“The World Bank, huh? Is that like Bank of America or Citibank?” asked the Immigrations Officer as she looked at my passport.
She looks black. But, she could also have been Latina. Or, bi-racial. You can never tell with these Americans.
But, my bigger problem was that I couldn’t really make out what the woman was saying. No matter how much CNN, BET and MTV you watch, nothing prepares you for an American accent when you hear it face to face.
“Pardon me,” I said.
“You’ve not done anything wrong, no need to ask for a pardon,” she replied.
“I meant can you repeat the question,” I said.
“Is the World Bank like Bank of America or Citibank?” she asked.
“It’s like the Bank of America, only this time for the whole world,” I said because I had no clue how to answer the question. There are no two World Banks.
But, this woman was no ordinary cookie. She takes her job seriously. She cannot be fooled easily.
“You traveled all the way from Africa for a two day meeting?” she queried.
“They won’t let me stay away longer in my office,” I lied.
Her smile faded by a slight shade. Trouble. I dug in.
“Plus, my sister is due any day now. She’s married to a no-good guy who is in prison. I’m on standby on three flights every day. If she goes into labor right now, I’m turning back,” I lied.
It’s crazy the things you do for love. I am a church going girl who gives ten percent of her salary as tithe to the church. And, I’m Catholic – they don’t enforce those Old Testament rules in the 21st century. I always frown at lying and deception. Now, I was Ms. Deception. All because of my Tunde. All because of love.
The immigrations lady shot me an affectionate look. I could swear I saw tears floating in her eyes.
“I so know what you’re saying. My sister is pregnant too and her man is in jail. I don’t know what she’s going to do,” she blurted out.
She stamped my passport and passed it to me without another question.
My heart raced with delight. My palms were sweating. Even though the hall was fully air conditioned, I could feel a line of sweat dribbling down the back of my neck.
I am officially in America!
“Thank you,” I said.
“I love your accent by the way,” the immigration lady said.
“Thank you,” I replied and hurried away before she realized I was an impostor.
I wanted to jump up in joy. But, I had to be composed for a few more minutes.
Just to show me how lucky I would be in this America, God arranged it that as I got to the baggage carousel, my bag was rolling down the chute. America is going to be good to me.
I got my luggage and strolled towards the arrival hall. I could see people in the arrival lounge waiting to receive their guests.
Then I saw him. My Tunde. He was holding a bouquet of flowers and several balloons. He had the biggest smile on his face. I was so happy I wanted to cry. I would have run to him if my luggage wasn’t slowing me down.
I was a few steps away from the arrival lounge when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw the glowering face of a customs officer looking at me. His dog bared his fangs at me.
“Please come with me,” the custom officer said.
It was an order. Not a request. He turned sharply, took his place beside me and marched me to a room at the far corner of the hall. As I walked beside him, I could feel my heart slipping into my stomach.
The door opened and I stepped into a room with poor, shadowy lights. Two large, intimidating men stood at either end of a table. They stretched their rubber gloves for effect, as if choreographed. I saw a sinister smile curl up on the face of one of the men.
I swallowed hard. I’ve seen this before. In the movies. Anal probe. It all adds up. I’m from big, bad Nigeria. I must surely be here with some drugs hidden in my bowels.
I set down my luggage, took off my jacket and started undoing the zipper of my trouser.
“What are you doing?” the man who had not been smiling barked at me.
“Getting ready,” I answered tamely.
“Getting ready for what?” the smiling agent who was no longer smiling shouted.
“You want to do a search, right?”
“You hiding something?”
I zipped my zipper back up. Perhaps the Americans have a new, more sophisticated way of searching for drugs that didn’t include anal probe.
The officer who had led me in took my luggage and dumped them on the table. For the first time, I noticed the yellow tag on my bags. It wasn’t there when I left Lagos. My mind was racing with a hundred thoughts. What did I do wrong? After all I’d gone through to run away from Lagos, I couldn’t go back. Besides, my father’s curse was waiting for me too.
“Do you have any banned food, agricultural produce or dairy in your bag”, one of the officers asked.
“No,” I replied.
One of the officers unzipped one of my bags. He flipped through the neat rows of clothes, magazines and books until he discovered the five bounded herbal roots in a plastic bag at the bottom of the bag. The second agent grabbed what looked like an x-ray of my bag from the top of a file cabinet. They compared the plastic bag and the x-ray image and nodded in agreement. Then, they turned to me with that snarling smile of a boxer who has just shoved his helpless, hapless challenger into a corner and is winding up for the kill.
Continued at http://bosediary.com