by Maria Ruiz
Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.
Borders: lines, trucks, vendors, mud, cooking fires, stray dogs, and pieces of tortillas or rolls in the muddy road, men lounging against trucks, women either stirring pots over fires in hubcaps or slapping tortilla dough, children staring out through dirty truck windows, pigs squealing through the slats of wood of one trailer, cows lowing from another, and uniformed guards holding rifles as they walk between the vehicles.
Amid all this confusing mass of cars and trucks, young boys dart in and out, passports or papers in hand, sometimes exchanging the papers for money.
We joined the long line of vehicles, waiting for the border guards to allow us to pass. Before we could even get out of our RV, several young boys were knocking on the door. We let a couple in and one tried, with broken English, to explain that he could help us through all the different lines and officials and ease our entry to Honduras. I was always against giving our passports to anyone so Ted went with him.
I watched as the boy led Ted to a window, walked right up to the window ahead of a line and spoke to the official. Quickly, the passport was taken by the guard, stamped and returned to Ted. Next the boy led Ted to another building—I’ll never understand why borders never make it easy by putting the windows in order, but they don’t.
At that point, I lost visual contact with Ted and our passports. About a half hour later he returned. After taking Ted to another office, the young man seemed to melt away. Ted gave all the papers for the RV, our passports, and the dog’s papers to the official. As the official started typing on an old IBM machine, the power went off. Without batting an eye, the official pulled out a very old manual typewriter and finished typing. He put out his hand for twenty-five U.S. dollars and stamped the RV papers and the typed ones. He pointed toward another building and suddenly the boy appeared again. He took all the papers and led Ted to another line. There, our visa were signed.
The boy stopped off at an office at the end of the building before leading Ted back to the RV. There, Ted paid him fifteen dollars U.S., and he gave us a smile and a thumbs up and disappeared into the melee of people.
We had our passports signed and stamped, the RV’s papers were okayed, but the dogs needed to be seen by the veterinarian, and he would come when he could. Both dogs needed to take a walk, so I hooked the leashes on and opened the door. I stepped carefully down to avoid the mud holes and the oil slicks that seem to come from every truck in line. Ahead I could see several mangy dogs sniffing around the women cooking lunches. Every once in a while, one of them would throw something out for the horrible malnourished dogs to get something.
I chose to go the other way. Carefully I picked my way through the trucks and cars and walked until both dogs emptied their bladders. I always walk with plastic bags, and as I picked up one deposit, people stared at me as if I had just taken all my clothes off. I walked toward a can and suddenly, one man grabbed the can and waved his hand at me, letting me know that I couldn’t put the bag into that can. I carried it back and found another can along the way.
Several dogs tried to greet mine, but I shooed them away. I felt so sorry for them, their ribs stuck out and their skin was covered with mange and spots of fur. Several had open wounds, probably from fighting and a couple of nursing mothers walked by. I quickly got my two little Schnauzers inside and made sure their feet were clean and not carrying oily prints in the RV.
When we entered Mexico from the U.S., we had their rabies records and made sure we had a report from a vet that said they were in good health. Once we had returned to the U.S. for a short visit and made sure we had current rabies shots and another vet report. Again, back into Mexico, we showed all the current reports that were filled. Then when we crossed from Mexico into Belize, I had a little book for each dog with the rabies certificates inside. The guard turned each book back and forth, then stamped the book as if it were a passport.
Later, I pasted a head shot picture of Sherman in his book and Shatzie in his book and, as we continued to travel, officials would look at the books, check the dates of the rabies shots and then stamp the books. By the time we traveled to Europe, the books were a stamped travel log for our pets.
Now as we were waiting to cross into Honduras, we wondered why the veterinarian wanted to see our two little well-groomed, well-fed, and handsome little Schnauzers. After about an hour, the vet knocked on our door. Inside, he used his stethoscope to listen to their hearts, checked their teeth, and stamped their little books. I couldn’t resist and asked, “Why was it necessary for you to check our dogs?”
He stood with his hand on the door knob and answered, “We don’t want you bringing any disease into our country?”
At that, I laughed and pointed out the window at a couple of dogs in the act of bringing more dogs into the border. He laughed and nodded his head. “Yes, yes. But we know what we have. We don’t always know what you might be bringing in.”
He left and we laughed as we drove across the border, into another adventure.