Some of you have heard of (and subsequently laughed at) my intense desire to be a spy when I was a freshman in college. And for those of you who were unaware...the cat's out of the bag. My first semester at Texas Tech marked the first of many changes in major, from biology to political science. I was going to be James Bond, only female and less promiscuous. I even took courses in Russian so I would be totally ready for the next Cold War. A meeting with a CIA recruiter showed me I didn't have what it took to be a covert operative. Or so I thought...

Fast forward eight years. One weekend, Gabrielle and I are looking for something to do. Guatemala's close...let's do that. So we hop in the car and take off for the frontera. As you might imagine, we are stopped at the border, and our passports are checked. We had recently gotten our visas extended, so there was some special paperwork we needed to discuss with the customs agent. Then the nice man handed us our passports, said we were good to go, and sent us on our merry way into the Guatemalan unknown. It struck us as odd that we didn't receive any sort of stamp...but a lot of things don't make sense here, so we didn't dwell on that thought for long.

After about 30 minutes of nothing but banana fincas, we drove past what looked like a rest stop of sorts: a little shack with a Coca-Cola sign, lots of people sitting outside at picnic tables, big-rigs pulled over on the side of the road, and a small group of police officers. Nothing we felt particularly compelled to stop at, so we moved on in search of something interesting.

A short ways down the highway, we stumbled upon the Hibiscus Museum. Although I didn't see any actual hibiscuses (hibisci?) they did have a really pretty nature trail behind the museum. Inside there was a large collection of traditional Guatemalan clothing and textiles. The couple that owns the museum (which is also a restaurant) collected these for many years before opening this place up to promote cultural awareness. They also serve some amazing food. Some of the menu items have the same name as menu items in Honduras, but are prepared differently, which I thought was really interesting as well.

As it turns out, there really isn't much in this region of Guatemala. The woman at the museum pointed us to Puerto Barrios as the closest place of interest. Or really, the closest place, period. There was a market there, which we hoped would have textiles and things of that nature, but it was mostly stand after stand of black market DVDs and shoes. Not exactly what we were hoping for, and it was getting late in the day, so we decided to head back for home. On the way out of town, we were distracted by a replica of the Taj Mahal surrounded by a random assortment of brightly colored structures, so we decided to check it out. As it turns out, it was the city cemetery.

Guatemalans are known for their (some say garishly) colorful clothing and textiles. I didn't know that it carried over into other (or all) aspects of their culture. But apparently cemeteries at least also fall into the technicolor part of their cultural spectrum. I took a picture of it, but the data was corrupted so I can't share it with you...but I kid you not, the cemetery is sponsered by Sherwin Williams. ah-mazing.

We looked around the cemetery for awhile, then hopped back in the car. As you might expect, the drive back was similar to the drive there, only in reverse. That is, until we reached the rest stop. It looked exactly the same as it did earlier that day: people sitting at picnic tables outside the Coca-Cola shack, big-rigs pulled over on either side, and the group of police officers hanging out. Only this time the police officers wave us over and tell us we need to go inside.

We enter the small structure to discover, not the small comedor or pulperia we were expecting, but a customs agent at a desk. The man takes my passport and flips through the pages. When he reaches the end, he flips through again. He does this a couple times, and things begin to feel a little awkward. He then sets my passport down and informs me that I don't have an entry stamp, which I knew...but apparently that was the elephant in the room and he wanted to acknowledge it. Then he tells me we should have stopped by there on our way into the country to get our stamp. You may find this hard to believe, but I have driven past many shacks with Coca-Cola signs on them without going in to get my passport stamped, and this was the first time it's ever posed a problem. Or maybe all of that errant passport-stamp avoiding recklessness finally caught up with me. Whichever the case, if he gives us an exit stamp, he will also give us a fine. Nothing too insurmountable, but definitely more than "zero", which is what my budget for illegal country visits is currently set at.

"But the guy said we were good to go," I said in incredibly broken Spanish.
"What guy? I've been here all day."
"The guy who stopped us at the border."
"The Honduran border?"
"Well, of course he said you were good to go. From Honduras. But that doesn't mean you are good to come. You have done a bad thing."
awesome. I think I might have whimpered a little bit at this point. Even more awesome.

Now the goodly customs agent had a decision to make. Were we trying to scam him? Or were we just two crazy American girls? The kind of people who don't innately know you need to stop in a small, unmarked shack to get an entry stamp after 30 minutes of driving past the border of the country for which said stamp is required? Fortunately he decided it was the latter, and let us go after we promised that next time we'd get a stamp. And since we paid for our meal in cash, there is nothing to say that we were in Guatemala that afternoon. It's like were never there.

In the biz, they call us "spooks". I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you.
2 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Wow I love your story telling, you have a gift!! I felt like I was in the backseat with you!! Way to go Lady Awesome Spy Extrodinare. Looks like I can post comments now!! Finally!!

  2. John Says:

    Well now that I know about the colorful cemetary you can use whatever color paint you were planning on using in my room to decorate my headstone. Wow that sounded more morbid than I ment anyway....

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