Naija Girl Abroad (Part 1): Perks of the traveling Nigerian

Tuesday, November 07, 2017




If you are a frequent traveler across the seas, you should spot the paradox in the title above.

If not, grab your fish biscuits, recline your seats, and listen with your eyes…


Prelude

Your struggles as a Nigerian, on an international trip, starts from home:

Your visa.

Unlike our counterparts with whom we share limelight as leading members of the Black Continent, the options of countries to which we can travel to without a visa are rather limited, and the visa processing wait times for most countries are not particularly enviable.

When one applies for a visa, it takes forever for the passport to be returned: with or without the visa being granted.

Some countries take as long as two years to conclude processing of one visa application.

Ok, I’m kidding!!

(Ish)

The explanation is that you have to prove to the determining officer that you have enough ties with your village ancestors to make you want to come back to your home, so that you do not claim refugee status, or just ‘disappear’ in the country of visit.

When the Visa hurdle is passed, there is the wahala of the flight in itself.

Somehow, we manage to get the most expensive fares, the crampiest planes, the barest menus and the nastiest attendants.

Especially the nasty attendants.

But if you thought your troubles were over once you got your ticket, boarded the plane, and sailed across the continents to your country of choice, you’re on a long thing.

When there is need for a ‘random’ body check at the connecting or destination airports, that would be you. Just in case you have hidden pouches of forbidden substances, buried in your oesophagus.

(That’s an annoying word. Oesophagus)

You also stand a 50/50 chance of being happily shipped back to your country, from the airport, if the Border Services officers are not convinced you have an exact address at which you will be staying. So that you are not left aimlessly roaming the streets of another country, belonging to everybody and nobody at the same time.

It is only after you successfully scale through all these hurdles and make it into the obodo-oyinbo, that you can climb Mount Everest, and scream (hands up in the air) “Look Mama… we made it!!”

Meanwhile, half of the oyinbos you meet would be left wondering if you ate the other members of your clan to look so well-fed, considering the pictures of starving children, raffia rooftops and mud houses with which international media houses have inundated the rest of the world, of what Africa looks like.

The other half remain bewildered that you can afford good clothing, considering that your leaders have consistently and persistently robbed your coffers blind, and bought houses scattered across foreign countrysides, with what was meant to be part of the Annual Budget (or “Security Vote”)

But today is not about the wicked, wicked ways of kleptomaniac civil ‘servants’:

Today is about that blue-moon occasion, when the sheer awesomeness of being a Nigerian saved the day for me on an international trip.

Main story (abridged version)

It was a flight from Montreal, through Paris, to the Federal Capital Territory.

As usual, when fellow Nigerians get wind of the fact that you're travelling home, they'd nicely ask if you can help take "something small" to folks back home.

“Something small” could range from a duffel bag filled with iPhones and vitamins, to a Ship.

As in, Titanic.

(No jokes)

Any protests regarding excess baggage would often meet an innocuous 'Ok, no problem', laden with undertones of "because you travelled to this common abroad at our backyard" waiting for you at home.

(Sigh)

Thus, on this day, my bags were well overweight, with an additional bag to be paid for. 

It was not debatable, whether or not I was going to pay for excess luggage. What I was negotiating with the gods of travelling was favour with the attendants at the counter, so as to be given some discount.

Upon getting to the counter, I mustered the sunniest smile I had ever mustered in my history of mustering smiles.

“Goodmorning”, I cheerily sang to the Caucasian uncle, and flashed my sunny smile.

“Ticket please”.

My heart sank. This attendant was not smiling.

I braced myself for the worst, as I handed my ticket over.

(Surely, the gods were eating cornflakes while I prayed)

“Place your bags here, so they can be weighed”

The numbers kept climbing. Well past the 52-pound allowance.

“Are you checking in that bag as well? You would have to pay for it separately”.

“Yes I am”. My smile had hit rock-bottom. What was the worst that could happen?

Kuku kill me.

Passport?”  I handed my passport over.

He looked at my passport, looked at me, and looked at the passport again.

So you're Nigerian?”

 (So?)

*insert mental hiss*

Yes I am”.

Have you seen Johnny?”, he asked, with what appeared to be a hint of a smile.

(Abi ori bobo yi ti daru ni??)

Pardonnez moi?”

I mean… Johnny. I’m looking for my Johnny”.

It took me the most oblivious two-seconds of my life to realise he was actually humming to Yemi Alade’s “Johnny”.

Ehhn?


Nigerian Afro-pop star - Yemi Alade
“Hey… that’s Yemi Alade’s song ‘Johhny’! You know her?” I asked. By now, we were having an actual conversation.

Know her?? I LOVE her! I think she’s amazing. I love the song, but I don’t know the full lyrics. Can you sing it”, he asked, laughingly.

Sing ke? At this point, I was ready to hire back-up atilogwu dancers, and choreograph the full album - along with the National Anthem, and even the “who-stole-the-meat-from-the-cooking-pot” song.

He go Canada, he go Tokiyo, yesterday he say he dey Morocco… I’m looking for my Johnny eh, where is my Johnny, Johnny moooooo

He nodded to the song and laughed excitedly, like a child at the candy store, while I blessed those radio stations that did not let our ears rest from the song.

Y’all have really nice artistes in Nigeria. There are the twins that I also like to listen to, P-square. They are Nigerians too, right?”

(Thank Jesus they had not gathered their dirty underwear to wash in the village square that year)

“Abso-total-lutely! They are Nigerians”, I egged on. At this point, I was ready to reel off the names of all Nigerian artistes, one by one, in case there were any others he resonated with.

Even Terry G.

Nice… so your bags are in excess of a total of 20 pounds. And there’s that extra bag too”.

He ended our conversation just like that, and was back to pressing his keyboard! It was as though the last sixty seconds of bonding over Nigerian music never happened.

(Ogbanje)

I was heartbroken.

Okay”, I steadied myself, ready for my fate.

He looked up from the computer after a while. And smiled.

But it’s a light day, and the flights are not all fully booked. So I’ve checked you right in. Here is your boarding pass, with your luggage tags. Have a safe flight… and say hi to Yemi Alade for me when you see her.”

(El oh El. These oyinbo people joke too much. As if Aunty Yemi and I live in the same 'face-me-I-slap-you')

I was in happy shock, but quickly recovered, mumbled my gratitude, snatched the boarding pass and ran away with my bag-pack, before he could change his mind.

Who would have thought being a Nigerian would save me the cost of an arm and a leg on an international trip? I mused, as I sat waiting for my flight to be called.

After all is said and done, I guess there are perks to my Nigerian identity after all…

To be continued... (Nollywood style)

Paz,

Meg.


Post-Script: Do not pack a whole village in your bags, hoping to get away with excess luggage, by invoking King Sunny Ade.

Or Beyonce.

Lightning does not strike twice.




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11 comments

  1. Well articulated...please write a book!

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    Replies
    1. Lol.. thank you. Hope you'll buy lots of copies??

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  2. My Darling you have an amazing writing skills. I am sure it can't be normal. Must be a gift from our Father. Indeed you should write a book. I am sure it will be a best seller, flying off the shelves with ease. Xoxo.

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  3. A beautifully written piece this is. I like how the infusion of humour in your writing seems so effortless. Really had a good laugh reading this. Thumbs up.

    P.S: The attendant's question remained unanswered I noticed, so lemme ask "Have you seen Johnny?"

    I believe Yemi Alade would like to know too.😊

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    Replies
    1. Lol... thank you. Me too, I'm still looking for Johnny..

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  4. Remember I am part of the atilogwu dancers. Bima and Jay-D also. We will choreograph the whole album and will even do that of other artists. Please next time carry excess luggage for the choreography can come to pass

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  5. I don laff taya... ma'ma Schinnel won't kill somebody.. LOL

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  6. I just made my first Intl trip and it was to the US. I can totally relate with your story. And you have a good way of keeping one on the edge and wanting more.Well done.

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