Goodbye Bondsteel! 
Friday, May 27, 2005, 13:24 - Travel, Personal
Well this wraps up my time in Kosovo.


A medivac helo at sunset. ©Damaso Reyes

The past few weeks have gone by pretty quickly but I feel like I have gotten some good photos and am ready for a little down time in Amsterdam, my next stop. Donít worry, I will manage to shoot while I am there but I think I will take a more relaxed approach to things. I really canít wait to process some film when I get back to the States!

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London Calling 
Saturday, April 16, 2005, 21:29 - Travel
London

Well, Iím here, barely. While the flight went smoothly things got more than interesting when I touched down at Heathrow. In my travels as a journalist I have discovered one universal fact: no matter your nationality and where you are arriving at, immigration officials suck. Usually if you are an American coming home you breeze through and that has pretty much been my experience. But when you leave home soil everything is up for grabs.

In Indonesia I learned to simply ďaccidentallyĒ leave the equivalent of ten dollars in my passport, which the poorly paid and overworked immigration official inspecting it had come to expect as a nice ďbonus.Ē Getting through borders in the developing world is a snap if you have the money. Once I was a little tight and only put five bucks in my passport and ended up on the first boat back to Singapore.

I never made that mistake again.

While I found it distasteful and against my principals I learned to grease the wheels to the bureaucracy when I had to: after all, I had bigger fish to fry than haggling with some official looking to shake me down. So upon embarking on this project I was looking forward to the efficient and courteous immigration officials I would find in Europe, especially the UK.

Boy was I wrong.

In middle school I had a wonderful, if stern teacher from England who instilled in me the importance of manners and the sense that all British people were extremely proper. As I walked up to the counter I presented my passport to a matronly woman in her forties who resembled in passing my former teacher. I felt I was in good hands. That is until she started asking questions. Before my trip I went online to the consulate to make sure I didnít need any visas as a journalists or a round trip ticket. Knowing my plans were flexible I decided not to buy a round trip ticket, which was my major mistake.

Immigration Official:
Why are you here: business or pleasure?

Me: A bit of both.
Immigration Official: I see. And you donít have a return ticket?

Me: No, I am not sure when I will be returning to New York I may end up spending more time at my other destinations.

Immigration Official: Well how do I know that you have any intention to return?

This struck me as odd. Did she really think I was here to move to London and live off the dole? I was after all coming from the richest city in the richest country in the world. I tried to explain to her that I had no intention of staying in London more than a few weeks. I was a journalist, you see, here to cover the elections. After that I am heading to Kosovo, see the letter written by my editor in New York? See the NYPD issued press credentials hanging around my neck?

Immigration Official: Well that card looks like a fake if you ask me.

And so on and so forth for the next three hours.

It was really quite bizarre. After asking more strange questions she motioned me to sit in a group of chairs whilst she decided if they would let me in the country. As time dragged on I became increasingly angry, vowing never to return to England if they denied my entry. Strangely at one point an underling asked me if I wanted tea and biscuits ( I politely refused). I made a point of being civil no matter how silly the accusations or blatantly racist the official was being (during my time waiting, all the other people waiting to find out if they would be sent back from wherever they came from were African or Asian). After waiting for several hours and having my luggage searched and my private journal read the official once again summoned me to her counter.

Immigration Official: I have no idea why but my superior has decided to allow you in. Make sure you do not overstay.

What a welcome!

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