Devoid of touts and without the general chaos of the convoy's arrival, the first post was barely recognizable. After checking in at the first shack, Evelyn and I were directed to the customs shack. Two men sat inside in the tiny dark room. An old table and a couple thin mattresses with the foam coming out pretty much filled the entire space. We handed over our passports and were told to get our packs form the cars.
The main thing they check here is the currency declaration form. In an attempt to prevent against changing money on the black market you're asked to declare all your currency upon entry to the country. Each time you change money legally you're given a receipt. These receipts along with your currency on hand must always add up to what's on your declaration form.
Although we didn't expect to be checked until we left the country, the previous night we'd reviewed our money situation and had hidden enough currency so that our form would be accurate. So we thought.
The customs officials asked for our form and for our change receipts and then said "show us all your money". So we emptied our money belts and dug our stashes of travelers' checks out of our packs. The officials counted the bills and then pulled out a little calculator as I did the math in my head. Oops—it didn't add up. We had too much money—$155 to be exact. Hmmm, easy way for them to rectify that situation, I thought to myself.
The officials pointed repeatedly at the display of the calculator. "Big problem", they were saying. We made all kinds of excuses as they started going through our stuff accussing us of having even more money.
Then one of the guys came across our stack of San Francisco postcards brought along to give away as gifts. The image on the top card caught his eye. I latched right on to this pulling out the card exclaiming "San Francisco!" Evelyn chimed in telling them in French that this is where we're from. I took the cards pointing, "Golden Gate Bridge—nice" and rifling through the pile showing them other scenes. "You like?" I said and handed them each a card. One of them took the pile from me and methodically went through it helping himself to one each of the five or so different images. "Pack up your things", they said. "And make sure next time you don't show all your money." We were free to go. "Bon voyage", they said.