I was recently selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders and this is exactly how I felt:
It made the opposition I received from men, women and even learned colleagues who were all standing on the table I was so vigorously trying to shake by speaking out against skin lightening practices totally worthwhile. #thefightcontinues #saynotobleaching
So I packed my bags ready for my dream trip to God’s own country. Eager to be moulded into greatness and to rub shoulders with the other fellows. #letsgothere
Had some hiccups in the days leading up to the trip but in Naija we know village people must always try themselves fortunately, God pass them!
So I would love to end the post here and say my trip to obodo oyinbo was uneventful but when you are making soup and Lagos traffic, faulty airplane, TSA, missed flight and spiritual cold are ingredients you know you are cooking up a storm so just grab a plate and let me continue…
Air peace got me to Lagos right on time. They give me the kind of assurance that aerocontractors had in its glory days. The kind that makes you wanna call them ‘your girl’.
Had a 10 hour wait till my next flight but had gotten an email to be at the airport 2 hours before checking in for some last minute instructions.
Called up my mama (you know I am a Lasgidi girl through and through) and she suggested we go somewhere outside the airport to chill for the 4 hours I had to kill.
That’s when my village people started laughing in Isoko. The traffic from the International airport to the nearest eatery in Ajao estate was ‘unholy’ to say the least. We finally spotted one Mr Biggs after being in traffic for over an hour. I had already started doing the mental calculations about how much time I was allowed to eat, gist and then hit the road again so I’d not be the star actress in ‘stories that touch’ episode 78!
We got back to the airport in record time after my beloved mama had prayed over me, anointed me and kissed me all over intermittently giving stern instructions and nuggets of advice. I love me an African mom any day, any time! #bestkarmaforanytrip
Everything else was uneventful at least for a while. I had to look frantically for a place to charge my phone. Why oh why are all the ports at the airport broken? Naija I hail oh!
I boarded my Delta Airlines flight to JFK ready for my amazing journey and undeterred by the fact that I was sitting between two African mothers who needed this ‘daughter’ to show them the buttons, adjust this and that and answer all manner of questions. Guys my new name is Anita Fixit!
Then the absolute worst happened. It was like a dream…first the monitors went off, then the airplane became very hot and then the lights went off and only the emergency lights gave us any form of visibility. I put my hands on my head! If this was Arik air, I would just hiss and wait for the pilot’s announcement of a delayed flight due to technical difficulties (Yes, Arik has shown me pepper plenty times #sorrynotsorry) but this was an oyinbo airline for Okoro’s sake! I thought of a zillion things- the missing planes and plane crashes and the domino effect a delay in one flight would invariably cause.
Soon we were sweating and then panting and everyone had the same bewildered look on their faces. The air hostesses passed out cold paper towels and we got progress reports from time to time. I sent a message to la familia to ‘bẹrẹ gbadura‘. Hubby sent me a youtube link to this awesome song and my frayed nerves found some calm.
In a couple more minutes we were on the move and I testify that it was smooth sailing all the way to NYC. Well apart from the time when the waitress asked if we wanted chicken and yam or beef and rice and I picked beef and rice and aunty beside me picked ‘anything’ only to start wailing when she saw the mutilated chicken sitting untop mashed yam swimming in a pastel colored gravy. At least my excuse for jollof rice was edible!
Got to JFK, breezed past immigration (All Glory To God), checked in my luggage for my next flight and got my boarding pass. Connected to free wifi and then went in search of some cake and hot chocolate. To better understand the events that unfolded afterwards I would like to add that I went to the departure area but some stern looking Fed told me it was too early to be there since my flight was in 8 hours and I should find something to do with myself till much closer to departure. (Who sent me to even ask question sef? Shey I could have just wakad jejerly to the departure lounge).
When it was about an hour and 15 minutes to departure I strolled like a boss to the departure area only to see the worst queue I had ever seen in my life. The queue had twists and turns and interceptions and people walking like the undead. I panicked! The oyinbos were in no hurry and I mentally willed them to go faster. When it was 20 minutes to departure I kept begging the TSA guys to let me jump the queue cos I was gonna miss my flight and they’d calmly say ‘ma’am we should be over and done with in a couple more minutes.’ I was gobsmacked!
I left the TSA 10 minutes to departure only to realise the actual distance to gate B51. I ran and jogged and searched frantically for a cart to assist me with the commute and then ran some more till my lungs felt like they would burst. Got to the boarding gate at the exact time of departure printed on my boarding pass and was about to breathlessly congratulate myself when the woman at the desk informed me that my flight had gone 10 minutes before.
The kind folks at Delta airline put me on the next available flight which was 8 hours later and I became an omonile at JFK! The sort of person who hadn’t showered in 24 hours and who was unimpressed with the facilities around and just wanted to get home! The hours flew by kindly enough. I got busy with a course I’d left pending for some weeks and covered good ground.
Finally it was time to head to Washington DC and I made sure I was first in line. I had been assured that my luggage that arrived 8 hours earlier would be waiting for me. In Naija, the luggage would have found a new home! The plane was really small and for some odd reason my feet were freezing cold like rock solid cold even though the rest of the airplane had ambient temperature. Had to wrap my pashmina around my feet.
Finally got to the place I would be calling home for 6 weeks and I was offered a roll that tasted like boiled unseasoned beans wrapped in a slice of bread- they called it a burrito!
To be continued…