There is something very unsettling about outposts of bureaucracy.
Sitting on the edge of countries, holding vigil over border lines, these little booths and barricades are filled with blustery officials and their chunky stamps. Some border stations are corrupt; others incorruptible. Some scrutinise every passing passenger; others barely give a second look.
(In Chile, the border stations are entirely vigilant, but mostly preoccupied with scanning your bags for rogue fruit and vegetables. Can't have unregulated foodstuffs running around the country, after all.)
I have never in my life done anything that would warrant questioning at a border station--I always eat my fruit beforehand, guv. And yet whenever I arrive at one of these little castles of formality, slumping off a bus and presenting my credentials in a tiny corner office, I'm possessed by the most irrational anxiety. As if a bunch of big grey men in suits are about to pull me aside, explain my visa has been declined, and add that I'll also be spending an unspecified period of time in a local prison for reasons unstated, thank you very much.
Perhaps I've read a little too much Kafka.
Or perhaps it's part of the acute awareness that all border stations bring--that you are stepping into another country, where you don't know the rules.
(Unless you're going back to Peru, in which case, thankfully, you do.)
Or perhaps my worry simply comes from a fundamental truth, one that South America is all too familiar with:
There is nothing more terrifying than the notion of a madman with a government stamp.