Friday, April 06, 2012

back in the "Bat"

And I'm back in Balkanabat or, as it would be called in a hip-hop song, the Bat, but pronounced like Baht the Thai currency and not like baseball bat.

I have also distributed most of the goods I brought like a Turkmen Santa Claus. My suitcase weighed 17 kilos, but only two changes of clothes and a small toiletries bag belonged to me. Unless you think I wear gold threaded clothes, you can imagine that most of the weight was other peoples' stuff. Evidently, spark plugs can look like bullets on an X-ray machine. All three times my check-in bag passed through one with me accompanying it, I was asked to open my bag and they wanted to see the spark plugs each time. Three times? Yes.
1. After landing in Ashgabat, you clear immigration, then get your bags, then clear customs. At customs, they X-ray your bags. This is also one of the places I am looked at then looked at my passport again, then told I look Turkmen.
2. When flying from Ashgabat to Balkanabat, there is an X-ray (for the bags and a metal detector for people) just to enter the airport.
3. After entering the airport, to get to the check-in counter you again pass through an X-ray and metal detector set.

All three times, the spark plugs sparked their curiosity. What sparks my curiosity is why they did not check at all the last time I came. I arrived here 11 weeks ago and went through the same three X-rays and not once did anyone ask to see the spark plugs I brought back then.

The lack of consistency in screening is hardly surprising. I also travel with batteries (AA and AAA, not car batteries) and coins in my carry-on and those get flagged inconsistently. Passing through Frankfurt this time, my batteries they wanted a closer look at my bag to see the batteries (which were packed to line up in a nice neat row (and probably also looked like bullets) and the coins. I carry my coins in old plastic film canisters so they don't rattle around in my bag. Also, I use a different canister for different currencies so I don't end up with a handful of coins that I need to sort through while trying to pay for something. It has just occurred to me that I need to keep these canisters forever now because they are the perfect size and would be hard to replace since almost all photography has gone digital.

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