going into Canada, but it's also a park and a place to join hands and be neighbors…
Besides, if one is desperate to join loving family or in need of money, there is always a way…
"Borders are scratched across the hearts of men, by strangers with a calm, judicial pen, and when the
borders bleed we watch with dread the lines of ink along the map turn red."
~ Marya Mannes