By Vicki Barnes
We feel like we’ve crossed so many borders this trip (two in the last few days), it hardly seems a big deal any more. You get your stamps, you pay your fee, you walk out of one country into another, you get your stamps, you pay your fee, you walk into another country.
But, in reality, it is a big deal. Most travelers, when they do go from one country to another, do so in an airport or a port. They miss the fun of actually stepping across that line in the sand or the water where one people’s land becomes another’s.
When we crossed from Nicaragua to Costa Rica on the Rio Frio, we had already gotten our exit stamps in San Carlos before boarding the long water bus for a two hour boat trip to Los Chiles in Costa Rica. Unceremoniously, about three-quarters of the way to our destination, the deck hand reached up through the window at the front of the boat, took down the Nicaraguan flag and put the Costa Rican flag in its place. That was it. Suddenly we were in another place.
When we crossed into Nicaragua a few weeks before, we walked along a dusty road in the frontier. The dust hung thick on the trees and the people. The 1 Km walk led past little restaurants and flat, square buildings, in which bureaucrats were mindlessly shuffling papers. Guards stood by idly chatting and feeding the remains of their lunch to waiting stray dogs. We noticed the insignia on their sleeves changed from Costa Rican to Nicaraguan. And suddenly we were in another place.
Yesterday’s crossing into Panama was a little more dramatic as it required traversing a rusted railroad bridge paved with barely nailed in boards over the Rio Sixaola. I looked, but I couldn’t see a change between one country and the next there either, but in one inefficient bureaucratic facility we were in one country and a kilometer away at another we were in another country.
Our passport stamp collection is larger and we’re in another place.