If you missed (Part 1), you can read it HERE.
4:30 AM November 11, 2015
“I’m going to jail, this is going to be awesome, this is what travel is all about!” and “How do I cry in Spanish?” were the two thoughts going through my head as two large police men told me to stand up and follow them into the back room. One of them slowly placed a mattress over the door and the other started to circle me. At this point I actually thought that I was a drug dealer. Have you ever thought that about yourself? The police were oddly gentle; they just kept asking me if I had cocaine. They kept lunging at me and putting their hands really close to my face to try to intimidate me but they never touched me. It was really weird. Finally they both stepped about five feet away from me and told me to take my pants off, then my underwear.
Oh shit again.
I began to think about how a cavity search was actually executed as they asked me to turn around. Next, they told me to keep turning and then yelled at me to pull my pants up. Like, “Why are your pants down stupid, what are you doing, are you crazy?!?!” Luckily, that part of the story was over, they didn’t even get close or really look at anything. They removed the mattress from the door and the other three officers came into the room. The main policewoman started explaining, in fast Spanish, that they are going to look through my luggage and write a report. Well, I think that is what she was saying, at that point I was catching every third word and mostly trying to translate her body language. I just kept agreeing and cooperating as they started to take my fingerprints and threatened to put me in handcuffs. This is when I started getting really upset and just kept repeating that I didn’t have drugs! They put the handcuffs away and began to tell me to relax. One of the guys asked me if I wanted to watch TV! HAHAHA, what a joke, I guess they hadn’t seen my website. Anyway, they all began to look though the contents of my small backpack, taking pictures of everything, asking me about every little item, looking through every single one of the photos on my cameras, not understanding what a Kindle was, etc. I was totally exhausted at this point, starving, thirsty, had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn’t stop giggling. I guess it was a nervous giggle/I thought this entire investigation was a joke.
Three hours later, they finally finished the detailed report without even looking through the bag that originally held the detergent! They asked me to look through my bags to make sure that nothing was missing. I told them that $20 and a llama magnet souvenir from Peru were missing. They argued that they put everything back in my bags as I pointed to the top of their file cabinet where someone had placed my llama. They laughed at my pronunciation of llama, gave it back and never found my $20. They explained that we were going to a different police station and then to a laboratory to test the “chemicals.”
I was slowly escorted out of the basement of the airport (surrounded by my five new best friends), out through the main airport check-in area and outside to an unmarked, red Toyota Land Cruiser from the 1980s. I was really excited to ride in this car; I saw them everywhere around Bolivia. I think Bolivia is like heaven for Land Cruisers. Or maybe it is where all Land Cruisers go to die? Anyway, I guess the ride in the old ass, beat up Land Cruiser was a silver lining… Two of the police guys stayed at the airport as I got into the back of the vehicle’s homemade bench seats, sitting face to face with the policewoman in charge.
We arrived at the next “police station” and this was the scariest part of this entire fiasco. It turned out to be a meeting point for almost one hundred undercover narcotics officers. It was an empty old building; we went up to the third floor where there were a couple of desks with computers. People were filing in and out, non-stop, all dressed in street clothes. I didn’t understand where we were and I was very paranoid that I was being setup. I started asking one of the officers a bunch of questions in broken Spanish and I finally understood that all of these people were undercover police officers. We started talking and I somehow started telling him how I worked for a software company that worked with 9-1-1 and police in the U.S.A. He had me sitting in the corner of the room where I could see everything that was going on. Suddenly an older man ran up to me, started yelling, asking why I was there, I didn’t know how to answer in Spanish. He turned my chair around so I was facing the wall. Now I could not see anything but shadows of people walking behind me and I could hear the old man yelling at the officer that I was speaking with. I was starring at that wall for one hour, waiting to be hit over the head, imagining drugs being planted in my bags. I started to shake and was ready to start crying when a soft hand touched my shoulder. I was freaked out and I turned around to the sweetest young woman. I could tell that she was on my side. (Unimportant detail #1: she was very cute.) I am still unclear what happened behind me but I was told that this woman was “The Judge” and she argued with and convinced the policewoman that had arrested me at the airport that they should test the substance at the laboratory before booking me in jail. I instantly fell in love with The Judge.
Yeah, I fell in love with her and then she put me in handcuffs to escort me to the laboratory, typical. Now I was really pissed. I thought she liked me, whatever. Maybe she liked me so much that she wanted to put me in handcuffs to show her affection? Silly South American love games I guess. My hands were cuffed behind my back as her and two other officers walked me down the street into a blue Land Cruiser! I was not as excited for this ride and I started yelling, “Where is my detergent, where are my chemicals!?!” The guy sitting next to me started cracking up laughing, telling the two in the front that I wanted to see my detergent. They all started laughing and showed me that my detergent was safe and they had not mixed it with anything else. I was so worked up at this point that the officer sitting next to me started showing me pictures of his recent drug busts on his phone to calm me down. It helped but every time I saw a picture of cocaine I sarcastically asked if it was detergent. He thought it was funny and then he got annoyed. Hehehe…
We finally arrived at the laboratory, which was inside of a really nice police academy. As we walked in a prosecuting lawyer who was assigned to the “case” greeted me. She spoke perfect English. I started to apologize for wasting her time and told her that it was just laundry soap. She sort of giggled and rolled her eyes, I thought she believed me but then she started to tell me that some representatives from the U.S. Embassy were on their way and that they could explain “the process” to me. Apparently the Embassy was notified earlier in the day but the offices were closed because it was November 11th – Veterans Day! Shortly after I arrived, two people from the Embassy came in. They were super nice and comforting and initially wanted to know if I was treated ok or harmed in any way. I explained that this was just a misunderstanding and that I had been traveling long term, doing some camping and it was just laundry detergent that I occasionaly used to wash my clothes in the sink. They started to tell me that, if for some reason, it was drugs, I would have to go to jail because of the quantity. Then they said something about how I really don’t want to go to Bolivian jail, there is only one other American there and they could bring me magazines every month. I just kept laughing and apologizing for the waste of time. They said, “You seem very confident that you don’t have drugs. You seem very relaxed.”
BECAUSE IT IS F’ING LAUNDRY DETERGENT!
“I see your passport application states that your occupation is ‘sales,’ can you please explain that?”
UGGG, SOFTWARE SALES, I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO PUT. CAN THEY JUST DO THE TEST?
I think the U.S. Embassy representatives finally believed me as the scientist took the detergent for the test. The Embassy guy that was in charge offered to go get me some water and a snack as we waited for the results, YES PLEASE. They were really great, after almost a year of travel I never thought about calling the Embassy, now I know! We sat there FOREVER waiting for the results. As we continued to small talk, I was getting really nervous. Something didn’t seem right, I thought I was a drug dealer, again.
Finally, the scientist came out to tell us the results. She took the bag of detergent out of her lab coat, smiled and yelled, “POSITIVO!” We all gasped and I almost fainted as she mumbled something else in Spanish that I didn’t understand. Everyone started LAUGHING. She had said, “positively not drugs.” Nice delivery from the smart-ass scientist. Uggggg. She said she thought the original drop test showed a false positive because of some substance in the detergent. Yes, of course I asked them to email me a copy of the lab report!:
I high-fived the scientist, the police and The Judge as we finally left the laboratory. The Embassy officials offered to take me to the airline office to figure out my ticket to Colombia and then to the hotel for some rest. He did all of the talking as I went to get a burrito. They were really a HUGE help. The airline had to get permission from the police so they could refund my ticket so they told me to go rest and they would let me know if they could get me on the same 3:35 AM flight the next morning. My Embassy buddy dropped me off at a very nice hotel and got me a good price. I ate my burrito and passed out.
I woke up to someone banging on my door and the phone ringing. There were three notes under my door explaining that I was booked on the flight and that the judge would have to meet me at the airport to make sure I didn’t have any issues. I checked my email and had the same messages from the Embassy guy. I set my alarm for midnight and crossed my fingers.
12:30 AM November 12, 2015
I took the long taxi ride up to the airport and The Judge was waiting there for me, at 1:30 AM, poor girl. She told me to go check in as she went to get someone. She brought over the policewoman who originally arrested me! She was so embarrassed and The Judge was very mean to her. The Judge gave me a kiss on the cheek (Unimportant detail #3: OMG, she kissed me! Some people say she did that because that is the normal way to say goodbye in South America, I think some people are dream killers), apologized again and told me that the policewoman would escort me to my flight. I had already gone through immigration the day before so my passport was stamped as if I had left the country, which is why they had to escort me.
The policewoman rushed me back downstairs to the office, took my fingerprints again, had me sign some papers and then led me back up to the front of the immigration line. She just waived my passport at the immigration officer and led me to the front of the security line. I started to take my backpacks off but she stopped me and took me around the metal detector. No x-ray machine, no questions, no eye contact. She shook my hand and told me to have a nice life.
THAT is when I could have smuggled drugs out of Bolivia!!!! Easy.
Thank you “Judge,” mi amor.
Thank you smart-ass scientist.
Thank you U.S. Embassy officials.
No hard feelings policewoman. ¡Besos!