Central America | Mexico | Istmo & Gulf of Mexico | Chiapas – Agent Pine Cone
A small figure dressed in olive green stood in the middle of windy road, signaling us to stop. We had already grown accustomed to the frequent military check points, and actually found them quite entertaining during the long drives. So tiny in stature and innocent in mannerism, these adolescent boys looked like anything but ‘authorized personnel’. We were probably the first Asians they had ever seen. While they got a kick out of checking us out, I also chuckle at how these diminutive soldiers got enlisted. Barely making 53′ (1.6m) myself, I could have easily punched them down with a fist.
I handed the guard our passports, expecting to be waved away quickly as usual. Instead he scrutinized the Chinese characters as if he could read them and ordered us to open the trunk. He frowned with utmost intensity while feeling the content of a plastic bag. Playing along, I leaned forward with concern, but eventually failed and broke out in laughter. The suspicious object was a gigantic pine cone which I had found in the woods as a souvenir. He gave me a ‘why cant you make my life more suspenseful’ shrug, and pointed to the picture on my passport.
‘Eres tu?’ (Is that you?)
I tried to tell him that the picture was taken when I was 11 years old.
Looking back and forth between my face and the picture, he took my words for it. But that wasnt enough to get my passport back. I started to worry that he might put me through some unpleasant ordeal to retaliate for the trick. Instead, he took out a pocket-size world map, and asked me to point out all the countries that had issued me a visa stamp in the passport. The diligence would have put all the geography student to shame and pushed the drivers behind me to the limit of their patience. Mumbling ‘gracias’, he reluctantly opened the door for me as the honking started. As we drove away, I wondered if Special Agent Pine Cone will many years from now include this little anecdote in the memoir recounting his zestful life in international espionage.