I love traveling. Discovering and visiting new places gives me joy. I also know that travelling is an integral part of learning. To this end, I have conquered my immediate environment by visiting over 25 states of Nigeria. I delved into West Africa and also visited some countries. Dubai came calling in December 2013. I quickly dusted my mobile shoes and voila I was in the great Burj Khalifa. The New Year Eve’s diamond fireworks’ display was a memory of a lifetime. A memory I remember with relish!
I have always met interesting and friendly people wherever I traveled to. The immigration officers in Dubai are eye candies. They are professional, courteous and one can’t ignore their beauty. I have always tried to abide by the rules and regulations of any country. In UAE, I know best not to feature any military personnel in my photography. I also know that you talk to, and not touch a policeman – be it the one guarding the city or the one guarding a small door in Sharjah.
In January 2014, my pastor was preaching and he declared three times that “NO COUNTRY WILL DENY YOU VISA”. My travel spirit possessed me and I was thinking of where to visit again. My closest girlfriend, Precious, told me that we should visit the United States. She was not aware of the pastor’s declaration so I assumed all elements were working together for a journey.
Visa was gotten sharp sharp. Precious didn’t get US Visa but she got Shenghen visa and went on a European tour. I was forced to reschedule from July to May. On May 16th, 2014, I traveled on board the United to Atlanta. Houston was the first and only stop. On ground, I thanked God for journey mercies. It was not easy being on board for 13 hours in an economy seat for that matter.
My dream was about to be fulfilled when reality crept in. Immigration routine! I didn’t carry any weapons or drugs so I marched on. I couldn’t wait to see what Houston looks like.
First officer swiped my passport. Instead of clearing me, he called another officer who took me to the Secondary Examination Section. The time was 5.20am. 5.30am I was called by an officer whose name tag read ORTIZ.
Ortiz: where are you going?
Ortiz: to do what?
Me: to visit.
He asked my relationship with George and his phone number. When I tried to get George’s number from my phone, he said he didn’t hear me well, and wanted to see the number. He took my phone and when I asked for it back, he said he was not through yet and that I should have a seat.
One hour later, a lady wearing ROGERS as a name tag called me. She was in possession of my phone and passport. I was drilled again.
Rogers: Why are you in the United States? You better start telling me the truth because I already know the answers. I have researched you. So raise your hands and swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. The truth will either set you free or send you back to your country.
Me: I am on vacation and I saw it as an opportunity to visit friends and family in the United States.
Rogers: why did you lie to the US Consular that you were going to Washington when you didn’t have any plans of going there?
I explained to her that my friend Precious couldn’t get a visa and I had to reschedule because our Washington plans were for two not one.
Rogers and Ortiz read all my text messages, WhatsApp messages and BBM chats. They drilled me on every message. They questioned me about my job. All my love and naughty SMS to my sweetheart, they read and talked about. Initially, I was like well, ‘after now, una no go recognize me for road‘ but this was a clear violation of my human rights. When I asked why, they said they wanted to know me better and what they find out will determine my entry into the United States. Rogers said if I were not eligible to enter, that I will be held in custody until I have my day in court. She also told me that she knew I couldn’t wait to get into bed with George and his friend Sam who sent me Whatsapp messages.
I thought it was over but no. Rogers asked me how much I was bringing into the country. I told her I had $100 cash for calls or taxi but that my Mastercard was stuffed with cash enough for me. She wouldn’t have that. She wanted to see my account statement or any document that can prove that I had money. What? Is this another visa interview? Of course, there was no other document. She couldn’t believe my words or the bank statement text message. She said it was April balance. She needed May details. No May details.
Finally, my passport was stamped and phone returned to me by 8am, after being detained for 2hrs 30 minutes. I had a connecting flight to Atlanta by 8.25am. Luckily, I didn’t miss that flight.
I was jet-lagged and psychologically destabilized. Why was I harassed so much?I asked questions and they were the same obvious answers. My Nigeria is a terrorist country. Any shift in plans is suspicious. I saw how citizens of other countries were treated –with respect! My fellow compatriots and I were drilled as if we were the kidnappers of the Chibok girls.
I have a dream that Nigeria will be peaceful and citizens will be responsible for their actions.
I have a dream that one day Nigerians will have value for human lives and Boko Haram insurgency will be a folk memory. I have a dream that Nigerians will be treated with respect when they travel and not as terrorism suspects.
Photo Credit: crisisboom.com
Geraldine is a human relationship enthusiast. She enjoys establishing good interpersonal relationship between contractors and clients. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to new places. Writing is used as an outlet for her anger.