The economic students dropped Chaya and I off at the Croatia/ Montenegro border, and sped off back the way that they we had came with big waves out of the tiny car’s tiny windows. It was obvious now that they had driven us 20 km to the border for the sake of kindness, perhaps because they knew that nobody else was going to pick us up, or maybe because they knew that no one in their right mind would be traveling from Croatia and into Montenegro.
Chaya and I look around us and found a scene laying before us that haunts the hitchhiker’s vilest nightmares: desolation. Not a movement, not a sound, not a sign of any life at all rustled in the Croatia/ Montenegro borderlands. Finding a ride through this juncture would be difficult.
We walked up to the Croatia side border post with little concern. We had previously crossed six frontiers on this journey without hassle or difficulty. To think that our luck would abandon us now seemed preposterous.
But it did.
As we walked up to the drive through highway border post, we looked for a building or a window or something where we could get stamped out of Croatia. We were flagged over to a drive up control booth in the middle of the underused highway. There we met a tall, smiling, close cropped hair Croatian immigration inspector who looked through our travel documents.
“Where are you going?”
“Montenegro,” I answered, wondering where the hell else I could be going. “Kotor then Bar,” I rounded out my explanation with something that made a little more sense.
“Where are you coming from?”
“Croatia,” I answered, where the hell did he think I was coming from? “Dubrovnik.”
“How long were you in Croatia?”
“Where did you stay?”
“Where in Dubrovnik?”
“At a hotel,” I answered, wondering where the hell this guy was going with his stupid questions.
“What hotel?” the immigration inspector then asked to keep this little kid question and answer game going.
“I can’t pronounce the name of it, but I can show you were it is on a map,” I replied, knowing that I had no idea how to pronounce Croatian words.
This was the wrong answer. I know better than this. When crossing a border, you can never say that you do not know anything. When crossing a border, you must answer every direct question with a direct answer. Any honest human attempt to provoke a degree of common sense out of an immigration official is futile, for it seems to be against their training to recognize that travelers who stay in Croatia for three days tend to not be able to speak Croatian.
The tall immigration inspector jumped on my indirect answer like a horny dog. “You come with me,” he ordered me. “You stay here,” he ordered Chaya. I came with him.
Into the interrogation room we went. “Do you have drugs?” he asked me.
“No,” I answered slightly exasperated.
“I know that you have drugs,” he spoke, “and I am going to find them. Then you will go to prison.”
“I don’t have drugs,” I reiterated in a futile sort of way.
“I am going to look through all of your things until I find your drugs.”
What the fuck.
“Ok, go for it, you won’t find any drugs.”
He did go for it, and everything – every single thing – in my bags, pockets, and clothing was searched, fondled, and molested thoroughly. I was being search raped, and could do nothing but stand watch and help the inspector dismantle my neatly packed travel gear.
Now, it must be stated here that nearly a decade of travel means that I have picked up a lot of odd little trinkets, weird souvenirs, and other unidentifiable things. Balls of yarn, small stones from Tai Shan, pieces of driftwood from Portugal, glow in the dark Buddha amulets from China, prayer beads from Japan, and countless other little reminders of my journeys were removed from their rightful homes, fondled with raised eyebrows, and then placed on a long white table. Soon everything that I had was removed from everything else and laid out on before myself and the immigration inspector.
AIYA! Maybe my drugs were on my female traveling companion. Chaya was then called in and a woman immigration inspector did the same procedure to her.
“Are you pregnant?” she asked Chaya when she found the two tons of prenatal vitamins in her rucksack.
“Yes,” Chaya replied, as the search with lack of seizure drew near to an end.
Disappointed, perhaps, that he could not find some excitement in his boring day by sending me to prison, the tall immigration inspector muttered a dejected, “You can take your things and go ahead.”
And after a quick pass through Montenegro immigration and a survey of the desolation on the other side reveled the reason why the tall Croatian inspector was so sure that we had drugs:
Simply put, someone would have to be on something to want to travel from Croatia into the squalor of Montenegro.