First thing first. I went with Debian invitation letter to US embassy in Sarajewo, got accepted and after few days my passport with US visa was with me. Got booked ticket (with help of Steve Langasek) and bought my bus ticket to Belgrade Airport (Nikola Tesla). As bus tour would be from Banja Luka through Croatia (the highway) and then to Belgrade I needed some special planning to do. To be honest I needed some special plan for whole trip. You wonder why I needed special plan?! Well because I was bringing with me 9 liters of rakija. Yep you read it correctly - 9 liters of rakija. As in most European countries (and especially EU, which Croatia is now part) allowed quantity was to bring 1l of it. I wasn't much nervous about it (actually I wasn't nervous at all I just didn't want to loose the rakija ;) ) as I already had "bus-border" experience during my previous DebConf (DebConf13 in Switzerland). So I packed all nine liters into my backpack and put it above where I sat. In my suitcase (that is going in suitcase space inside bus) I put my laptop from backpack. The suitcase would most probably be checked by border police but the backpack shouldn't be.
On the border between Republic of Srpska and Croatia my suitcase got checked and I was asked about bringing something illegal or over the allowed quantity. I naturally said no. On the border between Croatia and Serbia same story. Same answer. As bus was meant by schedule to go directly to Belgrade bus station I started planning which bus I needed to take to get to airport Nikola Tesla, but in meantime I heard people rumbling about possibility to pay some extra cash they will ride and drop you at airport directly. So I offered extra cash, driver accepted and I was at airport without further hassle. Oh sweet corruption.
As I had some time before my flight I started to work on my plan for next step. My suitcase will probably be heavier then 23kg (which is allowed limit) so I needed some master plan because bringing liquid in your backpack on plane is forbidden. Repacked rakija into suitcase to obey the law. Okay, first lets measure the weight - sweet mother of Dennis Ritchie, it was 22.5kg. I was in! (of course my suitcase is going to be scanned but woohoo). Checking got fine, ticket was fine, passport was fine and we started boarding - when the speaker called me to come to the terminal from where police will escort me to the room where suitcases are scanned because I have suspicious package. I knew what was about but I wasn't willing to give up. While walking with police officier I asked him about quantity of rakija I can bring with me. He said 1l. Well I read that it was allowed 5l (I said I had some extra time on airport so I read their official guide because I was bored). He denied. We came to the room and there was old guy that was scanning suitcases - I just asked him the same question. He answer the magical number 5. Okay, I have 5 but I don't want to give up additional 4, at least not without trying. I started a story how I am going to a conference in USA, and there will be many people that do great stuff for overall humanity and that those people like a drop of good rakija. He looked up to me and said: " You know what kid, life is only once, fuck it, take it all, good luck and say hello to those good folks". Awesome. Again. AWESOME!
I was soon up in the air, flying to Rome. And there I found out that somebody by mistake sent my suitcase to Rome instead to New York. That meant it was going to be checked. I was doomed. The funny part, the suitcase was going on same line with backpack. I gave up my hope. My backpack was first followed by my suitcase. Here comes intersting part. My backpack has an special chamber inside it (I rarely used it) where I forgot that at some point there was a 200ml shower gel (on plane you are allowed to bring 1000ml but in 100ml packs). So they stopped the line and officier started to search my backpack (at the time I didn't knew about me having shower gel in backpack). They couldn't find it. Scanned again, another officier came along and helped. Nothing. Scanned another time. All lines got offline, all officiers came, most of them creating circle around me. Okay, I understand what was happening - I have a messy beard and have some liquid somewhere hidden in my backpack. They gave me the backpack and asked if I can find the liquid. I started searching confused about what do I have inside. And then there was the "aha" moment and I found the shower gel. Now comes the interesting part. Try to imagine - few offciers around me, one in front of me helding now my bag, one behind the one in front of me (he was the one who operated scanning on my line) and me with shower gel in my hand. The officier pushes button for line to come online, the officier in front of me is explaining that I am not allowed to bring gel with me and others are laughing relaxed knowing that I didn't bring a bomb. Here is my chance - I made quick turn to left and handed the gel to officier. Everyone was taken by surprise and turned their eyes on me. The officier operating the line didn't move his finger off the button. They got scared for the moment. My suitcase pass through without anybody taking a look at it. They greeted me with smile and help me get on time to boarding terminal. Suitcase was sent to New York. That was fantastic experience.
Travelling to New York - food, drinks, movies, games. Arriving to New York marked the beginning of craziest part of my trip to Portland. My flight was late for more then an hour. I asked flying hostess if I could get out as first because I needed to catch a flight to Portland and she notified everyone on plain if they can politely wait for me to get through. People where nice, I got out and arrived at entry point where you get your passport checked, customs stamped and fingerprints read - there were almost 300 of others in front of me and I had 20 minutes to catch the flight. For a second I gave up but then I got determined to try. I asked officier if I can get somekind of favor and be put in front of line, showing to him my ticket for Portland. He helped me to get among first ten and offered me to get my suitcase for me which I accepted. I knew this was not enough for me so I asked second officier and he pointed me to checking gate where only US citizens are allowed - and the officier working on that gate just let me through. Great! But not that great. After I met with first officier who brought my suitcase I needed to go through customs which wasn't possible because I didn't get stamp on that piece of paper (and even at customs there where about hundred of people that politely let me go first to customs, which now was a bummer). I was sent back to entrance gate (another US citizens only gate) while first officier was waiting me at customs with my suitcase. Checking was quick and guard at customs after that just let me go forward without checking the suitcase. Wait what??! I got through New York customs with 9 liters of rakija! The first officier even offered me a favor to take my suitcase to weight checking and sending it to Portland - I accepted that because I knew they can't open it without me. Of course they can hold it but I believed they will send it to Portland (with maybe a notification of its package). Now I needed to get through personal checkings and find where my plane is. I was running and asking people where the Portland plain will be and got to informations where they pointed me into right direction and also printed me a valid ticket as this one I had was only a proof that I have the ticket ( I call that luck). I came to checking to find out there are almost 100 people in front of me. Why all this is happening to meeee?! I found flight hostess for my plane and they suggested that I just ask people in front politely that they would probably let me go - and they were right. With a bit of their help I got to checking very quickly. I am not going to explain checking but after it I was running in untied shoes, holding my jeans in one hand and belt in other with half-opened backpack (and inside a laptop) on my back asking people where is my terminal to just find out it was in another building. Quickly running out and to other building across the street where I approached a lady officier to ask where is my exact gate (I can't describe her look, watching young guy with jeans in one hand and belt in other). Fast forward I came to gate in time (even had time to dress) and there were even two Debian guys which at time I didn't knew but during DebConf we became great friends.
After arriving to Portland, Steve Langasek waited for me (thank you!) and we found out that my suitcase was late from New York so they will deliver it to my place tomorrow around dinner time. Next day the suitcase really arrived on said time and when I opened it - there it was. All nine liters of sweet drops. So if you think you could make a movie out of this - you have my copylefted permission to do so :D .
Also I want to thank Devin Theriot-Orr who helped me before coming to US and to say sorry that I forgot to have a drink with you as I promised (but we will correct that somehow). :)