Thursday, August 7, 2014

How did a British photographer arrive in America?

When I worked in retail, everybody used to ask how I arrived in America. It really is nobody else's beeswax but for the sake of argument, I will relate the tale of how a British Photographer arrived in America and will just hope that the questions now cease. This is the only time I'm going to explain this so y'all better listen.

It took me a long time to arrive in America and it wasn't really my intention so to do. I'd been really quite happy working in Eastern Europe, speaking Russian to the Russians and English to all the people that hated the Russians. I'd been working for a while in the capital city of Latvia, known as Riga where anti-American sentiment can be nauseating at times. 

An example of the anti-American sentiment... I was in the street asking about something and a couple - male and female began to berate me in English for being American and all the evil things they assumed I was responsible for happening all around the world and how my government meddled in everything. After they wound down from their tirade and the man drew back to swing a punch I said "just a minute" and they paused and I responded "I'm actually British". Their blushes could have lit up the city. They proffered profuse apologies and we ended up drinking beer in a bar together. I don't quite understand all the hate around the world with one race hating another. On second thoughts - yes I can - the media peddles hate and nothing but hate, thinly disguised as patriotism.

So, roll on a few months and I ended up back in Britain where I received an email. My good friend from Mexico was getting married. We'd met online about 10 years before and we'd been friends for years. We'd met in a chat forum when she was learning English and I was bored having finished my essays so we'd started chatting.

Getting a visa to visit Mexico was mildly tricky and needed forms to be completed and proof that I wasn't intending to stay in Mexico after my visa expired. That was all done and the flight was booked to Mexico City. Thus on a dismal, drizzly November day I flew out from Birmingham to Mexico City, arriving bright an early the next day.

The wedding was spectacular. I wish I'd got pictures of it. Sadly somebody stole my camera with all the film for at that time I did not use digital imaging. The plan was to stay in Mexico for another week before flying home. Thus I toured around a little bit, heading to Chihuahua to look around. The plan was eventually to head to Tijuana to look at the US from Mexican soil to see how it looked. That was the plan and as we all know well, plans go awry.

I took the bus to Tijuana but the bus never got to Tijuana. Instead, it was hijacked by some heavily armed gang who proceeded to shoot selected passengers including the driver. The rest of us were all taken prisoner. We were locked up in an adobe building with little food or water. One of my fellow passengers passed away and was unceremoniously dragged out by our captors. Meanwhile, I noticed that the tin roof was not actually attached to the wall and in one place not even attached to the roof beams.

After dark, being the tallest person there, I lifted the tin roof and peered outside. Nobody was watching the back of the building! That was amazing. All our captors were fast asleep - probably full of tequila. Oddly enough the other hostages were asleep or very lethargic. I wonder whether that had anything to do with the foul-tasting food that I'd rejected a few hours earlier. With great physical effort and being careful to remain silent, I slipped over the wall and under the tin sheeting, landing hard on the ground. I was winded and lucky that nobody heard me. It took an age before I felt I could get up and run.

There were clearly bunk shacks around. There were a few vehicles and people lying around sleeping with their guns. Taking the Rambo approach and blazing away with one of their guns was tempting but getting away silently and undiscovered seemed the better option given the complete lack of resistance. So, I sneaked out of the camp. I hadn't gone far before I caught sight of the brightly illuminated border but saw another group of armed people slumbering between the border and I.

Prudence being the better part of valour, I walked on for an age, keeping the border about 500 yards to my left. I almost fell down a hole. Looking closely at the hole in the dim moonlight, it seemed to be man-made. I'd heard about tunnels under the US border but didn't think they existed. I assumed it was some kind of cellar and there might be food down there for I was famished. Thus, down I went but it turned out to be a tunnel and it headed toward the border.

Following the tunnel, some of which looked like it was about to collapse and which was quite rank in places, was arduous. After probably about 1,000 yards of narrow tunnel, I saw the stars. I was through - I was away from my captors. I was on the other side of the border, where people spoke English.

So, that's the unbelievable story of how I ended up in America. The part between arriving in America and living in South Carolina as a bona fide US citizen is another story entirely, for another day.

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