Vancouver Jumping the Border
“What is the purpose of your visit?â€ asked the man in the booth, and I shrugged.
“Lunch,” I said. “Just thought I’d pop over for an hour or so.â€
To border guards, this is not an acceptable answer. “Businessâ€ is a proper response. Or “vacation.â€ I should have luggage and an itinerary in hand. Anything else arouses suspicion.
And so I’ve learned to lie. This last visit, I invented an old high school friend who was meeting me somewhere.
I love the American Northwest but, even more, I love Vancouver. The sky seems brighter above the border, the hills less jagged, the pedestrians more conscientious. I drove in spirals, getting lost along the city’s districts as they’re vivisected by bridges and highways.
Lunchtime traffic was slow. I carefully watched the smaller “Km/H” numbers on my speedometer and pressed radio buttons until I found a French-language R&B station.
I parked near Chinatown, outside a restaurant advertising food from Sri Lanka. I’d never even heard of Sri Lankan food. I walked inside and mispronounced something off the menu.
Cricket was on the TV. I stared at the front counter, reading the unfamiliar brand names of chocolate bars. I was half-listening to every conversation in the building, simply basking in the varieties of accents and snippets of other lives.
Vancouver Proves Worth the Jump
This is the sort of moment I can’t explain to a border guard. I can’t tell him I’m most comfortable when out of my element. I can’t say I forget who I am until I’m surrounded by strangers. Lost in a strange city may as well be my living room. This is what makes me happy. This is what makes me me.
My lunch arrived, a large, flat fried thing with three cups of sauces along the sides. I had no idea how to eat it, but I grinned as I realized it’s just food. There’s no wrong way to eat food.
I ate quickly because I needed to get back on the road. I needed to find my way back to the highway and hurry back down to the border. I needed to lie my way back into my home country. No, I didn’t bring anything with me. No, I’m not taking anything back. I just wanted lunch.
Written by Brian C. Baer
After living abroad in Prague and Manchester, UK, Brian C. Baer has returned home to the Pacific Northwest. He works as a freelance writer and blogs about travel and geeky things at briancbaer.wordpress.com.