Talk to someone who has been on a Compassion sponsor tour and you’ll hear all about stuff like this,

On my sponsor tour …

and stuff like this,

Should I visit my sponsored child?

But you won’t hear about this – the Customs Declaration form.

Not once did I read a blog post from Uganda about this thing. And boy howdy is this form painful.

Name, country of birth, nationality. Easy.

Main Destination in Mexico? Uh … do I put the hotel address or just the city? Which hotel the one I’m staying at for two days or the one I’m staying at for three days?

City? No problem, if it’s seven letters or less. So Colorado Springs becomes C-o-l-o-r-a-d. Nice.

Passport number. I have nine digits but 10 spaces. Is that normal? Did I do something wrong?

Do I need to fill out the stuff below the perforation? It’s the same as the stuff above the perforation. Why is the form perforated? What happens if I accidentally detach the two perforated parts from one another? Does one part then have to pay perforation support to the other?

And how do I answer this question?

“Are you carrying: live animals, food products of animal or vegetable origin, plants, flowers, fruits; chemical, pharmaceutical or biological products of agricultural use?”

Yes or no.

What’s the intent behind that question? Do they want to know about my airline peanuts? Is a nut just a nut or is it also a fruit? A vegetable maybe?

What about my energy bar? It’s technically food, and it’s definitely a food product, but do they want to know all about my packaged food products or just if I’m bringing in fresh stuff.

I know this isn’t stuff you really expected to hear about. It doesn’t bring you any closer to your sponsored child, but it’s all the stuff that we’ve done so far.

Other than eating at Pappadeux in the Houston airport, taking a few pictures while we waited for our delayed flight and getting poked in the nipple by a flight attendant because I didn’t turn my cell phone off quickly enough.

I told you I’d bring you along. Hope you like the “traveling face” of a sponsor tour.

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19 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Sara Benson
    Aug 16, 2008
    at 10:53 pm

    Sounds like you are having fun! :) I have always hated those forms. I debate about the y/n questions every time.

  2. Aug 16, 2008
    at 11:14 pm

    LOL Great post! Keep the details coming!!! I want to hear everything about the sponsor tour — I can’t wait to take one myself.

    Be careful with those forms. I lost an (apparently important) form once when I was in Mexico — a form that you needed to get out of the country, so they said. It created quite a snafu at customs & it was scary!

  3. Heather
    Aug 17, 2008
    at 1:12 am

    Funny post!Be careful down there though especially of the fedarales(who extort money from what they think are rich tourists),el banditos and Arizonas favorite the Mexican military!

  4. Andrzej Gandecki
    Aug 17, 2008
    at 7:24 am

    Chris, did you get the data of my girl in Mexico?

  5. Aug 17, 2008
    at 8:18 am

    LOL! Thanks for the reminder, Chris! Oddly enough, by the time the sponsors tour is over and my “whelmed” is also “over,” I’ve forgotten all about that form. And from one trip to the next, I don’t remember how to answer those Y/N questions. I don’t know what I’d do, if I were traveling as an individual; on both of my tours, to date, JoAnn Stroup (aka “Mama JoAnn,” Tours Dept.) has told us how to answer.

    On the trip back, the big concern has been our passports. One member of our last group had hers at each of the stations where we had to show them between the seating/interminable waiting area in the terminal and the seating areas on the plan. But when we deplaned in Miami, she didn’t have it, anymore. Oops!

    So, Chris, don’t lose your passport!

  6. Aug 17, 2008
    at 8:45 am

    I did Andrzej

  7. Aug 17, 2008
    at 9:31 am

    You make it sound so exciting 😛

  8. Aug 17, 2008
    at 2:42 pm

    Following your Mexico blogs w/ great interest. I used to live and work there, so I’m excited to learn more about what Compassion is doing in the D.F. and beyond. Praying for you all. :)

  9. Aug 17, 2008
    at 3:13 pm

    Yes, these details can prove to be quite important. When I was in La Paz two months ago, a flight had been booked for me to go to Cochabamba. It had been booked in my nick name Kees Boer. When I got to the airport, the Bolivian airline didn’t want to let me on the flight, because the name was different in the passport, (My formal name: Cornelis Boer). No matter what we said, they wouldn’t even listen to reason, “the name was different, so you don’t get on.” I even try to suggest that they would just let me on and if someone else named Kees Boer would show up for the flight, I would be happy to give up my seat for them. It took the travel agent getting involved and a lot of phonecalls and some extra money to finally get on that flight. So, details can become quite important.


  10. Aug 17, 2008
    at 5:12 pm

    haha this is hilarious, chris! but definitely an integral part of the sponsor tour experience. i was coming home through customs from on a medical mission trip once. because i was so tired, i completely forgot that i had food & medication on me! nowadays i’m inclined to over-declare.

  11. Marci Carpentier
    Aug 17, 2008
    at 5:36 pm

    That is just too funny! Well it is now, but not while your trying to fill out that form. It took me right back to the Ghana and Burkina Faso Airports in February 2008, thank goodness for JoAnn who lead our tour.

    Have fun Chris, I’m enjoying the ride so far.

  12. Aug 17, 2008
    at 11:17 pm

    Believe it or not, I was with your buddy Dustin when he was in the panic mode over these same forms in the Dominican Republic. I have no idea if I was a help or hindrance to him, but having done it several times myself I think I at least had a couple of answers to the questions. And — fortunately — we did get in (and back out) of the country. I’m glad someone was there to help me when I went through the first — and second — and third time! I’m still not sure what kind of answers they want.

  13. Brianne Mullins
    Aug 18, 2008
    at 8:10 am

    The fooooooorm!!!! Not the form! I have horrific stories about those confusing pieces of paper. I think it is safe to assume that the Lord’s name is called upon at quite an astounding rate during the filling out of these forms. And that’s all I have to say about that;)

  14. Aug 18, 2008
    at 9:27 am

    Nobody reads the forms, you can pretty much write whatever you want.

  15. Aug 18, 2008
    at 10:31 am

    lol — you are so right Dave! Why didn’t I think of that?

  16. mindy kendall
    Aug 18, 2008
    at 6:29 pm

    so, what are the correct answers to your questions? they are the same questions we all have. so, if you would please answer them here for us, we could all take our “cheat sheets” the next time we travel.

  17. Aug 18, 2008
    at 6:37 pm

    I think I misread that one part about agricultural stuff. I thought it also asked about pharmaceuticals, to which I would have to answer “Yes,” as I have several prescriptions. But on re-reading, I guess there are pharmaceuticals intended for agricultural purposes–??? I’m trying to imagine what those would be; do crops get headaches? Infections?

    Never mind…I’m not an agriculturalist, or I wouldn’t have to ask.

  18. Aug 18, 2008
    at 7:09 pm

    I have taken these forms and filled them out as much as I could. Then once I checked into the country, if I had a question, I would just ask, and they would help me at customs with it.


  19. Christine Harenberg
    Sep 28, 2009
    at 10:02 pm

    Don’t forget to mention not to fall asleep on the plane when they are passing out the forms. It is a bit disconcerting to wake up and find out you don’t have the forms everyone else received because you were asleep. Oh, an by the way, the flight attendants are now all out of the form. Hmmm! Where do I find this form in the Guatemalan airport when I don’t speak enough Spanish to ask for it!

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