The story of fate and destiny Chapter 8 The Mother Writing in progress. If you
The Travel chronicles of a sorry Nigerian to Asia.
The flight to China was scheduled for 1.40pm on Saturday afternoon. I had known this for up to two weeks and there was no way I was going to arrive at the airport later than 3hours before the scheduled time.
I ended up with two pieces of luggage after I lost the battle to convince my wife that I was better off with just one bag. So when I returned weeks later with more luggage, hopefully full of pleasant gifts, it wouldn’t be much of a bother.
One of the bags was stuffed with all sort of quick and easy snacks; from garri ijebu, oats, milk, sugar, chocolates, chinchin, a plastic bottle of groundnut, granola, beverage to ginger tea. All cleverly packed in small ziplock plastic bags and stuffed into the poor travel bag. It turned out to be a lifesaver, for in China, you don’t eat just about anything you are served, even if they looked as exotic as you had seen on the internet.
Rumour of genetically modified foods, lab grown meat and lab engineered rice was the beginning of wisdom. My feeble protest did not stand the superiority of the argument. I warned my wife that these food items were contraband and that I would be turned back at the airport.
Of course, I knew better especially because the argument was nothing but a lame attempt to save myself the burden of hurling the bags around the airport.
In the end, love won. They had to love me to punish me.
The night before the trip, I hadn’t slept much.
No, it wasn’t because I was excited about visiting China, in fact, I was filled with morbid fear of the grueling 21hour trip that laid ahead with Ethiopian airline.
There was going to be a layover at the Addis Ababa airport that only discounted a meagre three hours of the flight duration.
I didn’t sleep much because I joined my work colleagues for team bonding and a pleasurable night out at a beach in Oniru.
It was against my better judgement to put my body through the unkind rigor of several swigs of intoxicating whiskey and the unforgiving Lagos traffic. But I took one for the team, afterall two of my colleagues who were also joining me on the trip to China had sworn not to miss the hangout for anything.
I missed my bed that night, I could hear the soft whispers from far away, beckoning me to come sink in the coolness of the bedsheet.
The hangout turned out to be worth every minute spent with the team and the buzzing energy of the GenZ folks by the crashing waters of the beach front was nothing but infectious.
I got home a few minutes past 11pm! I was only to find out the price to be paid for such an intimate time with the team later during the flight.
I managed to weigh the two bags the next morning before leaving the house and they were within the 23kg limit as stipulated in the online ticket, even when they felt heavier.
They were heavy in their own right and I was beginning to wonder whether it was a good idea moving the two big bags and a carry-on luggage around the airport terminal.
I arrived the famous Muritala Muhammed airport in good time, just as I had planned. My wife joined me in the uber to the airport as part our travel rites. I wouldn’t have had it differently.
When I rolled my luggage into the terminal, it was only just 11.15am, certainly enough time before the flight. Or so I thought.
I worried slightly for my colleagues, who appeared to be running slightly behind time. But they soon arrived within 30minutes.
That was precisely when the drama awaiting us started to unfold.
First allow me to describe what the terminal of our foremost international airport looked like when I arrived.
There were quite a number of people at the terminal curled behind an unnatural queue that was long, winding and yet disjointed.
All the passengers were trying to get into one of the few Ethiopian airlines scheduled for the day. They had their bags on the floor beside them, in-between their legs, hurled on their back or on one arm. They looked forlorn as they waited in line, worried that they might miss their flight as it barely moved.
The air that hit me as I tossed my bag into the baggage scanner at the entrance into the terminal was anything but cool. It wasn’t welcoming either.
Something had to be wrong with the air-conditioning.
I wondered if it was working below par because there were just too many people in the terminal hall.
The hall was simply put, stuffy.
Stuffy to the eyes, to the nostrils and to the ears.
The noise within the terminal was a cacophony of irritating, screeching white noise, accompanied by the voice of a female over the public address system that occasionally announced the arrival of international flights and the unmistakable Oyingbo market noise from the waiting passengers.
If you had arrived at the time I did, you would shake your head the same way I did, in disgust. To make matters worse, there was nothing pleasant about the way the airport stank to high heavens!
I searched the faces of a good many of the white-skinned folks for hints that they were also feeling the discomfort. They seemed to have mastered the art of concealing their irritation for our culture of ineptitude in everything away from their faces.
Why must thing be so different in Nigeria?
In one corner, airport agents were speaking in loud voices on the mobile handset, while another was sneaking passengers, cutting the queue, up to the airport counters unapologetically. They just couldn’t care whose horse was gored.
if you didn’t pay the underhand fee, stay your turn on the long queue.
We managed to locate the business class queue, which was thankfully quite short, and we were grateful for special privileges. We wore our smile like a badge of honor, proudly so.
We even cracked subtle jokes and giggled like teenage girls, while we waited our turn.
But that smile was soon to disappear from our faces when the FAAN officer who attended to us politely asked us to scan a QR code to fill a certain form online.
At first that sounded pretty easy, yeah! But it set us back at least 45 minutes.
Why wasn’t this communicated way before the trip? This is one question I would probably never get an answer to.
The damn website was mostly in Chinese. We struggled to understand the information to input.
It turned out that all passengers on the China route must fill the form before they can board the plane.
The form had questions that at first appeared straight forward and easy, but caused thin film of sweat to break off our forehead.
When it was barely 20minutes to the flight take off we began to desperately ask the FAAN officials to assist us with the form sent “straight from the village people.”
By the time we were done with the forms, we had to race through the immigrations and customs checks before finally boarding our flight to China.
How a seemingly easy process turned complicated within an hour beats me.
The immigration and custom officers were quite polite and professional. I am obliged to put in a kind word for the way they carried on with their duties.
There was no rest as we walked through the airport grounds until I sank into my aisle seat, grateful for resilience and lending a mocking smirk to the invisible and devious “village people” who had lost the battle.
Little did I know that in this war, there were other battles lying in wait.
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