Rumble: Immigration Anyone?

Once upon a time, before 9/11, I was invited to the US to speak at a congress on international humanitarian emergency response. I landed in Chicago, and showed my UN passport to the US immigration officer. The guy flipped through the pages, stamped it and wished me a nice day (yep, those were the easy times).

Just as I walked off, he said "Excuse me, sir!". I pulled my head between my shoulders, thinking "Oh shit!".
He leaned over his counter, and whispered to me: "Tell me, sir, which country is that?", pointing at my passport.
I answered: "This is a United Nations passport"
He smiled apologetically, and said: "Yes, I know, but which country is that actually? I mean, what is the capital?"
I whispered back: "Timbuktu"
He nodded, smiled and waived me through.

Later I told this story as my opening line at the congress, adding: "Before you want to do international humanitarian emergency response, you should really learn your geography!".
They did not think it was funny...

I guess the world changed after 9/11. We all know now Iraq is in North Africa and Afghanistan is just left of Japan...


Anonymous,  19 April, 2007 21:15  

Peter, I don't know if I should laugh or cry, but for now, I'll just drink my tea.
I went to high school in the US state of Pennsylvania (near Philly), where I had a well respected teacher in government. This same teacher was also highly suspect of the United Nations and taught that this particular country "the UN" was dangerous in that it pursued social and revolutionary objectives from the shores of "these United States". He had been a teacher since 1968 and until his death in 2002, taught every single senior class what they should know to graduate. Fortunately for me, life studies was not included in his curriculum.

Peter 19 April, 2007 22:18  

Hi Charlotte,

Well, ignorance is everywhere. A pity when it is preached as a truth. But you gave me an idea! Maybe we, the UN, should be more revolutionary to make more change for the better..! ;-)

Thanks for your comment.


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