Sunday, November 10, 2013

border tales -- with a cup of coffee

Coffee drinkers rejoice.  Your filled cups are at hand. 

La Taza Negra is open for roasted coffee sales.  And the full coffee shop opens on 19 November.

I talked with Ben Boyt yesterday after his arrival in town on Thursday.  His return trip was unusually eventful.  And in it lies a cautionary tale.

Ben and his dad headed south from Oregon in his dad's truck.  The trailer they were towing contained the Boyt family's personal goods, supplies for the coffee shop, and a recently-purchased coffee roaster.

They decided to enter Mexico the same way I entered five years ago -- through Lukeville.  All went well at the border crossing.  They drove across the border after showing their documents and headed south to the first customs stop.

Anyone who has crossed at Lukeville knows that nothing is signed very well.  The protocol is that all drivers are to stop in the parking lot right at the border and take care of entry issues in the office.

That didn't happen.  Ben and his dad thought it was odd that no one had mentioned visas.  But they drove on to what was once the major customs and visa stop. 

They went past the first set of offices without stopping.  That turned out to be what was probably mistake number two.

Their first stop was when they received a red customs light.  Ben opened the trailer for the inspector, who immediately honed in on the roaster.  When the inspector discovered nothing had yet been declared, the trip came to a halt.

A four day halt.  They were ordered back to the border where Mexican customs impounded the truck and trailer -- and all of its contents.  Ben and his dad waited for the officials to determine if there would be a fine or if everything would be confiscated.

It turned out to be a mixture of both.  If they would pay a fine of $12,000, the vehicle, the trailer, and personal goods would be released.  But the roaster would be forfeited.

At that point, Ben's dad needed to return north, and Ben decided to join Alexa and the kids in Dallas for a few days while Customs considered a fine reduction.  When Ben returned to the border, the issue was still unsettled.  So, he hired a shipper for the few goods that were released, and hired an attorney to assist in lowering the penalty.

And that is where everything rests right now  Ben returned by bus to Melaque to open the shop.  The rest of the family will arrive soon.

The precautionary tale that Ben passes along to everyone coming across the border is to do a bit of research before bringing anything into Mexico.  Mexico, like every other country, has regulations that it enforces -- something that those of us with a libertarian bent often down play.  As Ben says, his decision to "wing it" turned out to be a bad decision.

For me, though, the story is once again about relationships.  Ben is a member of our church.  The moment we heard there were difficulties at the border, people volunteered to do what they could to assist him -- including a willingness to take their vehicles to Lukeville to bring him and his goods to our little harbor of Melaque.  You might call it the Dunkirk spirit.

And through it all, Ben and Alexa exercised their faith.  As great mentors for the rest of us.

Years from now, Ben and Alexa will be telling the Tale of the Prodigal Roaster.  And how all good stories come at a cost.

Welcome home, Ben.

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