The most amazing thing about life is that we never know what’s about to happen. My trip to England is a perfect example of life’s unexpected moments! I’m laughing now, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to handle them. In my instance, I was extremely excited that I had been cast as an EDC Bond Girl. A raver at heart, I’ve been attending Insomniac’s events since 2006. I have been a resident of Exchange LA for Insomniac Fridays and attended or worked at EDC every year for almost 10 years now. I was so happy when I heard I was being cast as a “Bond Girl”. I was thrilled when, at the end of filming the promotional video, I was invited to perform at EDC UK (See the video here).
I told everyone I knew and saved up for my airfare and travel costs. Two of my close friends made plans to travel with me as well, although they booked separate flights. We were all going to meet in London for a dream vacation, touring Ireland and Scotland as well. I felt so happy that I would finally be visiting the land of my ancestors! I’m part British.
The night before my departure I stayed up all night, packing and getting my radio show “AXION” done in time for my 4 o’clock flight the following afternoon. My dear friend Nick came to give me a ride to the airport. We sped away, complete with my brand new luggage.
10463056_10152326745664125_7963090335261637073_nWe had a coffee at Starbucks and I went through security and onto the plane. I had never flown Virgin Atlantic before. It was delightful to hear all the stewards and stewardesses speaking with British accents. Their mannerisms, even the way they wore their makeup, was noticeably different and foreign. I kept ordering red wine, and it went along nicely with the stewardesses’ red dresses, red shoes and red lipstick. I was reading “A Game of Thrones” and feeling more and more excited by the minute about my trip. Soon, I would land and share with my friend Joann the Union Jack matching earrings I had gotten for us! Who new how many amazing contacts I would make out there, at clubs for spinning and performing in the future, not to mention new friends. Most of all, I wanted to visit Stone Henge and share a Guinness with my friends Joann and Chris on the emerald isle of Ireland.
After a 10 hour flight, even the wine and special cookie I had eaten didn’t allow me to forget how uncomfortable I was, though the view from the window seat I had been given gave me a breathtaking view of the clouds and green parted hillsides of England. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and meet up with Joann, however; I was in need of a shower, a non-airplane meal and a good night’s rest. I finally exited the plane and with a big smile. I was wearing a neon yellow shirt with my DJ logo on it, rainbow shoes, jeans and my ninja turtles backpack, along with my hot pink Premo Plugz.10455772_10152326739349125_614903766053676248_n
I spoke with an immigration officer at the border and she asked my reason for visiting. I told her primarily for tourism, but that I would be performing one day at EDC UK music festival. Silly me, I thought she would know what that was and be excited for me! I quickly realized that this beautiful, yet very stern woman has no idea what EDC was, and that she didn’t care. As she continued to question me, I realized had said the wrong thing. A hot pain shot up my back into my head. I’d said the forbidden word: Work.
I asked her, “Can’t you just say I’m attending the festival?”
“Well, that wouldn’t be the truth, now would it?” She said. Then she took me to sit down in an area away from everyone else. I asked for water. I then started to realize what I was in for. I asked if I could retrieve my checked baggage, but they told me I had to wait. Hours went by. I tried to meditate and keep my thoughts positive, but as the hours ticked on I shed some tears. A kind woman who was sitting to monitor me and a few other people was giving me some comforting words. She told me not to cry, that it wouldn’t help my case.
“But, I’m sad,” I said quietly.
After a while I was taken into a different part of the airport, and along the way we attempted to find my luggage. It was nowhere to be found. We spent a decent amount of time looking, and eventually the officers gave up. They had me fill out a missing luggage report. The man helping me had a thick Indian accent and was nearly impossible to understand, which wasn’t his fault, but made the moment even more frustrating. Things started to look dimmer for me, as I had, of course packed all of my favorite outfits for this trip, it was the last thing I wanted at that moment.
Next I was taken into a room and several photos were taken of me while I was fighting back tears. My finger prints were taken and more photos. All of my possessions were seized including my cell phone. The only thing I was allowed to keep on me was money.
At this point I really did start to feel like a “Bond Girl”! Most of the ladies working the border control were not only gorgeous, but spoke with eloquence and had their makeup done just right, looking snazzy in their dark blue uniforms. I felt like a spy in a James Bond film. They patted me down several times, which I admit I didn’t mind too much.
I was taken into a room with no windows. There were a few other people in there. A middle-aged business man from Pakistan, a young woman from Mississippi and a man who didn’t speak English, I assume he was Arabic; he was wearing an agal. There was a TV in there but it smelled badly of B.O. I noticed several pictures on the wall, one of a dog wearing a woman’s hat, and two pictures side by side: one of Marilyn Monroe, but all in red, and one of a tiger’s face. I found this humorous, because I follow Chinese astrology and I happen to know that Marilyn Monroe was a Fire Tiger, as am I. To me, this felt like some sort of sign. I was brought a tuna sandwich and started speaking with the other detainees.
“Why are you in here?” I asked the young woman. She was pretty in a girl next door sort of way. Thin, and wearing glasses.
“I was just here to do some baby sittin’,” she said in a thick southern accent. I found it extremely charming.
“You told them that?”
“Yeah. Man, I just wanna go home now. I don’t wanna work here no more.”
“Who paid for your trip?”
“My parents.”
“Nobody told you not to say that?”
“No.” She was obviously sad and had been crying as well. Shortly thereafter she was sent back to the US.
I was taken away for an interview by the original officer I had met. I was taken into a small room with a desk and I was quoted word for word about why I was there. I told them I’d gladly not work at the festival (even though I REALLY wanted to), if I could be allowed to stay as a tourist.
“Well, you can’t just go changing your mind now,” she said with a slightly condescending tone. Although considerably shorter than me, she was clearly the one in control. She told me she had called on my behalf and that she doubted there was any chance now for me to stay. I would be forced to leave.
I asked if I could fly to Ireland or France instead of going all the way back to L.A. That’s when I learned that when you get “Removed” from a country, you don’t get a choice. You have to go back to the country you’re from.
I was tired and delirious at that point, it was really all a blur. I think I was in the detention center for about 7 hours. At one point I tried to lead my fellow detainees in a stretching session, but none of them had high enough spirits. I did lunges around the cell. Another man was brought in, an attractive, fit guy from New Zealand. He was in the country to play Rugby. His VISA apparently had not gone through in time. We talked and shared stories; misery loves company. I kept trying to throw on a comedic twist. I was permitted to send a few text messages on my cell phone, which I gladly did, letting my friends know what happened. I wanted to call a lawyer, but the pay phone in the cell only took British coins. I really wondered how any detainee could be expected to have British coins…
Someone from Insomniac called but at this point there was nothing he could do. He told me it happened to another performer the year before. I was trying to be as calm and upbeat about it as I could, but I honestly felt like I had been left in the dark. I felt embarrassed and like a fool.
I was not accustomed to the feeling of not having freedom. It came as a real shock to me in the detention center. It felt extremely uncomfortable, like being in a cage. When you feel like, OK, I’m done here, I just want to go somewhere else, and then other people tell you no, you can’t. Very offsetting.
Around 9pm I was taken into a high-security bus. Luckily my luggage had been found. I was then transported to an actual jail called “CMS”. This was my only chance to actually see England. I cherished the 10 minute ride, where I could see the freeway, some green grass and trees, and a few buildings near the airport. It looked like so much fun. All I wanted was to be able to get off that bus.
Now after night fall, I was brought into this jail and once again had all my possessions removed. I was patted down for about the 4th time, but by now it was starting to bother me. I was being treated like a criminal when I hadn’t committed a crime. Something sparked in my brain, the tiger instinct, I’d call it. They took my finger prints again and more mug shots. This time they took away all of my possessions except for soap, toothbrush and pajamas. They even took away my money, which they deposited into a bank they had at the jail. I got a receipt. Then they tried to put me through a metal screening device and into a cell, but at that moment I freaked out.
“I need to know exactly what time I’m getting out of there before I go in there,” I said.
“We don’t have that information,” One woman said. There were about 5 workers in total behind the counter and beside me.
“This can’t be right. I need to speak to an attorney before I go in there. This is a mistake!”
“You don’t have a choice, you have to go in,” They said.
“I don’t want to! They wouldn’t treat people this way in my country!” I began to raise my voice. In retrospect, I don’t even know if that’s true.
“Oh, so you think you’re better than us?” The first woman said again, with a pronounced English accent. I really felt like I was in a war movie or something.
“I don’t think I can physically take all of you down… can I?” I said out loud.
“No… I don’t think so.” One of them replied. I noticed all of them got on guard; the energy of the room changed.
“Then… I guess I have to agree!” I shouted, crying. The main woman started lecturing me about how I shouldn’t throw a tantrum, but in retrospect, I feel my reaction was pretty understandable. I don’t think people should just willingly submit to such things such as being locked up without receiving more information or speaking with a lawyer. It’s good to question something like a wrongful incarceration in a foreign country, in my opinion.
A nice man came to talk to me and calm me down. I was told I could use the computer to contact an attorney, but it was already past business hours and they told me I’d most likely be taken back in the early morning. I was shown to my cell, which had a main room with a TV and a very polite and kind blonde woman who was in charge of watching me. They let me use the internet, where I frantically researched immigration law and sent out emails to about 10 English lawyers before my internet time was abruptly cut short.
I took a shower, which was the greatest thing I could have had at that moment. It felt incredible. I went to my room to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep for long. I kept waking up questioning my life, my goals. Wondering if this was bad karma, or if there was still hope. I prayed all night and sat in meditation when the blonde girl came to wake me up around 5am. I was allowed to have some cereal and then taken back in the bus along with 2 other girls. One of them was a very large woman, she appeared to be part black, or maybe a gypsy; she spoke with a thick French accent. She was at least 6 feet tall and 275 pounds. I asked her why she was in there, she said she had been there for 2 years, and they were sending her back to France. She helped me carry my bags. I liked her.
The other girl in there was also from the United States, a hippie-looking girl with glasses and baggy pants. It didn’t surprise me when I learned she was from the Bay Area. Her attitude about the whole thing was a lot more submissive and laid back than mine. I guess everyone reacts to these things differently. I exchanged some words with the lovely  golden haired girl who was looking after us. She had an Irish accent and she said she was sympathetic to me, she said she wished she could have given me a hug. I’m pretty sure that girl was an angel.
We went back to the airport in the bus, which they kept locked while transporting us. I said goodbye to those two girls and went back into the holding cell from the day before. I couldn’t really eat. I asked to speak to a Chief Immigration Officer. I had learned in my research the night before that they are the only ones allowed to make a final decision regarding immigration cases. My case was re-opened and I had another interview. She was kind to me, but told there was nothing she could do at that point to reverse the decision. As I prepared to leave there was one other amusing thing that happened. I overheared the ladies at the main holding cell remarking about one inmate’s number, and that number happened to be 007. I exclaimed, “Double O seven!” In excitement. They laughed.
10478575_10152326740119125_5414576326576271110_nI had to accept that I had taken every route possible to be able to stay. There was no hope; I was going back and I knew it. Like smelling Mom making a delicious cake and even licking the bowl, but not being allowed to have an actual taste of the finished cake, and then discovering you have salmonella. I was escorted from the cell to the front of the line at the airport. The plus side to this was that, I realized, it actually made me look like a big celebrity. Two officers pushed me through to the front of the line and I noticed people started staring at me. I laughed and waved, looking much better today after having a shower and putting makeup on. I found it pretty humorous, hopefully this somehow changed the reality of the universe so it can happen again for real next time!
The moment I could, I ordered more wine… I’m really not a big drinker, but in my shoes, it was the only way I could imagine being able to handle the reality of my existence in that moment, and facing another 10 hour plane ride. It was only about 10AM.
Another passenger asked me to trade seats so his family could sit together. I agreed, so I was moved to a seat next to a woman with extremely bright dyed orange hair. It looked rad. On the bright side, I was given another window seat. I found it funny also that through all the times my baggage was checked and inspected, nobody ever figured out that the cookies in my turtle pack were special. I munched on the final edible and prepared to fall asleep. There was a moment when the weed and wine kicked in at the same exact moment, giving me an extreme feeling of euphoria, just before I promptly passed out.
I woke up to the nightmare going on inside my head, everything had worn off. I had to face reality now, with a huge headache. I took the one and only snapshot of the whole journey.10357129_10152317064964125_6281610832047186691_n
We landed. I visited Starbucks and ordered the biggest water they had. My wonderful room mate, Tiffany came to pick me up. I went home and felt so happy to be back in the USA… on the 4th of July, no less! We drove past a giant American flag painted on the side of a huge department store, and I rolled down the window, shouting “I LOVE AMURRICA!” In an exaggerated hic accent. I was crying again, but now, out of joy. We got home in time to relax a bit and then we went to the roof to watch the fireworks. I never enjoyed them so much. It was an unforgettable life moment. I finally understood what it really felt like to be free. It felt great.
10461980_10152322029604125_868549223389930936_nMy neighbor saw me up there and shouted my name in astonishment. That was the start of the embarrassing hundred times I would have to explain what happened. He expressed sympathy and gave me a hug. I went home and had to spent a few days recovering.
I learned a lot. I am certain I will never enter another country again without a VISA, and I’m sure I’ll never work abroad again without a contract. If anything this made me more hungry than ever for international travel. Now I also have a broader idea of how lucky I am to be allowed to live in the United States. Now I understand why some people are so scared of immigration. I understand what it feels like to be in jail (at least, I got a taste of it). I understand what it feels like to be held against your will, even without committing a crime. I know what it feels like, and for that I’m glad. All in divine order. Lesson learned. I do hope something good will come of this.
At least I had extra time this week to work on my radio show, AXION! Just released it last night. Time to throw myself into my art… music is the greatest healer.