Thursday, January 8, 2009

Failte!

The Irish immigration officials are the friendliest I've ever encountered. Wait - let me re-phrase that. The Irish immigration officials are the only friendly ones I've ever encountered.

We flew into Dublin last weekend and as usual I had to part ways with my beloved Stu in order to go through a separate immigration line to be asked what I was doing living in Belfast and why (good questions, come to think of it.) As I stood waiting with a bunch of other people who'd journeyed a fair distance, mostly from Africa it seemed, I watched as the officials interviewed weary travelers through perspex glass. Wait a minute . . . while scanning a passport and looking up details on a computer, one official and a man from India were 'bantering' about something and let me tell you, judging from their shared laughter, the craic was indeed mighty.

Moving up in the line and pulling my little suitcase behind me I smiled to myself, thinking how this moment contrasted sharply with my usual encounters with officials of this ilk. Take, for example, the time my university friend's car was impounded by the friendly Canucks at the Canada-US border in the middle of the night during a snowstorm (reason still remains a mystery to this day.) Or I personally like the story of when Stu was unceremoniously thrown off a train traveling from America to visit me and was 'officially denied entry to Canada' which, as you might imagine, leads to all kinds of pesky questions each and every time we travel home.

But my rant, I think, is inspired by a more recent experience. Just this past autumn upon arriving in Toronto, the very first Canadian we talked to was the rudest immigration official ever (think doberman Mountie.) It broke my little heart to have my precious notion of the 'friendly Canadian' shattered by an unnecessarily harsh interrogation (perhaps I'm overstating the case somewhat but it's my blog so bear with me.) And come to think of it, while we're on the subject, can I ask why exactly (apart from an extreme need to intimidate) these officials were all wearing bullet proof vests seeing as we'd just come off a transatlantic flight (I, for one, was hoping that none of my flightmates were packing heat on the way over from London!)

So, while I tend to whine and complain about quite a lot of things related to being an 'innocent abroad' (Stu's gently mocking term for me), for that brief moment in Dublin airport I will 'fess up to feeling all warm and fuzzy for the shamrock.

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