You make it pretty hard to get into your country

The woman working at the Mexican Consulate flashes me a sharp glare behind an oak desk. Her English is bad but her response was concise. "Us," she replies with indignation. "You make it hard to get here!" While no one is going to argue it is tough for Mexicans to get into American, what about when Americans want to sneak into Mexico? The Mexican Consulate in Portland is open 12 hours a week, and even if you happen to swing by from 9am-1pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday don't be too surprised to find the word Abierto hung on a sign where an open door ought to swing.

The inside of the Embassy is chaotic: children running around, people speaking Spanish with a hurriedness in their voice. There is no rhyme or reason, just people milling about waiting to be called over a loudspeaker and the "donk" sound of a Windows-based computer running into an error. Someone cuts in front of me in line. Hell this isn't even a line just people standing, desperately standing.

I want to speak with someone about riding my motorcycle into the heartlands of Mexico; past the tourist traps, the Mexicalis and into the tortilla belt of southern North America. Finally, after I push my way to the front of this crowd and conjure up my bad Spanish, "Hola, habla ingles?" I ask to the woman working at the counter. "Pocitio," she replies. I tell her about what I am trying to do and she refers me down the hall, to speak with someone in the Visa department.

Passing a waiting room filled with Highlights magazine en Espanol, I proceed down the hall towards the door marked Visa. The door is closed and locked. An adjacent door is open and I peer inside to find a woman typing behind a desk.

"Pardon," I say. "Possible por me hablar con una persona in el departmento de Visa?" Her response is fast and furious but the gist is that the Visa department has even worse hours than the Consulate. "You don't make it easy to visit your country," I say before walking past the crowd and a security guard sitting on a stool with a sign reading-No move.