What does US Customs want?

My son and I went to Russia for the summer and just recently came back

… Anticipating nostalgia already, I left behind St. Petersburg’s white nights, hasty packing, taxi to Pulkovo, a familiar for me thought, “It seems we are late for the plane,” transfer in Paris, movies on the plane where you almost can’t hear anything … airplane food in dense foil, customs declaration stating that I do not bring to America  drugs, a lot of money, or bacteria …

So, we landed at the new Atlanta International Terminal, and after we passed the border, on the way to the exit door I approached a customs officer with a naive question “to whom shall I give the customs declaration”. The officer, without any hesitation called me out of the crowd for “Nothing to Declare”, gave a special voucher and sent me (with two huge suitcases and a child) back to the customs clearance. I was cursing at myself for my stupidity and extra questions having such an obvious Russian accent… So, we came to the customs and an officer, a big, serious, guy with squared shoulders, looked at me straight in the eyes and accusingly asked if I had brought any food from Russia.  I certainly had. In my suitcase were smoked fish in a vacuum packet, which my husband loves so much, and caviar; Bordeaux and pate from the Paris Duty Free.  I felt very reluctant to give it all to customs; however I didn’t want any problems.  I stood and thought about the best way to handle the situation with a minimum loss. The officer patiently repeated his question whether I am bringing any food from Russia. «What do you mean? “, I asked, buying time by playing stupid as though I did not realize what Americans consider to be a food (and secretly hoping that fish and caviar is not)  «I have wine and pate from France Duty Free»-I finally squeezed the answer out of myself. Continue reading “What does US Customs want?”