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  #1  
Old 9 Jul 2003
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To Speak or not to Speak that is the question ...

On my first trip down the Baja Peninsula of Mexico my traveling companion was a very attractive Cuban Muchacha .. needless to say she spoke fluent spanish. When packing the bike back in Arizona, I noticed she opened a package of tampons pulled out a few placed them along with a few condoms lose inside the top pouch of our traveling bag. Now what's up with that I said ... never mind she said and smiled. As we got closer to the Mexican border, I brought up the topic of road checks and police. She told me not to worry and if we were stopped not to say anything especially if it was the army.

It was getting dark no traffic and just outside of San Felipe we literally ran into a army check stop with no warning. There was about 10 or so some with machine guns. One fellow walked over .. he looked to be about 12 years old and spoke to us very quickly in Spanish. Well doing what I was told ... I said nothing sitting on the bike with a dumb look on my face. My companion said nothing either. He said something again and moved to the back of the bike, pointed at the traveling bag and unzipped the top pouch. As fast as it was opened it was closed and he waved his hands for us to leave even faster. I hit the starter and away we went. At what I thought was a safe distance, I pulled over and asked her what the heck just happened and what did the soldier say.

She told me when he first spoke .. he said if I have to speak english to you ... you can proceed. He then asked what was in the bags. I guess his conversations tactic's were a little play on words if not language. I can only imagine what would have happened if I in my broken Spanish or if she in her fluent Spanish spoke back to him. As for the tampon and condom props ... she explained this is an anti machismo thing and no self respecting latino male going near that with a 10 foot pole. We played out this same scenario one more time on our trip to Cabo San Lucas with the same results.

Now I can only wonder if it would have worked if I was riding alone ..... hmmmm.

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Old 9 Jul 2003
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I see your point. But, I personally would be feel better under most all circumstances having at least rudimentary skills.
I'm pretty sure also when the soldiers said they would have to speak english. You would have to know more spanish than counting to ten. For them not to still have to speak to you in english to understand each other.

Also, AS long a you aren't carrying drugs or guns I would assume even the army wouldn't have a problem. And the easist way to avoid a search is to eagerly allow a search, IMO. Which is easy to do when you have nothing to hide. TRust me I'm against un substaniated searching more than any one, but you have to do what you have to do.

And if they were going to steal money or your bike or assault you, not understanding the language would be in consequential.

PLus, talking the least possible is a good idea with customs and law enforcement any where.

At the very least if I played dumb I'd like to know at least what they are saying.

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Old 9 Jul 2003
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Sounds like she knew what she was doing. Just because you arn't doing something illegal doesn't mean you can't be harassed by some idiot with a machine gun in a third world country. I have dated a couple of women from Mexico and had friends from there. My brief trips were uneventful, but some of the offcals there are not against extortion. Knowing the language and as importantly the customs is good in any country you go to. Take the advice of your friend and follow her lead. Ask her advice about going alone. Also I don't think the tampons would work for you

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Old 9 Jul 2003
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I agree with you both .. was just kidding about packing tampons .. traveling alone. I guess the point that I learned from the experience was similar to playing poker. For once I had an ace in the hole. I had no idea what may or may not have happened. Either one of us could have responded back in Spanish, smiled and he/ they could well have said have a nice day and off we went. Taking her advise, I'm sure she was just waiting to see how things were going to be played out before she showed her hand. As it turned out .. the bluff ... sorta speak worked and we were off in short order, no foul no search no hassle.

I certainly don't want to leave the impression you have to come up with some scheme to fool or distract any authorities in any country. My thoughts are read any new situation as best you can, take at least a few seconds to think things over before you react. In this case .. the soldier didn't speak english and from his some what ambiguous question was checking to see if either one of us rudimentary or not understood Spanish.

From our response in this case, I think it saved us answering a bunch of questions by not getting into a tedious dialogue that he didn't really want to pursue in the first place.

Todd, you are absolutely correct in saying under most circumstances if not all, one should have at least the rudimentary language skills in the country your traveling through if not out of respect alone. A friendly hello or greeting in the mother tongue goes a long long way.

kinana'skomitina'wa'w .... Thank You ... in Cree.

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Old 9 Jul 2003
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Crossing a quiet border from Gautemala to Honduras once time, after the stamps / paperwork, the policemen started playing stubborn about opening the gate, asking for money, wanting to open our bags, etc.

One guy then asked if my travelling companion was my 'wife' to which I replied 'yes. we are on our honeymoon'. Smiles on their faces as we discussed the significant advantages of having a pretty girl's legs around you, etc, etc.

The police are laughing like children, I start the engine and drive around the gate. Wouldn't have had the benefit of distraction in English.

On the other hand, during an unfortunate 'legal tussle' in Southern Mexico, I played dumb, only uttering the word 'embassy'. But that was a slightly more serious situation ;-)
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Old 10 Jul 2003
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I guess the moral is. Its better to play dumb than to be dumb. lol

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Todd Bellew



[This message has been edited by Todd Bellew (edited 10 July 2003).]
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