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Persona Non Grata

Tuesday morning started out with an encounter with the world’s most obnoxious taxi driver. He was supposed to pick me up to take me to the airport at 7am. After a last check to make sure I had my passport and plane ticket and a few last squeezes and kisses for Moby, I was standing outside the gate at 7:02. The driver is fuming mad, yelling – literally yelling – at me for being late. He continues yelling as I get into the cab.  “All right! I’m sorry”, I say. “I can’t go back in time now, so can you please just take me to the airport?!”

Along the way, his mood changes, and he is now sharing various details of his personal life with me. It’s early in the morning and I haven’t had much sleep the night before, and I desperately wish he would just shut up and drive. He throws photos at me – check these out! – photos of him and his wife kissing on the beach. She is 22 and he’s 60, he tells me. She has a Master’s degree in economy! She runs a bank! Isn’t she beautiful? Oh – and she’s pregnant! “Congratulations!”, I say. “That’s great!”

Things can only get better from here, I tell myself. Much better. Things are going to be great.

I sigh with relief when the Ben Gurion airport, with its big, blue El Al logo, finally shows up on the horizon. Things are going to be great.

 

There’s a cafe that I like in a distant, quiet corner of the airport. I always go there to have a goat cheese and tomato ciabatta and a diet coke with a wedge of lemon before flights; it’s become sort of a personal tradition. All is well. After that, I head to the gate and happily board the plane.

 

Then, the day continues to be obnoxious. I am seated at the window seat, next to an elderly couple. The man, who is sitting next to me, is one of those people who gets into your tiny airplane space, constantly elbowing you. Glaring and sighing loudly has no effect. Elbowing him back is useless; he doesn’t seem to notice. When you try to make yourself as small as possible, bunching into the corner of your seat so you don’t have to touch him, he assumes you are doing that because you wanted to make more room for him, and spreads himself over even more of your space. When you ask if he could please move a little, he stares at you, utterly amazed. “What do you want?!”

I consider asking a flight attendant if I can change seats, but I am incredibly tired, so eventually I fall asleep. Every once in a while, I am woken up by the elbow. I sigh – LOUDLY – look the other way and fall back asleep.

 

Things can only get better from here. Seriously. Everything is going to be great.

 

When I wake up, the plane has already landed in Heathrow (if I have developed one talent over the past few years, it’s for sleeping soundly on planes). They announce that there’s another plane at our gate, so we are waiting. The minutes go by and add up to half an hour. A voice on the speaker says we can unbuckle our seatbelts in the meantime. I desperately need to use the bathroom, so I leave my seat. When I get back, it appears that the people seated next to me have assumed I have found some secret way of disembarking the plane and I will not be coming back, so they have taken all their suitcases out of the overhead compartment and placed them on my seat. The plane has started moving again and everyone is being told to sit down.

“Can I please get back in?” I ask politely.

The woman just stares at me with another what-do-you-want look. “Can’t you just go sit somewhere else?”

“NO, I can’t. All my stuff is here. I want to get to my seat.” Can’t YOU just go sit somewhere else?

The man starts handling my bag. “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH MY THINGS”, I start to get really angry. “LET ME GET TO MY SEAT.”

A flight attendant tells me I need to sit. I tell him I can’t, pointing at the couple and shrugging. “Please tell them to let me in.” He tells me there isn’t enough time, and guides me to a different seat.

I will spend the next 24 hours cursing this couple and wishing them the most horrible, violent things I can imagine. When the doors finally open, I have to wait for everyone else to get off the plane before I can get back to my seat and take my stuff. If it weren’t for this unnecessary delay, I probably would have ended up at a different immigration officer’s desk at passport control, and there’s a good chance everything would have been different.

 

Things were about to get worse. Much, much worse than I could ever imagine.

 


 

Back in 2008, I taught a master class at an international glass festival in the UK. The night before my flight, I received a call from one of the festival’s organizers. Apparently, several other artists were being held in Immigrations (they eventually managed to get out; I have no idea how). “Don’t mention anything about the festival at passport control”, I was told. “Just say you are in the UK to visit a friend”. Grateful for the advice, I did just that, and got through with no problems. I did the same on several other visits the the UK over the past three years.

You may think doing this is wrong. You may think this actually does make me a criminal. According to the law, you might be right. It might make you angry, I am aware of that. After giving it much thought, I have decided to be honest in this blog post – so, this is what happened. I hope you understand that I never had any evil intentions; all I ever wanted was to get through passport control as quickly as possible. The UK has always been one of my favorite places to visit, for many reasons. I absolutely never meant to cause any harm.

 


 

“What is the purpose of your visit to the UK?” asked the immigration officer.

“I’m visiting a friend”, I said.

“What’s your friend’s name?”

I gave him the name and address of someone I know in the UK. I wasn’t worried. They always ask these questions.

Instead of letting me through, he continued to question me. How do you know this person? How many times have you visited them since? What do they do for a living? What do you do for a living? Who paid for your flight? How much cash do you have with you? Can you show me your wallet please? How much credit do you have on your credit cards? Where do you live? Do you own property or do you rent? How much is your rent?

It went on and on, for what felt like hours. I answered all the questions, hoping that at some point he was just going to stamp my passport and say “okay, enjoy your visit”, but slowly getting the feeling that wasn’t going to happen.

He asked me to shut off my cellphone and sit on a bench in the corner. “I’m going to make some inquiries”, he said. “Please wait here. I’ll be back.” He took my passport with him.

I sat down, covered in cold sweat, my heart racing. I shouldn’t have lied. I shouldn’t have lied. I have to fix this before it’s too late. I got up and walked over to a different officer. “I have withheld some information about my visit to the UK”, I said. “I’d like to come forth and clear that up please.” The officer said she’d call the first guy, and I should go back to the bench and wait.

Things are going to be okay, I told myself. I’ll just apologize, cooperate and be honest, and this will all sort itself out.

 

Seated next to me on the bench was an Arabic-speaking man with two small boys. He told me he’d arrived with a tour group, and he and his children had been separated from the group; he had no idea why. When an officer arrived for them, the two boys, who had seemed perfectly happy until that moment, suddenly both burst into tears and loud sobbing, as if on cue. “Look – my poor boys are crying because they want to get back to the group”, the man told the officer. They were all taken away.

Whatever the hell is going on there, they will see that I am different, I quietly assume. They will easily see that I’m not some terrorist or criminal and determine that this whole thing is no big deal. I can get through this. I will get through this. Everything is going to be okay.

 

A few minutes later, my officer returned. “I understand there is something you want to tell me.”

I told him I was going to demonstrate at Art in Action and teach a couple of classes. He knew that already. Fuck you, Google.

He told me my bags were going to be searched and I was going to be detained.

“Detained? What does that mean? I’m a visiting artist. I’m not a criminal. I never meant to cause any harm.” I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my cheeks.

“It will be okay”, he said. “We’re not taking you to jail.”

Jail?!

“Your bags will be searched and then you will be taken to a holding room. You’ll just have to wait there until I have the time to interview you, and then we will decide what to do about this. I’m busy now, so it will be a couple of hours.”

 

A couple of friendly officers arrive to take me to collect my suitcase. They let me buy a diet coke from the vending machine on the way, so I decide to like them. They put on rubber gloves, open my bags and go through everything, asking questions about everything from my socks to my organ donor card. I have decided my best bet is to be as cooperative as possible, so I answer all their questions truthfully, thoroughly explaining everything that I can. They confiscate  my business cards and my promotional material for Art in Action, but leave my boxes of jewelry and everything else in the suitcase. They take me to be fingerprinted. Then they take me to the holding room.

 

We have to get through two locked doors to get to the room, which is equipped with half a dozen security cameras. At first glance around, I can’t help but wonder if I was brought there as the token fair-skinned person. There are several people sitting in the room; most are just staring into space, a couple are crying and one woman is frantically talking on the payphone in a language I don’t recognize. I am told there are free drinks – coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water and juice – and shown a couple of baskets containing free food; one has apples and oranges and the other is full of biscuits (which taste like cardboard, as I will learn later). They ask if I want a sandwich, but I have no appetite. They ask if I want to pray, and show me a bookshelf full of various bibles, Qurans and other religious literature. “No, thanks”. I realize they are trying to cover their asses from any possible type of lawsuit.

After I am asked to check my wallet and sign a form declaring that none of my cash or credit cards were stolen, my bags are taken away and placed in a locked room by a female employee with a heavy lisp. I ask if I can use my cellphone.

“No”, she says, “It hath a camera and taking pictures ith not allowed. You can uthe the payphone.” I ask if I can write down some numbers from my contact list; this is allowed. Fortunately, just before my trip I finally decided to sort out the huge mountain of loose change I’ve accumulated from all my travels, so I had a small change purse chock-full of UK currency; these coins would be my life saver, enabling me to use the payphone.

I ask if I can take my Kindle out of my bag, so I can read while I’m waiting.

Apologetically, she tells me she knows nothing about Jewish traditions.

I explain that a Kindle isn’t a Jewish tradition, it’s an e-book reader. I show it to her. It has to stay in the bag in the locked room. I am taken back into the holding room. There is nothing to do there but sit and stare and hope for the best. Things are going to be okay. The guy will come back, he’ll interview me and realize that I’m no kind of dangerous criminal, and he’ll let me go.



 

The walls in the holding room are painted a pale mint green, brightly lit with fluorescent lighting. They remind me of a very different nightmare in my life, 13 years ago, when I was very ill and had to spend a night in the intensive care unit at the hospital. I was all alone and completely frantic. A kind nurse came by, trying to calm me, pointing out the pale green walls, which were the same color as her pale green uniform. “Green is a calming color”, she told me, “that’s why everything here is painted green. See my uniform? Just look at the walls, and you will feel calmer.”

Now, you all know how much appreciation I have for the psychological effects of color, but let me tell you this – when you are in a highly stressful situation, IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER WHAT COLOR THE WALLS ARE.

Don’t worry, I try to console myself. It’s all out of your control now. Just be cooperative and hope for the best. There’s nothing else you can do.

 


 

I sit there, clutching what’s left of my diet coke and staring at the green walls, waiting for the officer to come back. I have made a few phone calls; the organizers of Art in Action have somehow already heard about what’s going on and they’re doing their best to help me. Some are already on their way to the airport. They tell me to just try my best to keep my spirits up; everything will be okay. They’ll see me really soon, when I am coming out of those doors.

Eventually, the officer arrives and asks me to follow him into one of the interview rooms. He gives me back my business cards and promo material. Okay. He asks a million questions, all of which I answer completely truthfully. He writes my answers down on a sheet of paper. He asks why I lied at first. I tell him I had no bad intentions and was just trying to get through as quickly as possible. He asks if I did not know I needed a permit to demonstrate and teach in the UK. No, I honestly didn’t, nobody ever told me that I did. He says he doesn’t believe me; he thinks I was trying to be deceptive. I say I was not. He asks if I am aware that ignorance of the law is no protection against punishment. Yes. I am.

He tells me that many immigration officers aren’t doing their jobs, that’s the only reason I got through on previous visits. Not him. He sees things others don’t, he says. He knows how to do his job. It must be my lucky day.

I remember that couple from the airplane and hope they burn in hell.

He tells me he is now going to talk with his supervisor, and he is going to recommend that I get put on the next plane back to Israel, so that is most likely what is going to happen. I cry, beg and plead. I ask if there is anything at all I can do to change his decision. He says it is too late for me to get a permit – it’s ten to five and all the government offices close at five. There isn’t enough time. I ask if I can stay overnight and apply for an expedited permit the next day. The law says I must be put on the next flight; there is no way I can wait.

He says he has the power to ban me from the country for the next three years, but because he feels sorry for me, he isn’t going to recommend that. I stare at him in awe, wondering if he is expecting me to thank him. As if I’d ever want to come back here again anyway, I think to myself. I don’t fucking care.

He tells me he knows exactly what I’m thinking right now. And what might that be? He warns me not to try to reenter the UK using my American passport, because they will know who I am and then I will be banned. The thought actually hadn’t even occurred to me until he said that. I guess I am an amateur criminal.

The next flight is at 10pm. I have to stay in the holding room till then. I am given an egg mayo sandwich.

 


 

Sitting in the green room, utterly devastated and crying my eyes out, I realize a few things. I watch people being taken into interview rooms. Everyone – everyone – comes out of those rooms in tears. I realize that this is all just a formality; nobody is brought here to hear the words “sorry, this is all a big mistake, you will be granted entrance to the UK now”. Another Israeli girl comes out of one of the rooms sobbing; she is only 18. She tells me she came to the UK to volunteer at an animal rescue farm for a few weeks, and is being sent back on the same flight as me because she doesn’t have the appropriate papers. Being able to speak to someone in Hebrew, a language no one else there understands, is somewhat comforting for both of us.

I don’t really feel like talking to anyone, but I observe, and I listen to bits and pieces of conversation around the room. I realize that we are probably the more fortunate people in the room. Some of the others are being separated from their families, some are being sent back to the third-world countries they came from. Everyone has a story to tell; everyone is miserable. The holding room is not a pleasant place to be. I wonder if all the worst places in the world are painted green.

 

I use the payphone to communicate with my contact at Art in Action. They are already at the airport, explaining things to the officer who interviewed me and his supervisors, begging and pleading on my behalf. It seems that it is all up to that one officer. He has the ability to reverse his decision, but he just doesn’t want to. “We’re hitting brick walls”, they say. Even the Israeli embassy has gotten involved. Nothing is working.

 

At nine o’ clock, two officers show up to take me and the other girl to our flight. They take us all the way to the boarding gate and into the plane. They give our passports to a flight attendant; they are not to be returned to us before the plane takes off. As if there were some way we could escape the plane, run through the airport without getting caught – managing to get through passport control this time – and disappear into the UK, never to be found again, off to commit our heinous acts of volunteering at animal shelters and showing people how to make glass beads.

The Israeli security officer at the gate is kind and understanding. “I see this happening every day – it happens to the best”, he tries to console us. “It’s just a stroke of bad luck. That’s all it is. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

 


 

I feel like my whole world has been crushed. At this moment, there is nothing else left – nothing. Everyone else on the plane is in a good mood – Israelis returning from a great vacation in London, Brits on their way to catch a break of warm sunlight on Tel Aviv’s beaches, business people with suits and laptops on their way to important meetings. I feel like an outsider, humiliated, as if everyone else on the plane can tell I have been marked as a criminal and forbidden to enter one of my favorite countries. I think about the huge financial blow I have to deal with when I get home. I think about the miserable summer heat I wanted to get away from so badly. I think about all the people who would be going to Art in Action to learn I wasn’t there and all the students I wasn’t going to be able to teach. Crushed. Nobody asks about the tears running down my cheeks, and I don’t want to talk to anyone anyway.

This is as bad as it gets. Things could not possibly get any worse.

It’s been a while, and the plane isn’t moving. “There’s been a short delay”, says a voice on the speaker. “Please be patient”. All the passengers collectively sigh.

Whatever. Who gives a crap at this point.


On the bright side, my possessions have been returned to me and I can now use my iPhone, so I distract myself by reading all the nice comments people have posted on Facebook. The support is so overwhelming, it brings more tears to my eyes – but the good kind. I am incredibly exhausted and I just want to get home.

 

The voice returns after a while. “We think there is a problem with one of the plane’s engines”, it announces. “We are currently checking if the problem can be solved and if we can still take off tonight. If not, hotel arrangements will be made for everyone.”

Now, there is a collective “woohoo!” Everyone is excited to get a free night at a London hotel, who wouldn’t be? Hey, there have been flights back home where I’d wished something like this would happen, but it never has. It dawns on me that whatever happens, I’m not getting a free hotel stay. If the plane doesn’t take off, I’m going to be taken back to the holding room. I start to panic. “What’s going to happen to me?” I ask a flight attendant. “Don’t worry”, she says, “there’s still a chance they can fix the problem.”

 

Two and a half long, long hours later, it appears that they can’t. A woman shows up at my seat. “Please take your things and come with me.”

“Where are you taking me?!” I demand to know.

“You need to come with me.”

“I want to know what’s going on. I’m not leaving this plane. I want to speak to someone from the Israeli embassy. I want a lawyer. Get me a lawyer. NOW.”

“I need to take you back to the holding room, and you can ask to speak to whomever you want there”, she says. I contemplate throwing a fit. I feel like throwing a fit. I am majorly exhausted and depressed and seriously about to lose it. I wonder what would happen – would they take me to a psychiatric hospital instead of that holding room? Afraid that might be even worse and figuring it wouldn’t bring me any closer to Art in Action, I use my last bit of strength to keep it together as our belongings are taken from us again. We are put in a car and driven back to the room.

Once there, I am kicking and screaming. “I WILL NOT STAY HERE”, I tell the officers in charge. “GET ME A LAWYER. I WANT TO TALK TO SOMEONE FROM THE EMBASSY. I AM NOT A CRIMINAL. YOU CANNOT MAKE ME STAY HERE. I CANNOT TAKE THIS ANYMORE. THERE’S A LIMIT TO WHAT A PERSON CAN GO THROUGH IN ONE DAY.”

Two more officers show up. I cannot talk to the embassy because it’s 3 in the morning; everyone is sleeping. They can’t get me a lawyer. It’s not in their job description. All I can do is use the freaking payphone. They point to a list of phone numbers on the wall.  There’a a 24-hour legal advice hotline. I dial the number. A 24-hour answering machine advises me to leave my name and phone number and they’ll get back to me as soon as they can. “Fuck!” I want to throw something, but there’s nothing in the room to throw. I stomp around the floor. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK.”

A friend of mine back home has contacted the Israeli Foreign Ministry; there’s nothing they can do until the morning.

 

I am given a smelly pillow and blanket. There are two beds in the room, but they are both taken. I stretch out on a row of hard plastic chairs. The bright fluorescent lights never get shut off; detainees must be supervised at all times. Fuck. My mind is racing and I see no possible way I can just fall asleep after all of this. However, at some point I do.

 

I wake up a couple of hours later. The next flight to Israel is at 3pm. We will have to wait here all day. The hours go by like weeks. I contact Art in Action to let them know I am still in the UK. They immediately continue their efforts to enable me to stay. There is a lot of time now, so maybe there is still a chance. Maybe the plane malfunction was the miracle I’d been hoping for. Maybe things could work out now. I begin to feel a little better.

But no. Nothing is working. After a miserably long and stressful wait, I ask if I can take a shower before the flight. I have been wearing the same clothes since the previous morning and I stink. They say we’ll be taken to the showers on the way to the boarding gate. I sigh with relief. It’s 2pm. “Is there going to be enough time?” I ask. “Shouldn’t we be leaving pretty soon?”

“Don’t worry”, they say, “the room with the showers is close to the gate. There will be plenty of time.”

Ten minutes later, they apologize and tell us there isn’t going to be enough time for a shower. We can change our clothes if we like. The other girl asks for her makeup bag. I don’t ask for mine. At this point, my appearance is the least of my concerns. I am still at the payphone, making calls to Art in Action. They’ve tried everything. Nothing is working. It’s over.

Once again, we are taken to the boarding gate. At the gate, the Israeli security officer hands us our passports back. The UK officers glare in protest. Once again, they escort us to our seats, making sure we can’t escape. They leave. The doors close behind them. The plane takes off.

It’s over.

 


 

A dear friend is waiting for me at the arrival hall in Israel. On the drive home, I begin to tell her the whole story. “So, yesterday… wait… YESTERDAY? Have I only been gone for one day? It couldn’t have been yesterday. No way. My sense of time is all screwed up.”

“It was yesterday”, she confirms.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot wrap my mind around this. I still can’t. It feels like I have been gone for a month.

 

I have learned that when your freedom is taken away for 24 hours and you finally get it back, it really puts everything into a different perspective. I am free, and nothing is more important than that. You begin to appreciate all the little things in life. I can walk out of the room and go outside if I want. I can take a shower (hallelujah). I can sleep in my own bed. I can use my phone and my computer and get online whenever I want. Hell, I can even read non-religious books on my Kindle. Nobody can tell me what to do. There are so many people in this world who are not so fortunate.

 


 

Aftermath

My glorious freedom aside – as previously mentioned, and as you can imagine, my business has suffered a terrible blow – one that I currently have no idea how to recover from. I have spent the last few months preparing for Art in Action. Never imagining anything like this would happen, I’ve invested lots of money in materials and endless amounts of time in preparation, and I now have a huge inventory of jewelry. It needs to sell, somehow. At least some of it.

I don’t like to use a sob story for my own financial gain, but I am desperate. Can you help?

I am currently offering a 25% discount at both my Etsy shops – http://sarahhornik.etsy.com and http://sarahhornikjewelry.etsy.com

You can use the coupon code NOPLACELIKEHOME to get the discount (same code for both shops). I haven’t decided yet how long this will be running for, probably at least a few days.

If you can’t buy anything right now, maybe you could share the link to my shops or tell a friend about the sale? Any help I can get right now would be greatly, greatly appreciated.

UPDATE: The sale has ended. Thanks so much to everyone who took part in it. I am overwhelmed by your kindness and generosity.

 


 

Thanks to everyone for supporting me over the past couple of days. It means more to me than you can imagine.

Thanks to the organizers of Art in Action for inviting me back this year, and for making such a huge effort to help me stay. I know you did the best you could.

 

 

 

40 comments

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  1. Fiona Sands

    Oh Sarah, I am so very unhappy for what has happened to you – it sounds like a waking nightmare.

  2. Cheryl Roe

    Wow, what a horrible experience. I would never have guessed it could be that bad. I guess travel will never be what it was 10 years ago.

  3. Di Sandland

    What bloody bastards! Sarah I am so sorry that you were treated like this it makes me want to scream so god knows how it may you feel (but I can guess).

    I can’t afford to buy right now but I’ll spread the word as far and wide as I can. If only I’d read this earlier I wouldn’t have spent twenty quid on interweave eBooks I didn’t need.

    Ah well. I’m sending calming hugs (and some extra spitting anger too, just in case you need it)

    love
    Di

  4. Claire Rowanberry Morris

    So very very very sorry to hear what an awful time you have been through. There are many people to blame for what you went through, but none of it is your fault and I am soooo upset that you were treated so badly. Our country is pretty messed up at the moment :-(

    1. Linda Grishman

      Unbelievable. How absolutely outrageous and ridiculous. Is this anti-semitism or what? How on earth could something like this happen to an innocent person? One has to wonder how others, who may very well be terrorists, with accomplices in the UK get through. The Brits, not all Brits, but many have some disdain for Jews. There are wealthy British Jews who suffer from self-imposed anti-semitism and prefer to donate huge amounts of money to Churches rather than Jewish charities. It’s a shundah, a disgrace. Sarah you write beautifully and this piece should be sent to the British Press and Jewish Press as well as TV. With your permission, I will copy your piece and send it to all my British cousins and friends in the UK. I wonder what they will think? This is one of the reasons so many South African Jews, including myself, did not choose to emigrate to Britain.

      1. Sarah

        Thank you for your kind words, Linda, but I feel a bit uncomfortable with this.

        I have visited the UK many times and have never felt unwelcome. I have many British friends whom I love. I want to make it very clear that I don’t consider Britain to be a racist/anti-semitic country and I don’t consider what happened to me to be anti-semitism.

  5. Lucy McQueen

    I just wanted to say pretty much the same as Di. I’m sorry I can’t afford to but anything now (hubby only just started a new job), but I have spread this all over my facebook, and if you would like it mentioned in the UK Beaders forum, just let me know (if you have the chance). Sending you much love. Lucy

  6. Judith Billig

    What an awful experience! I can’t even imagine being in that situation.
    To be honest, I can’t understand the festival organization either – how come they didn’t inform attendees about the permits that are required to teach?
    I’ll spread the word about your sale.

  7. Carmenique c/o Neomi Caban

    Hello Sarah,

    I read your story and I feel so bad for you. What a living nightmare you’ve been through! So glad, you’re home safe.

    I placed an order to helpyou out a little. I plan to save the bead for myself.

    Sarah,I just sent you an e-mail about my order but will post it just in case it is here where you check first.

    I had a little problem with the coupon code:Hello Sarah,

    I placed NOPLACELIKEHOME in the coupon code box… but upon completing the transaction my charge was still $48.50. So, I wasn’t given the 25% off.

    Sarah, my Etsy transaction # for this bead purchase is 35906499.

    I’m so sorry to add more misery to the difficult time you’ve been having. When time permits you, can you please reimburse the 25% discount to my paypal account? My paypal account address is Abbycinn2@cox.net .

    So sorry the code didn’t go through.

    Good luck selling!

    Sincerely,
    Neomi Caban
    Carmenique
    1521 Kings Rd
    Cantonment, FL. 32533

    Abbycinn2@cox.net

  8. Evelyn Leenen-van Dijk

    What a terrible thing to happen to you.
    I checked your Etsy site and think the beads/jewelry you made are gorgeous.

    Cheers,
    Evelyn

  9. Christine Gould

    That’s a hell of an experience Sarah, so sorry you had to endure that & I can sympathise with the financial loss (I recently had a similar thing happen but not on the same scale).
    Keep your sale going for at least a week – I promise I will buy what I can.
    Look after yourself – so sorry not to have been able to meet you today at A in A. xx

  10. Melanie Walsh

    What an awful awful thing to happen. Makes me ashamed of my own country.

  11. Julie Schmidt Bowen

    Sarah, I’m so, so sorry. I can help a little and buy your new e-book once you put more in the shop!

  12. Andréa Simeral-Boyer

    What an awful ordeal. Glad you’re home safe and sound.

  13. Nicole Valentine-Rimmer

    Sarah I have been in your shoes and it’s not pleasant. SHAME ON the people who knowingly let you come to the UK without the proper papers. The people who hire you are responsible for filing out the papers, and it’s really not all that much work. This happens over and over because of laziness. I can’t imagine spending a night in that room, a few hours is hard enough.

  14. Sarah De Jong Kimmelman

    Oh Sarah, I totally feel for you!!! I was put in jail for a day in February due to a clerical error on the one and only traffic ticket I’ve ever gotten, and I know exactly what you mean, those people are on power trips and couldn’t care less!! It’s awful to have no sleep, no real amenities and have to sit there for a day with this sense of injustice…. I wasn’t allowed my phone call or anything, you just feel so damn helpless but it’s the best feeling in the world when it’s all over…. I definitely hear you on the being incredibly grateful for every little freedom too. Sorry you had to live the nightmare, but glad it’s all over!

  15. Jules Kirk

    Sarah – just wanted to say I’m upset and angry to hear how you have been treated by some of the “officials” of this country! As you say, since when did making glass beads (or volunteering to help animals) become a criminal offence?! The country’s gone mad!!! (well even madder than it was already!)

    I hope you are feeling better today, and that this whole nightmare doesn’t put you off the UK. Your work is beautiful!

    Best wishes, Julie

  16. Joann Hayssen

    Hi Sarah,
    When you have recovered a bit, you should take what you’ve written, tighten it up a bit (altho it’s pretty gripping as is), and send it to newpapers and magazines to be published. People should know about this…people beyond us that is.
    So sorry you had to go through this; I can only imagine how awful it was. I know I would not have been able to maintain my cool.

  17. Debbie

    Hi Sarah,

    SO SORRY to hear of your travel problems…what an awful experience.

    Is there some way that the people who invited you could (partially) compensate you?

    I’ve been unemployed since last year, so I’m not able to buy right now…sorry about that.

  18. Flamin' Francesca

    Hi Sarah,
    I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I swear airport security people all over the globe have lost their minds. I get that they have a job to do, but isn’t it protecting people in the country they represent? Your experience just proves that they have no interest in protecting anyone, but only an interest in bureaucratic nonsense that nobody cares about. Permits for an art show…not exactly swiping nuclear technology now is it? Why not some common sense like wait 24 hours and let you get a permit? But that would have been too easy. No, better to annoy all the people waiting for you at the art show, the Israel Embassy, and everyone who reads this. What stupidity. Going to go buy something now! Love your work, especially your tutorials! Next time, just come to the US, even here in the land of 9/11 we haven’t lost as much as the Brits!

  19. PattyK

    Sarah – I’m so sorry that you had such a horrible experience. How very discouraging. I’m using your code to pick up one of your amazing tutorials. I hope things start looking up for you soon!

  20. Sharon Abood

    Sarah, I’m so sorry to hear all you went through. In the years since 9-11 we have not just lost our freedoms, but some have lost their minds as well! We have gotten some weird behavior from TSA in the airports because of our last name. The last time I was in the airport the gal told me to just consider the “pat down” my “full body Massage!!!!!” I wanted to slug her but I knew that would land me in jail! How rude!
    Again so sorry you had to go through this just to go teach your beautiful art.
    Hugs!

  21. Joshua Schneider

    I propose any glass artist, or really any person in general, send your feelings to the UK Immigration people at this address.

    public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

    which I found here http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/complaints/

    Shit treatment like this should not be tolerated.

  22. Darrell Grant

    So sorry about your ordeal. Glad you came out of this physically intact. You write very eloquently for someone just through this. I agree with a previous poster who suggested you get this published. I took advantage of your sale to buy tutorials.

  23. Lorraine James

    Sarah
    I’m so sorry to hear of your plight :(
    I was born in the UK but now live in Australia & I feel ashamed you received the treatment you did from the country of my birth & somewhere I had thought would treat people fairly especially when no criminal activities are involved. It just stinks & has me all fired up! I do not know how you managed to stay sane throughout your ordeal as I know if I were ever in the same situation I’d be a basket case & crying constantly – while trying to reason with people who you’d expect to be reasonable. Sometimes things get missed, such as the papers or whatever visa you apparently needed to do your workshops – just by talking to your friends in the UK they know you were of no risk to anyone & it sounds to me someone (HIM) had decided to be a PIG to as many people as possible that day (supposedly doing his job). Funny how he managed to not get to you until you would be unable to reach people, the embassy or lawyers – he obviously thinks he’s above his station & needs to be put in his place ASAP!! I hope you have already or will put in a formal complaint in the strongest way you can word the appalling treatment you received either directly from this man or because of that man!!
    Just remember you have many friends and admirers around the world who adore your beautiful, amazing & colourful works of art. Stuff him & STAY STRONG – I hope you manage to do well with your sales, I will look but have a small budget of late not having being selling my own work for about a year due to illness & also the death of my Mother so cannot promise to purchase – hoping to get back in the saddle so to speak myself in the not too distant future, but in the meantime – best of luck & I hope you sell loads & your complaint gets this man’s inflated ego bought down to earth with a crash!
    Take care & Stay Strong & Keep on Creating!
    Lorraine :0)

  24. Elizabeth Ross

    Sarah, What a nightmare, travel these days is just that. I purchased an item from your shop, something small, but hopefully it will help. The code did not work, but I am sure you can take care of that on your end. Next time come to the US, but I can’t guarantee better treatment!
    Stay strong my friend,
    Liz

  25. Rimma Kreymer

    I just wish it never happened to you! Makes me so angry! Sorry!

  26. Lara Lutrick

    Wow, just wow! I’m so sorry. I guess I don’t understand why they wouldn’t let you through, stupid jerk of a customs official.

  27. Donna Conklin

    Dear Sarah,
    I am so very sorry this happened to you. I wish I could’ve been the mama bear for you and saved you from this horrible experience! You so did not deserve to have that happen. I hope, when we meet again, that we can do something extravagant and over the top to help wipe that memory away! Love, Donna <3

  28. Anne

    I am sorry for your misfortune too Sara but… I found myself in a similar situation with similar results some years ago. I had tried to cut an answer to a question short by leaving out some of the details.

    I too was found out and had to pay the price. I did not react like you though because I felt from the get go that although I didn’t agree with customs decision I had “lied by omission” and it is the job of customs to be suspicious of anyone trying to enter their country, particularly in this day and age.

    I learnt that as international travellers we should all be honest and open when entering another country, apologising after the event is not good enough. I have travelled to over 30 countries now and have had other complications to deal with including living on a floor for over 24 hours with 4 children! We are guests in other countries and must obey all laws.

    I hope all your future travels go much, much more smoothly.

  29. Emma Ralph

    Sarah, this was just awful for you. I really think the idiots who told you to come to the UK without the correct visa should hang their heads in shame. Fancy telling you to just pretend you were here on a vacation??? The mind boggles.

    Just to clarify for others – this is an immigration issue though, not a security one. Sarah was refused entry on the basis of not having the correct paperwork to be here on business. So their issue – and the reason they refused entry – was she might be an illegal alien, not a terrorist!

    Utterly jobsworth of them though, because they could tell from googling her exactly why she was here and that it was obvious she had every intention of going home again afterwards!

    And does this now mean that your passport shows you were refused entry to the UK? If so, that could make travel fun for the next few years couldn’t it.

    Emma

  30. Ilsa

    I am so, so sorry that you couldn’t come to England. It sounds such a nightmare. I’m also really sorry that I won’t to see you at Art in Action. I was really looking forward to that. If only immigration officials did something creative in their lives, they’d probably be more decent, open-minded human beings – but then they probably wouldn’t want to be immigration officials any more….

  31. Anna Horn

    So sorry to hear you had such a traumatic trip and such a stressful time with the British authorities. Sleeping in a dentention centre can not have been much fun. I know the UK authorities are really cracking down on people coming in with incorrect papers and it is a shame that you had been advised in the past to lie about your reasons for entry. I hope that this has not put you off coming to the UK in the future and also hope that the immigration authorities treat better next time. We love your work and your demonstrations are always fantastic. Chin up Sarah, have a stiff drink and count your blessings. Put this down to experience!!

  32. Marjorie Ixes

    I am so Sorry you had to Go through that Sarah! =((
    I am Surprised the Organization didn’t Know about the Permits though.
    Sharing this! Mx

  33. Laney Mead

    Blimey!! What a 24hrs. I appreciate you were completely screwed over by our judicious system and that particular muppet in particular. I too am slightly surprised that Art in Action didn’t know about permits, but I have to say that you write brilliantly!! As well as being enthralled with your story, I did chuckle at some of your descriptions especially of the immigration officer and the elderly couple on the plane. I too hope you haven’t been put off coming back to the UK in the future. I will spread the word too.

  34. Limor Matityahoo

    Dearest Sarah,
    I read your terrifying post and felt more and more helpless and anxious about what you had to go through.

    I hope you will overcome this (s)adventure quickly, and that the power of your business will help you overcome this financly too.
    xo
    Limitz

  35. Silvia Decet

    Hi! reading your post really brought back some veeeery bad memories. I had a similar experience early this year in a different country because some idiot made a mistake with my passport. After like 48 hours at airports, luggage lost in transit, I found myself with a huge migraine in Denver airport, -30°C, not really knowing what to do with two weeks of my time. Not exactly the vacation I had planned.
    I really related to your story and I feel very sorry for what you had to go through.

  36. kate mckinnon

    What a awful story, Sarah.
    I travel around the world as well, and am often crossing international borders with no clear idea if I have the correct paperwork beyond my passport.

    I also travel alone, and that raises eyebrows (usually of male officers- why would a woman be travelling alone, with no set agenda?)

    I fear getting one of these kinds of officers one day, and having an experience like yours. I’m sorry it happened to you.

  37. Janet Nordfors

    Sarah – My heart breaks for your horrible experience. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. It certainly makes me appreciate my freedom. God Bless

  38. Julie

    Recently the TSA (US) decided it would be prudent to essentially strip search an elderly wheelchair bound traveler who happened to be wearing an adult diaper.
    They subsequently forced the individual (a believe a caregiver was present) to remove said diaper, the only one NOT in their checked luggage!
    Some of us have become animals on a power trip.
    Shameful, infuriating. I will never fly again, might have to take a nice slow ship somewhere.
    Sorry Sarah, it should never have happened
    Gosh, I have never posted in a blog before, this really got to me…
    Julie

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