“This is your son?”
“Yes,” Lief replied.
“Does he go to public school or private?”
Lief looked over at me, down at Jack, then back at the U.S. immigration officer expressing an interest in Jack’s education.
“Uh, I guess you’d call it private,” Lief finally replied.
“You guess it’s private? You don’t know what kind of school your son goes to?”
Then, the immigration officer to Jack:
“This is your father?”
“You live in Panama City?”
“What kind of school do you attend?”
“It’s a French school.”
“You don’t speak Spanish?”
“You don’t go to a diplomat’s school? You look like you might attend a school for diplomats’ kids.”
None of us was sure how to respond.
“How do you like Panama City?”
“It’s hot,” I offered, trying to take the pressure off Jack.
“It’s not bad,” our curious U.S. immigration officer corrected me. “It’s as good as it gets for the region.”
Lief and I stared back silently, not wanting to say anything that might trigger more questions we wouldn’t be sure how to answer.
“For Central America, Panama City is OK,” the U.S. immigration officer assured us again.
“But, otherwise, Central America is bad. Very bad. Central Americans are bad. Scary people. Scary place. A lot of bad things go on down there…”
Lief and I looked at our three passports in this guy’s hands, then at each other.
“Welcome home,” the U.S. immigration officer offered finally as he handed our passports back to Lief.
“Uh, thanks,” I mumbled.
“But this isn’t our home,” Jack whispered up at me as we walked away, following the signs toward baggage claim.