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BE CAREFUL ABOUT BUYING GIFTS ON VACATION

by Tumbleweed Smith

While we were in Peru, we saw some extremely beautiful silver and gold items. The colorful weavings were fantastic. The caps, shirts and jackets were made with skillful hands. The very special alpaca and vicuna coats and scarves were of extremely high quality. There were so many interesting and unique things. We wanted to bring practically everything we saw back home with us. We stayed in a shopping district full of small, fun stores to visit. In the mornings we walked up and down the streets near our hotel and visited several of them. We were in Lima over a weekend when a large marketplace was set up over a several block area downtown. Vendors from nearby villages brought items to sell along a boulevard esplanade. They just plunk themselves down on the grass and set up shop. It reminded me of Santa Fe, when Indians offer things for sale on the town square. The Peruvian vendors were wearing the brightest-colored clothing Iíve ever seen.

Shopping for our family was fairly simple, but finding special gifts for our friends was difficult. We wanted something small, since we always try to travel with carry-on luggage. A lot of consideration went into every choice we made. We went back and forth between vendors, shops and the marketplace. We finally decided on some silver letter openers.

We made our purchases early in the trip, since we were going to be fairly busy later on. We had some scheduled excursions throughout the country.

After buying the gifts, we went to the Lima airport to catch a flight to Cuzco. In Peru, you have to pay an airport tax prior to boarding. And you pay it after checking your luggage. Since we had just carry-on, we paid the tax and headed for security.

I travel with at least two cameras and a recorder. When the security camera scanned our luggage, there seemed to be some kind of a problem with a bag. The security officer said something that sounded to me like the word corder. I thought he was speaking English, and told him, ď You must have found my recorder.Ē He didnít respond and looked stern. Turns out he was speaking Spanish and the word he was saying was cortar, which means to cut.

He started plowing through the bag in question, which had my recorder in it. He didnít pause an instant when he came to the recorder. He kept going until he found the silver letter openers we had purchases for our friends. Another security officer, a woman, approached and looked over the situation. She saw the surprised look on our faces and could tell we had never considered the letter openers being weapons. She figured we were not terrorists and courteously asked us to please return to the ticket counter and check our luggage.

We learned a lot about buying gifts on that trip. We did have to pay another airport tax, but it was a small price to pay, considering what could have been the consequences of our trying to carry weapons aboard a plane.

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