June 7, 2011

Unaccustomed Customs

By Jeff Miller

This was my first experience outside of the United States. Upon stepping outside of the Lima airport, the first thing that hits me is the pungent smell of fish. Next is the obscene amount of traffic, cars weaving between the lanes, honking the entire way. After boarding the bus we proceeded to join this madness. Along this bumpy ride we saw many advertisements, many of which were very similar to ads we see in the U.S.




So far language has been the biggest barrier. I know very little Spanish; my only Spanish education was during two years of high school. My first true Spanish encounter here was with the customs agent checking passports. I handed him my papers, but unfortunately the airline employee in Houston ripped off and kept the larger portion of my ticket instead of the stub that he was supposed to take. This brought about much confusion between the customs agent and myself. Ticket stub in hand, he shot a question and me much faster than my Spanish skills could handle. I returned his question with a blank stare – I had absolutely no idea what he had just said. He leaned over and yelled to his nearest colleague, asking the same question. They continued to converse for a minute or two, my customs agent all the while confused. “Locked up abroad” flashed through my mind. Luckily, he stamped my papers before waving over his next victim.

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The Biodiversity Institute is home to about 60 graduate students and 30 research scientists and curators. They participate in field expeditions to all seven continents and represent areas such as entomology, ornithology, paleontology, parasitology and herpetology. As the authors of this blog, they share their experiences and adventures in collections-based biological research all over the world.

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