Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Gitte, the elephant, makes it through customs

Fika and the wannabe ballerina elephant, Gitte.

Thyra bearing the tiara

After celebrating Fika's birthday and saying our farewells to many friends in Copenhagen and other parts of the world, we had one day to pack and do a spring clean of our apartment before finally getting on a suspect airline from Germany to Florida. Needless to mention, we went very late to bed, something I always promise myself to avoid every time we have to pack. Somehow alludes me- the notion of being prepared in good time.
Kristian, Mads' brother drove us and our 120kg luggage to the airport. The plane was stuck on the runway for sometime due to an ineffective tap which meant that coffee could not be served to the chalgrin of the captain who was afraid of dealing with caffeine deprived Scandinavians. I do not blame him, for people in this part of the world are the biggest consumers of coffee and I certainly would not want to come between a Northerner and her/his coffee. This delay was not much welcome by us since we did not have that much time to catch our connection. We were of course late and were puffing through the corridors of the Dusseldorf airport trying to find the check in desk. As it was a charter company, we could not get our boarding passes in CPH. Once at the counter, 15 minutes before departure, they took their sweet time fixing our passes and talking with each other, how they could not fínd a seat for us (Mads who is fluent in German did not let on, he just kept smiling as if nothing at all was wrong). We were referred to as LMC- i.e. Last Minute Change over the radio. It turned out a family had a sick child and after they disembarked, we got their seats. One person's poison is another's meat, I couldn't help thinking that way.
The plane was without doubt full of Germans going to get their annual fix of the sun, from the babe with electric black extensions to the granny who wants to improve her back hand at the numerous tennis courts of Florida.
On arrival at Fort Myers, a small provincial sleepy airport, clearing through customs and immigration proved to be more challenging than taking a 12 hour flight across the Atlantic. The system broke down and more waiting had to be done. But that was not even what surprised me. The immigration officials were wearing guns! And next to the counters a poster for the department featuring a good looking black woman reads "we are the face of the USA". We got through without any glitches. Then the luggage onwards to the customs where we had to declare our 5 bags of rye flour. As they were not sure what rye flour flour was, we had to go through a customs check which feels more thorough than a body check. It turned out we did not have to worry, the main concern was meat products. A German couple next to us were told off for carrying dried Knorr soup which contained meat extracts. The customs did not only put the fear of God into them, they also sternly informed that should they be caught with the same problem next time, they will be duly fined 300 USD for the troubles of bringing soup across the seas. Good for the customs, I mean who in the world brings dried soup on a 10 hour flight! I understand if one brought biltong (South African dried meat) or cheese (if one is European), but soup, honestly!

With all the hullabaloo about dried soups and rye flour, Gitte, the fat transvetite elephant made it into US territory without a blink. Her ballet toutou, bowtie at the left side of the head, her purple shoes and pink tiara did not make anyone at customs bat an eyelid. Afika received Gitte as a birthday gift from Eva at Tivoli (Denmark's own very ancient fairground) and let it be pointed out that it Fika who chose her not Eva. Apparently, children could, at a cute shop at Tivoli, chose an animal of their liking and get it stuffed in front of their very own eyes. How lovely.

Gitte with her owner has safely crossed the lines and now finds her superior self in a marina n western Florida in a small town called Punta Gorda.


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