Does The US Government Want To Prevent You From Leaving?
Can you imagine being trapped inside your home country, unable to leave? It may be closer to a reality than you realize. I’ll tell you a quick story to explain.
This weekend I rented a car in Bulgaria with the aim of driving through Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and eventually into Greece. Now, I’m no virgin to land border crossings in the developing world and understand the corruption and incompetence that typifies customs checkpoints. But this weekend’s experience was much more.
With documents in hand, I drove to my first border crossing in Strezimirovci, Bulgaria. After clearing customs on the Bulgarian side, the Serbian officers decided that they would not allow me to enter with the normal papers, and instead required that I obtain another customs form to proceed.
Unfortunately, they had no such customs form at their station, so they turned me around and sent me to another border check point in Kalotina, over an hour away.
The road from Strezimirovci to Kalotina skirts the Serbian border for a large part of the drive– quite literally, on one side of the road is Serbia, and on the other is Bulgaria. It’s all part of the same landscape with no discernable difference… these are just invisible lines guarded by gun-toting monkeys.
When I arrived to Kalotina, I found the ‘office’ where I was supposed to obtain the new document– just a simple, roadside concession stand. The ‘agent’ was the shop’s proprietor, a chain-smoking Serbian woman with rather mannish features.
Once I paid the appropriate fee, she spent the next 10 minutes hacking at her keyboard to produce an official looking Cyrillic document with lots of stamps and seals.
While I was waiting for her to finish, four different customers came into the shop to stock up on snacks and drinks. All they wanted was a cold one for the road, but they eventually got tired of waiting and left.
These four customers represented potential transactions that could have contributed something to the economy. Instead, though, they were preempted by an unnecessary bureaucracy that adds absolutely no value whatsoever.