Crossing international borders by land is usually a piece of cake. As long as you don’t look like a complete transient, you have money, you’re not a wanted terrorist and you haven’t overstayed your visa, there shouldn’t be a problem.
Unfortunately, “Crazy Carmen” at the Honduran border to Copan had a few problems. She had a problem with her ex-boyfriend, with her pen, with our driver, and for no justifiable reason, my friend Allison’s visa.
Here Are The Facts
The Central American 4 or CA 4 is a union between El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Within this union all US citizens are allowed up to 90 days before they need to leave the CA 4.
Although my friend had just 27 days left on her visa, it was more than enough time. Unfortunately crazy Carmen thought differently and it threatened to strand us in a po funk no where border town for the night.
Here’s The Story
After a nauseating 4 hour bus ride from San Salvador we arrive at the border to Honduras. We are about to spill out of the shuttle when our driver makes an announcement.
“This lady at immigration is crazy yo, so be real nice to her you know,” he says in his South Boston infused El Salvadorian accent.
Having all my documents in order, I’m not really worried. How bad could she be, I think as I swiftly made my way to the counter.
I’m surprised to see a well-groomed and relatively serene looking woman in her mid 40’s talking on her cell phone.
She doesn’t look too crazy, I think. I muster a smile, put my passport through the opening when all of a sudden the near empty immigration hall fills with a barrage of Spanish curses.
“Good god,” I mutter as I recoil slightly from the window.
Pens begin flying like ninja shurikins, important looking documents scatter, but in all the chaos she somehow manages to stamp my passport.
Grateful, I slowly begin backing away.
Allison is up next and I can tell she’s nervous.
Carmen suddenly slams down the phone. She eyes Allison face with utter detest, picks up her passport and begins flipping through it.
“No,” she shouts abruptly in a think spanish accent.
“Que?” Allison responds meekly.
They begin to argue.
After a few minutes a local Honduran jumps and starts yelling at Carmen.
Carmen’s face reddens with anger and her eyes widen in a craziness I haven’t seen since that schizophrenic homeless guy in France.
“I think she wants a bribe,” says our driver unsurprised. “She does this to me all the time. I kiss her ass, I even brought her coffee last week, and she still does this.”
I look to Allison, she’s nearly in tears.
You’ve got to connect with her Leif, you have to show her our shared humanity, you have to kiss ass. We can’t stay here tonight, I won’t let it happen.
I calmly push Allison aside and look into this face of doom. My heart pounds.
I force the most genuine smile that I can, raise my pleading eyes to hers, and extend an open hand through the opening.
“Por favor Senorita. Somos etudiantes pauvres. Los cientos,” I say slowly. “Por favor,” I say again even slower.
And then, like slowly parting clouds, Carmens rage begins to dissipate. She looks towards me, her eyes becoming more relaxed. Then her lips begin to curl with what looks like a smile and deep down I know I’ve succeeded.
She mulls over the passport once again, carelessly flipping through pages, and reluctantly pulls out her stamp and stamps Allison’s passport.
If you ever find yourself being wrongfully extorted by a power hungry crazy like Carmen, the best strategy is to simply kiss ass, and appeal to their humanity and morals. Arguing won’t get you anywhere. To take a verse from the Tao Te Ching, “Тhe gentle overcomes the rigid; The weak overcomes the strong.” *One last tip about this border. Honduras charges an unofficial 3 dollar fee and if you don’t have the exact amount in Limpiras, they won’t give you change.