Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Visiting My Neighbors to the North

I recently had the opportunity to fly North to tape a few TV shows in Winnipeg, so I grabbed it. The trip went well, but I have only one regret: that I didn't stay longer. I plan to return one day soon and spend some time sightseeing in that beautiful country!

This time, however, I flew in on a Wednesday, taped shows all morning on Thursday, and then flew back to the States on Thursday evening--certainly not enough time to see much of anything. But because it was in the middle of summer, at least I had a nice long evening to see the countryside between the airport and my hotel, and to watch a lovely Canadian sunset out of my hotel window. (It didn't get dark until nearly ten!)

The handful of people I had a chance to meet were mostly connected to the television station, and they were all extremely warm and welcoming. However, my most interesting experience came about as a result of a fellow American who flew into Winnipeg at the same time as I.

Melody Carlson has long been one of my favorite authors. I love her style and the way she brings her characters to life! But despite the fact that we've both been involved in the Christian publishing world for many years, we've never directly crossed paths--until we landed in Canada.

Melody got off the plane first and, therefore, passed through customs ahead of me. Who would have thought that would raise a red flag when I showed up? When I arrived at the customs desk, the gentleman checked my passport and my itinerary and raised his eyebrows. "You're flying in today and going home tomorrow? May I ask why?"

I told him I was there to tape some television programs about my books. His eyebrows shot up even higher as he studied me intently. "I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to step out of line," he said, indicating a door on my right, "and go into that room to speak with an officer."

Strange. I didn't see anyone else being pulled out of line. Had I said or done something suspicious? I had no idea but obediently veered off in the direction he'd sent me, only to find myself grilled about my books and the TV program. What sort of program was it? What were my books about? How was it that I'd been invited to come and do the program in Winnipeg?

Apparently I answered the questions satisfactorily because the officer finally allowed me to leave the room and go retrieve my one suitcase--the only one still riding around the carousel by that time. From there I exited the doors toward the parking lot, hoping my ride from the TV station hadn't left without me. Thankfully I was greeted by a gentleman holding up a sign with my name on it. Right next to him was a lady who looked vaguely familiar. Sure enough, it was the program's other guest, Melody Carlson!

I apologized for being late and explained what had happened. Melody then told me that she had given the exact same reason for flying into the country one day and out the next, so we decided that must surely have been the reason for their suspicion when I showed up. We all had a good laugh about my looking like a terrorist and thought no more about it.

The next day I taped my programs in the morning and Melody did hers in the afternoon. As a result I headed for the airport and home several hours ahead of her. After we were both back in the States, Melody emailed to tell me that this time she was the one that caused the raised eyebrows in customs. Since she gave the exact same answers as I had done only a few hours earlier (and apparently she got the same customs officer as I'd had), they pulled her out of line and even brought in the drug sniffing dogs!

Melody and I are both grandmothers, and if you met either/both of us you'd know we look anything but threatening. But we now share a common bond of having been questioned at customs. We also share a common bond of having a brief opportunity to share with a Canadian customs officer that we write books about our faith and travel around the world every chance we get to proclaim that same message. And that, for each one of us here on this International Christian Fiction Writers blog, is the bond that connects us all, isn't it?


  1. Welcome to Canada:) I can only speculate that security is on high alert since the arrest of a terrorist cell in Ottawa two weeks ago. How sad that hate has touched even the most peaceful of lives.

  2. Next time you'll have to stay long enough not to raise suspicions! I recommend BC... :)

  3. Thanks, Alice. I agree. And Valerie, I'd love it! 24 hours scarcely counts as a visit!

  4. Exciting, at least! And real experience. :)

  5. It certainly made for a good anecdote!

  6. Hey, don't forget about Alberta! Glad you both eventually got through, going both ways! :) Marcia