How to avoid an international incident at any airport
Don’t offer any personal opinions. As Americans we tend to forget that freedom of speech does not necessarily extend to all jurisdictions, and is also not seen as a favorable right within many customs and immigration’s spaces. I was reminded of this when I returned back to Uganda from a short pre-Christmas break in Germany. After two equally uncomfortable and long flights I touched down in Kampala today, feeling a little exhausted and disenchanted with the long immigration line that seemed to snake around the entire airport.When it was finally my turn, the customs’s lady asked me to pay $50 for a one month visa. I complied, but made the big mistake of expressing my dismay of having to fork over $50 dollars for a 30 day visa, only to have to do it again next month. I further exacerbated an already fragile situation by incorporating the term money making scheme into my dialogue. At this point the customs agent just confiscated my passport and asked me to step aside. As an apparent punishment for expressing how I feel, I was asked to go to the proverbial corner and think about what I’d just said. In actuality, she had me stand by the corner of her desk and wait while she processed an army of other travelers. After the army of traveler’s had been processed, and she could no longer reasonably ignore me, she referred me to a supervisor, who ultimately ended up issuing the visa. The verbal faux pas cost me two extra hours at Entebbe airport’s no frills immigration office. After the matter was resolved, I walked away tight lipped thinking how this type of intimidation is so clearly correlated with people’s reticence to voice complaints (i.e. absence of basic infrastructure). If the people put in place to serve and protect you can create such havoc, who is going to protect you from the people who protect you?