On the first of three flights that would eventually bring us home yesterday, Studley and i groggily navigated US Customs declaration forms.

“Exposure to Livestock”?  Taking the easy cheap shot, i pointed at him and said “i think i have to declare this, since we’ve been bunkies for the week”.

“Are you transporting any vegetables?”  His turn for the cheap shot, as he started to write my name in the blank.

“Did you purchase anything?”

Scratching my head and other bits, i was momentarily vexed. Could not think of what i’d bought.

daisyfae: Did we buy anything this week?

Studley: Four litres of liquor at the Duty Free shop on our way out of the country… but that doesn’t count, right?

Spending a week on a quasi-tropical island, and between the two of us, we’d not bought a single souvenir. No t-shirts. No gee-gaws or knick-knacks.

daisyfae: Doesn’t that seem weird? We spent money… Rented scooters on the non-dive day… Ate pretty well… The hotel bill included the dive shop costs for Nitrox…

Not that there weren’t ample opportunities to shop, despite the fact that Bonaire is a small enough island that there are no traffic lights.  Some of our fellow dive buddies spent money in the shops.

As we wound our way through three airports on Sunday, it was apparent that others had been busy.  One couple had gone to great lengths to transport a 4′ long wooden carved iguana. They had tucked him into a backpack, with his head poked through.  A strategically placed sock on the head for protection, it looked like a baby in a pappoose.

They also schlepped a large, wooden carved sun thing of some sort. i never saw it, but knew that it was too large to fit in the overhead bin of any plane we rode homeward. They probably spent several hundred dollars on the carvings – and from what i could see of Baby Iguana, it was more kitsch than art.

A few of the gents in our group bought jewelry for wives and daughters. Most folks at least bought a souvenir t-shirt or hat from the dive shop.

Studley: No. i don’t think we’re weird. We just don’t buy shit.

Over the course of my last few adventures, though, i have picked up a strange habit. Trying the local brew wherever i land, i’ve started peeling the labels off beer bottles.  They can be easily flattened and stuck inside my passport.

This has become my souvenir collection method. Whether or not i could locate all of the beer labels i’ve collected through the years is an entirely different matter, however.

Bonaire made this a bit challenging. Part of the Dutch Antilles, this little island (as well as the sister islands of Aruba and Curacao) import virtually everything from the Netherlands. We were stuck with a very limited supply of ‘local’ beer.

Studley:  “What’s your local beer?”

Cute Barmaid:  “Amstel, Amstel Bright, Heineken”

daisyfae:  “No, we want something brewed in the region. Something unique. Something the folks who live here drink.”

Cute Barmaid:  “Yes. Amstel, Amstel Bright, Heineken”

So we bought “Amstel Bright”, which is the Dutch version of Corona – served with a lime wedge. And about as disappointing.  But there were labels to peel…

Not so easily discouraged, we eventually found ONE Venezuelan beer! “Polar”.

Unfortunately, there was no label to peel.  It’s printed directly on the glass.

Whatever… i still didn’t buy any souvenirs.  i took a picture.  Close enough.

34 thoughts on “Re-entry

  1. My grandma would buy a magnet (and also tons of tchotchkes) whenever she’d travel to a new place. I inherited many of her magnets and keep the tradition alive. I worry about what will happen to the collection if I ever have a fancy-shmancy stainless steel fridge.

      • It is obviously a cat thing. Our fridge has many, many magnets. Travel souvenirs, gifts etc. Jazz climbs on top of the fridge and pushes them off and stands on the ground and pulls them off. Jewel then bats them round the floor.
        I like (but don’t quite meet) the lines my father often quoted ‘take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’.

      • the magnets are at least useful – not only as cat toys, but as a means to stick recipes for yummy cakes and cookies on the fridge, right next to the articles with “diet tips”…

  2. I’m with Studley. I don’t buy shit either. And, I really don’t like to receive shit that friends and relatives bring back from their vacations. I used to buy shit, but I don’t anymore.

    Does US customs give you a bad time if you come back from somewhere and don’t declare anything? Canada customs does. I’ve had to invent a standard phantom declaration of about $30 just so they won’t give me the gears upon re-entry. “You didn’t buy *anything*?”

    Hope you enjoyed the vacay and overcome that nasty back spasm, whatever it was. Getting old is kind of a bitch, ain’t it? I get therapeutic massage every two weeks and I still creak. I need to win a lottery or something so I can afford my own masseur/masseuse, ‘cuz I could go for that shit everyday.

    Welcome “home”.

    • part of my concern was that i’d get flagged at customs… but with a giant suitcase full of scuba gear, i have a pretty good explanation. i considered putting down “$30 for t-shirts, magnets, and souvenirs” just to be safe, though…

      back is better, just a bit sore. it was a muscle. i need to get that massage… sounds like a very good plan.

    • my mom collects bells – and when she was in her house, i used to support her ‘bell collection’ by picking up stuff in airports. but when she moved? it took us over 2 hours to dust and pack those blasted things… and i quit adding more…

      feeling better. hoping for full recovery soon…

  3. “Exposed to livestock” is always a tricky one for me, as I tend to embrace donkeys in whichever country or place I travel to – this is a ritual in honour of Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream who fell in love with man-changed-into-a-donkey. No donkeys are ever harmed in the hugging process, and I also try to get a photo (rather than schlep the Ass home in my backpack.)

    • there is a Donkey Sanctuary on the island of Bonaire! we passed through it on scooters – but as it was absolutely pissing rain, we didn’t stop. wet ass. not an odor i wish to acquire…

      • What do they mean by “exposed to livestock?” What happens if you have been? I’m surrounded by the bloody stuff and I’ve got to pass through Newark next year. Am I going to be steamed or disinfected or something?

      • i don’t think you’ll get the anal probe. they might poke around at your shoes or something. Info on US Customs regarding agricultural products is here. i suppose if you ask nicely, they’d disinfect you, too…

  4. I only buy “meaningful” stuff…like a copy of “Westward Ho!” in…Westward Ho. And a slim volume on the Brooklyn Bridge in…Brooklyn. Oh, yeah…a pamphlet on the Amstel Brewery the year they were granted licence to brew a helluva beer to commemorate the city’s 600 year charter. Damn! That was lovely beer!
    Sombreros? Not so much.

    • did end up drinking Heineken draft most of the rest of the week… the bottles were pretty much the same as what we get here. the draft was pretty good, and reasonably priced…

  5. Polar is good shit, i drink it every time i’m down that way but i like the little bottles cuz i can drink ’em faster and they don’t get warm, all the other shit i buy i have to ingest before i get on the plane, customs frowns on bringing certain things back into the country.

  6. I like collecting beer and cider labels too – I’ve got some interesting Breton ones.

    Oh how I wish I could gather all you benighted North American types who think that Heineken and Polar are good beers and treat you to some proper beer made with care, attention, love and the best ingredients, in small quantities – and stunning tastes that make Heineken taste like carbonated water!

    (Gets off soap box)

    • i like it as a ‘collectible’ – small, cheap, and reminds me of where i was… rarely do i get my labels mixed up! “Hmmmm…. where did i buy that Cambodian beer?”

      as for craft beer? i certainly appreciate it… we have more microbreweries in the US than ever before. tasty stuff, but when i’m just out and about, any beer will do….

  7. I used to buy the collector spoons for my mom from all of my travels. I don’t recall who got them when she died, but it certainly wasn’t me. I did get all the postcards I sent her….that was kind of a fun stroll down ‘jesus was I young when I sent those’ lane.

    • mom collected bells, my sister collected the spoons and my niece collected shot glasses. made them terribly easy to buy things for… mom was always mad that i didn’t collect anything because she never knew what to get me when she was on vacation. i said “have a nice burger on me, instead”, but she didn’t buy it…

  8. I don’t buy shit either.
    Well, unless you count bringing home a bottle of alcohol from whatever region I happen to be in.
    Wine, beer, spirits …. whatever!

    I have a well stocked liquor cabinet as you might well imagine! 🙂

    • i still have a flask of Icelandic “Brennavin”, which is reported to taste like crap, but i had to buy it anyway! and alcohol is a fine gift! wine, with some yummy cheeses, is a perfect souvenir!

  9. Years ago, before I owned dishes, I did the dish towel thing. I still have some tattered ones. I also have a good collection of bar coasters – sort of the equivalent of your labels. Kudos for anti-consumerism Daisy!

    • i also have a huge collection of bar coasters! again, i’m not very good with the organizing bit, so they are all over the house… and it’s not entirely anti-consumerism. i consume a lot of beer this way!

  10. I am queen of buying stupid crap in places I go. I used to feel bad about it, but it’s usually goofy toys for my office and kids love them. I got some crazy wooden puzzles in the Czech Republic and I so wish I had gotten more! They’ve been broken and chewed upon, yet are still super cool.

    • when my kids were younger, i did a lot of that… goofy stuff was a specialty. and i do enjoy looking at kitschy tourist stuff when i’m in the right mood. when i went to Vietnam, my son asked me to bring him home one of the pointy rice paper hats… and i did. had to transport the damn thing without looking foolish. managed to get it in my suitcase, and get it home safely, but he only did it to force me to shop for one…

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