When I walked through beautiful Dubai airport, (jeez…from the tarmac to the airport itself was like from Yaba to Unilag, even farther) and made my way to Dallas Fort Worth, they termed my luggage agriculture because I carried one ghana must go bag.
You see at MMA, Muritala Airport, my bags over weighed, only the 350 naira turned 800naira ghana must go bag helped my condition.
So when I wheeled my bags looking bone faced after a long flight, the black check out security guy smiled at me. I smiled back. I know, Nigerian, he smelt me.
“I eat fufu” he told me later in his American accent.
“Oh that’s great” I replied excitedly in my Nigerian accent.
“What’s this?” He searched my ghana must go bag, bringing out some items amidst some books and clothes. He didn’t even eye my other luggage.
“Oh that’s garri.. ( I took garri with me, even with Lassa fever, garri that kan for that matter, iyalaya lassa fever).
“Yea, that’s iru”
I even took dried ugu.
He nodded and smiled while closing the bag
I nodded in the affirmative.
“Oh I saw books, you are a reader, I like you already”
I smiled and nodded even though I knew I wouldn’t be reading my new books anytime soon.
“You are too young to know how to cook”
And my mind went like chisos!
How old do you think I am? 16?
I bade him goodbye and stepped my feet in America for the first time, breathing the American air. There was no enthusiasm, i was not feeling myself, everything seemed normal, it even looked like I was still at home because I did not see the fuss, the pomp and pageantry, the welcome to America, land of milk and honey thing. I did not see anything. Maybe later, time told me but I knew I was not seeing anything at that moment.
I was just not excited, perhaps the air hostess who contemplated whether to smile at me when passengers were getting off the plane and i looked blankly and uninterested could testify.
And the two white guys that sat beside me in the second plane were way too amused to understand when i rejected the hostess’ servings. Emirates had a way of killing you with food, the menu was endless. And of course, with food my tongue had never tasted nor liked.
I admit I was fascinated and inquisitive on the first plane and the food was quite alright and I relaxed because the plane was not full of people unlike the second one. I was still not buying it. Even the air hostesses could tell, the guy who was en route Dubai with his brother and who collected my email was excited that I was heading to America and he himself could tell I was not. Everybody seemed excited but I wasn’t, it felt like a normal trip.
Now, as the car passed by and I looked out the window stupefied, i knew there would be more stories to tell.
Stories and observations that would later amuse, irritate and upset me.
Later, few weeks in America, I would ponder and write on these scenes because it reminded me of the security guy at the airport who thought I was too young to know how to cook.
For instance, at church, the nine year old with her American accent and dabbling mouth walks up to me to familiarize. That was after another 11 year old came to greet me in that childish exuberance.
“Hello” she said, patting my braids in fascination, it was black and white.
I chuckled, i didn’t answer. Such audacity but then, this ain’t Nigeria.
The other day I called one coconut head and he started to cry. I just laughed.
My hair was all tucked in, I was with a face cap. What was I thinking when I followed my boss to the conference hall?
This is not Nigeria, suit and stuff. The client was wearing boots and trouser, Nah… it’s pants. Nigeria calls it trouser just as cray fish is shrimp and gum is glue. These words and spellings i learnt more as my days would stretch.
So I am casual, i looked like a piece of broom except for the usual feminine assets, the face cap betrayed me.
She turned and asked, ” how old are you?”
I told her.
“Oh my God, you look 18!”
” I get that a lot ” I replied indifferently.
I pondered on my mind, maybe I need to wear Aso oke like my church members and tie gele so everyone can stop telling me I look 18 and gimme small respect without intruding questions.
To be Continued…