I live in Buffalo, New York, almost in sight of Lake Erie and the Niagara River that leads to the Falls and Lake Ontario (“farther below Lake Ontario, takes in what Lake Erie can send her.”) Doing fieldwork in Toronto means lots of border crossing. There are many things that one can do to expedite this process, both formal and informal. You can get an enhanced drivers license, or a NEXUS card. You can clean out your car so there’s nothing to look through. And, most importantly, you can have a simple answer to just exactly why it is you want to leave your country for another.
My first time to Toronto:
Border patrol: “Why are you coming into Canada?”
Me: “I’m doing research in Toronto.”
Border Patrol: “What kind of research?”
Me: “Ethnographic research. I’m a folklorist. I’m going to spend the day driving around and getting to know the neighborhoods and pick up some local papers and maps, and stop in some music stores to better assess the local flavor of Toronto, in order to better understand the context for later, more precise research trips.”
Border Patrol: “Pull over to the side and go inside that door to be searched.”
Now what do I do?
Border Patrol: “Why are you coming into Canada?”
Me: “Visiting friends.”
Border Patrol: “Goaheadhaveaniceday.”
So while I’m happy to spent less time at the border, I can now add the border agents to the ever-growing list of people who aren’t interested in complicated, yet accurate answers. Sigh.