MisplacedWomen?

Posts Tagged ‘Border’

Buffalo Border/Aubergine Kartoffeln´s Story

In Borders, Stories on February 11, 2017 at 7:58 pm

By Aubergine Kartoffeln

Monty and I were denied entry to the U.S. at the Buffalo border (beginning of December 2016), but I can’t tell you why. Not because I want to keep it a secret, but because the reason was kept secret from us too.

The first thing the border protection officer found in Monty’s shoulder bag were a few loose pages of notes, including four sheets with nothing written on them. Apparently, this was immediate cause for suspicion, as the officer said, “These four pieces of paper don’t have writing on them. Why are you carrying four blank pieces of paper?”

All of a sudden, everything we carried was suspect and seemed to pose some threat to the U.S.: “Why is this soap this colour?” “You only need this tiny container for hair gel?” “You’re telling me you wear these pants for fashion? I don’t believe you.”

Maybe we got turned away at the border because the officer looked in Monty’s exercise log book and smirked: “You do a hundred push-ups a day? Well, this guy [indicating to another officer] does a thousand.”

Or maybe we were detained at the border because the border protection officer couldn’t fathom why we would be making music and art on vacation. He demanded to know: “Why would you be making music on vacation?” When I asked what he meant, he explained: “When I go on vacation, I go shopping; I go to shows; I don’t make music.”

We sat in a waiting room for a long time through the night. We were each brought alone into a small room to have our mugshots and fingerprints taken, surrounded by four or five officers. We were interrogated separately about each other’s affairs, and questioned about our involvement with countries in the Middle East. Waiting is especially stressful when you don’t know what you are waiting for — maybe what happens next will be worse than the suspense of waiting. We already knew we couldn’t enter the U.S., but imagination gives way to all sorts of nauseating outcomes that make the wait even more excruciating.

An officer stood watch over us in the waiting room, his eyes fixated on old reruns of American Dad playing on the TV. I got the sense that these border protection officers really enjoy their jobs, especially the power they get from intimidating others, making people feel flustered and vulnerable.

Then suddenly, with no explanation, we were told to go. How did they come to that decision? What did they find out from their computers? What had they decided about us? What sort of threat did they think we posed? What will happen the next time we try to cross the border?

It bothers me that we were not given any explanation. It bothers me that we can not refute anything because we were not given anything to refute. It bothers me that the border protection officers obviously made the decision to deny us entry before they even finished their investigation, so that it’s very likely that there was no reason of why we were denied entry other than the officer’s distaste for the art objects in Monty’s suitcase.

Not that reason seems to matter anymore. I’m just glad we could go free, and that our lives didn’t depend on this crossing. I can only imagine how horrific it is to leave your fate in the hands of border protection.

monty-pic

Monty Cantsin’s suitcase full of agitprop materials caught the eye of USA Customs agents.

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Aubergine Kartoffeln is Toronto based social worker and artist

Istvan Kantor alias Monty Cantsin is Toronto based artist of Hungarian origin

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Please reed as well the related article by Sarah Ferguson who interviewed Istvan Kantor related to the denial of the freedom of movement on the U.S. Buffalo Border:

http://thevillager.com/2016/12/23/rivington-school-propagandist-monty-cantsin-held-at-u-s-border/

She wrote that according to Istvan Kantor, the agents in Buffalo, NYC, became alarmed when they found sealed packages of hypodermic needles in his luggage. Kantor is renowned for his “blood art” — using his own blood to splatter walls in museums like the MoMA to protest the “commodification” of art — and has been arrested numerous times both here and abroad.

He says the customs agents were also irked by the megaphone bearing Kantor’s trademark “Neoism” slogan, along with his Nazi-like cap, Chinese security armbands and red flag — all props for the satirical performances he planned to stage.

Although Kantor has been detained at the border before, he says he’s had no trouble coming into the U.S. in the last three years. But this was different.

“They took me and my girlfriend to a special room for fingerprints and mugshots,” he said, “and that’s where the more serious questioning began — especially about my travels in China,” where Kantor has been teaching multimedia art. “They wanted to know if I had visited Pakistan, Libya, Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries.”

After three hours of grilling, Kantor and his girlfriend were put in a car and taken across the border, where they were forced to take a $220 cab ride back to Toronto because it was 4 a.m.

“We never got a concrete explanation or piece of paper or anything to explain why we were turned away,” Kantor said.

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Jasmina Tešanović´s Story

In Borders, Railway-stations, Stories on October 18, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Here I am now as a wannabe European woman traveling alone. Because you see, women don’t travel alone; they travel with their men, families or friends. If they are alone, it means they are lost or dangerous. I always get those looks and check ups, even friendly offers.

I entered in the first comfortable train heading north… to even more United Europe.

Border officers were entering my train, checking us, and it all went well, until we managed to come across one small piece of one small country that once used to be called Yugoslavia, that once used to be my own country.

I didn’t have the proper papers, they claimed. Politely, they took me out off the train, and even more delicately, they locked me behind bars. A small prison hut, really, with two young officers watching me from outside with guns.

Then they went through my suitcase, then through my hand bag and then through my computer.

They were amused:

– So, what are you doing here, madame, smuggling yourself in our country without a visa?

– No, I wasn’t , I said bewildered, I was just traveling back home.

– But you took the wrong train, you cannot travel Europe without a visa.

– No, I said, I just took a train that happens to cross this small country, a nation smaller than the city I come from, a country where the plastic covers on the haystacks look fancier than tablecloths in my country.

– We will have to charge you with an attempt to cross our border illegally.

– But I legally gave you my passport. It was a mistake, my country split up and Europe united…you know, it was such a big confusion…

– We don’t remember your ex-country. The two young blonde border officers stared at me.

I looked at them. Of course, they were too young to remember or even know, why would they care, they were just doing their job.

– You are a writer, one of them says.

– Yes, I am.

– What do you write about, asks he.

– Stuff like this really, I answered vividly, crossing the borders, messing with laws and people.

He was taken aback.

– We must take you immediately to your embassy, in the capital.

– No, I must call my lawyer, you must give me the phone.

It was actually a moment of hands-on struggle between us: the European new order and non-European individual.

The young officer said:

– If we let you go into no-man’s land between borders, you can wait for a couple of hours over there, and then enter Croatia, the country you travelled from. Since from tomorrow, the visa regime in Croatia for Serbs is abolished. You could sleep in the no-man’s land if they don’t let you into Croatia.

– It’ s a deal, I said.

And we did it.

They deported me a couple of kilometers, into nobody’s land where there was literally nothing. I walked slowly, dragging my luggage to the border, which soon enough would stop being one. I reached it, I crossed it because of a kind officer who looked the other way, and I took another train south.

Then a middle aged train conductor checked my new ticket to the south.

– Didn’t you go north only a couple of hours ago?

– Yes I did, I said. I tried to reach to my same destination but I took the wrong direction.

– Don’t you read your tickets, check your trains?

– No I don’t, I said peevishly, as if admitting that I never go to doctors for a regular check up.

– Well you should madame, this world today is all about trains and proper tickets and papers.

He was right: I looked at his kind elderly face with wrinkles, the devoted body bent over his conductor’s heavy bag, his stamps lost in a smaller bag. I imagined his long-sought pension round the corner, his future life, that of a railway clerk in pension: a little bit of gardening, a little bit of cooking, and a lot of memories of trips, and people he met and treated, or mistreated.

I remembered Walter Benjamin’s suicide at the border while waiting for a visa that arrived only hours too late. A Jew trying to escape Nazi Germany: a philosopher trying to describe the world he was living in. Which Benjamin did perfectly: only he did not have the patience and strength to survive it.

By Jasmina Tešanović

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Editorial comment:

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This story has been written in Jun 2003 at the time when visa regime between Croatia and Serbia has been finally abandoned. But Serbian passport holders still needed a visa for Slovenia. (Slovenia joined the European Union one year later, on 1 May 2004). Jasmina Tešanović actually traveled from Zagreb to Belgrade. The train she took first was going over Slovenia, then she had to change to the one that was going from Zagreb to Belgrade over Budapest and where she would not need a visa.

Jasmina Tešanović is a women without homeland and without mother tongue, who lives and works on-line.

This story that she has kindly contributed to the “Missplaced Women?” blog is a part from her on-line book in english: ”My Life Without Me”. In Serbian language “Moj zivot bez mene”, has been publish by Rende, Belgrade in  2013. Italian version  “La mia vita senza di me”, Infinito, Bologna, 2014.

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