Traveling all over the world is nice and all, but sometimes it brings along some really scary (read: fucking shitty) moments, like that one time I was taken into custody after being suspected of carrying drugs.
Here’s how it happened:
Three long-winded layovers and forty-eight hours of travel time after leaving Europe, I finally made it to the Middle East. My plans to arrive swiftly into the Jordanian capital and head over to a warm, cozy bed were cut short after the immigration officer looked at my passport with suspicion.
“Something wrong?”, I enquired.
“Are you traveling alone?”, he asked.
“Do you have a husband?”
“Why is he not here with you?”
“He is busy with school right now.”
“Why did he allow you to come alone?”
“Please follow us”, said two men that were not dressed like immigration officers at all.
“Why?” I asked nervously. These men did not look official at all, neither one of them was wearing uniforms.
“Is someone waiting for you outside the airport?”
I didn’t want to answer, I didn’t want for them to know that I didn’t know a single soul in the country and no one around was waiting for me to show up.
I grabbed my phone to text my boyfriend what was happening, just in case I was about to go missing, but before I even managed to type in half the message, they snatched it away from my hands.
“You are not allowed to communicate with anyone until we are finished.”, they exclaimed angrily as they began pulling me towards a small room.
“Please tell me what is going on and where you are taking me,” I pleaded, with tears filling my eyes.
“We believe you are carrying drugs.”
“Daniela, it is better if you tell us now. We are about to check every part of your body and luggage and if we find anything, you will be in big trouble.”
Every part of your body. What a perfect way to word it.
This is when I completely lost it.
Scenes of these men touching my body to “search for drugs” in that dark room we were about to enter flashed before me.
If their intention really was to confirm I was not a drug trafficker… what if – someone, somehow – had placed drugs in my checked luggage?
I wasn’t sure which option was worse. My fate was written, and it wasn’t pretty.
We entered the room to find a fat, Arab man sitting on his desk – he was their boss. Cigarette smoke circled around the room and made its way up to the roof. I was asked to take a seat. A tall woman was sitting in the opposite corner.
The sight of another lady calmed me. Maybe they did just want to make sure I was clear, and everything would be ok.
As his assistant lit up a cigarette, I asked if I could smoke one as well. They allowed it. “Daniela, we have a reason to believe you are trafficking illegal drugs into Jordan.”
“Why? Because I am Mexican?”
“Yes. And you were pretty nervous when my colleagues were bringing you here.”
I flipped out and told him, yes, of course, I was nervous. Two random men who did not look at all official began dragging me into a room, telling me my body would be searched and asking questions to see if I was on my own.
Was I wrong to assume that, just because Jordan is country with a Muslim majority, the men had bad intentions?
Probably, but I do still think the whole situation was handled incorrectly by them. He seemed to disregard my answer and continued on to ask for his assistant to open my luggage.
He proceeded to rummage through my suitcase as thoroughly as possible. Also, it doesn’t really help when half of your products’ ingredients are written in Thai.
Did I mention I am a very messy packer? The look on his face gave me the clue me that he was wondering if a 5-year-old had packed for me.
And nothing was found.
They had a look at my passport and found my Yellow Fever Vaccine certificate, which they stared at for a good five minutes, puzzled.
“What is this?”
“It’s a certificate for my vaccinations?”
“You know, when they put medicine through a needle”, I replied proudly. That was a dumb way to word it.
“No! It is for my health, to stop a disease when I go to Africa.”
I couldn’t believe these idiotic men had just turned me into an AIDS-ridden drug mule.
“No, no. It is a normal procedure. Everyone gets it,” I lied, “You can Google it.”
Next up was a body check. I told him I would not allow for a man to do the check and he appointed the mysterious woman sitting in the corner to do so. We entered another small room, and, while I undressed, I felt the stinky smell of my two-day-old socks creeping in.
You know for sure you are not trafficking drugs when you are being searched by a Middle Eastern government and your biggest worry is how much your feet stink.
She let me out and I lit another cigarette, this time much more relaxed than before.
Until they asked me for my phone’s password. Oh, god.
They began searching through my Whatsapp messages, desperately trying to prove that I was indeed in Jordan for the wrong reasons.
They could have found misleading messages. You see, I have a pretty aloof sense of humor and I don’t mind making fun of myself. When my friends joke about me selling drugs, (because I am Mexican and they can’t think of a more original way to mock me), I will joke about it back.
It’s all fun and games until you actually become a suspect.
I must have chain-smoked at least ten cigarettes during the half an hour they were reading through my messages. To my luck, however, they stopped right before my latest joke about bringing drugs into Europe from Thailand began.
They apologized for making wrong assumptions based on nationality and the following half an hour was spent talking about Jordan, the attractions I shouldn’t miss during my time there and so on.
I was dismissed and as I walked out the door, he told me “Before I forget: You can buy cigarettes on the first floor here at the airport. I think after this experience you need to smoke at least ten more.”
Yes, I do.
This is just one of the four short stories I share on the book Inspired: The Stories of Nine Solo Female Travelers. You can grab your copy over on Amazon! 🙂