The joy of travelling and familiarity of some foreign lands
What you need to know:
- Well being green and because Jubilee convinced me that we are all digital, I took my phone, went to my e-mail and showed her the return ticket.
- She wanted to know why I was travelling from Entebbe when I stay in Nairobi. I replied with a suitably shocked tone of voice: “I am here for Writivism madam. Surely you read and you know Writivism?”
Sometimes it happens. That moment when you meet people who make you feel at home in the strangest of places. Or who make you want to run away from home in the most familiar places. Let’s call this, a tale of three immigration officials in three cities.
I am currently in Denmark for the next three months, where I shall hopefully complete the first draft of novel number five as a DIVA. Yes, really. DIVA. Danish International Visiting Artist. As I left my home continent, I had those surreal moments that, placed in a novel, my publisher would tell me are too unrealistic. And yet, they were amusingly true. Not at the time they were happening of course, at least the first two. But retrospectively. It started with an immigration official in Entebbe.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Denmark,” I replied, pointing out the airport despite the fact that she was holding a printout of my ticket in her hand.
“And where is your return ticket?”
Well being green and because Jubilee convinced me that we are all digital, I took my phone, went to my e-mail and showed her the return ticket.
She wanted to know why I was travelling from Entebbe when I stay in Nairobi. I replied with a suitably shocked tone of voice: “I am here for Writivism madam. Surely you read and you know Writivism?”
No. I didn’t really say that, although I dream of a time when I can be able to say that about literature events wherever I travel. Rather I timidly explained that I had come to some literary event and as I was expected in Denmark by a certain date, I thought it prudent to travel directly from there to Copenhagen rather than go to Nairobi and leave in the evening.
She was not convinced. I would have thought that as a Ugandan civil service employee, she would want to get rid of any suspicious being who is not a Ugandan passport holder, but the way she was debating with me, you would swear she was a paid employee of the Danish government. Although she could have easily checked that I was not suspicious by checking my fingerprints, she walked away with my passport to verify that I was not a criminal in some back office.
After realising that I was indeed not a wanted criminal she went on to question: “And why are you flying to Lagos instead of to Nairobi?”
“Remember the literary festival I told you I was attending in Kampala? Well there is something like it in Nigeria as well and I will be attending it directly madam,” I answered with the calm tone of voice I would use on a five year-old when I am almost losing patience. I think she realised that I was nearing the end of my tether and perhaps, too, I had a mad artist look in my eyes that made her wonder whether she would have had to put me down. She finally let me go. My flight was at 4 in the morning.
I had arrived at her station at 1am and it was now a few minutes before 3am. Fortunately I had checked in online and just needed to drop my luggage. My inner superstitious self wondered whether this meant the trip was doomed.
An hour later, I was on a flight to Cairo where I would take my connecting flight to Copenhagen. With a little more than an hour waiting time in Cairo, the gate I was supposed to depart from had an Egypt Air flight checking out for Lagos. Here I got my last taste of the continent as a Nigerian woman went on her knees, pulled her hair and wailed Nollywood style, to be let onto a plane. After many dramatics, she then passed on some money to the official quite blatantly and was allowed to board. If any Egyptian ever doubted how African they were, there, in front of my eyes, was proof to the contrary.
And then I arrived in Copenhagen. And wondered whether I would have difficulties, given the difficulties that I had had departing Entebbe. I passed my passport to the Immigration official.
“You stay in Nairobi?”
I nodded my head.
“Nice. I also stay in Nairobi sometimes. I have a home in Rongai. Welcome to Denmark.” He said sliding the stamped passport back.
I did not have the heart to tell him that people in Nairobi think Rongai is another country.
Zukiswa Wanner is a South African author based in Kenya. [email protected]