Thursday, August 23, 2007

Heading home Part 2


Eight weeks ago, I was all set to go home to Nigeria. Now I'm still living in the States and look to live here for a while longer. What happened?

Why I wanted to go in the first place:
The push - Mostly the completely impossible travel and visa situation. It's related to the class stratification in the US, and the fact that being black doesn't confer many advantages here. Raising children requires help and community to a degree that most Americans do not even aspire.
The pull - Family and support system, living in a place with sunshine, the thirst for shared values, doing more meaningful work, appreciation. In Nigeria, nobody is in a class higher than you - our constitution may not be explicit about this, but the practice of pride is alive and well.

What changed:
EVERY TIME I have traveled internationally, it has followed a nerve-wracking bureaucratic drama: I've been detained and strip-searched, paid hundreds of dollars in transit visas and thousands in canceled tickets. Further, roughly every weekday I've spent in Nigeria has seen me at the embassy lobbying to get in (pushing and shoving and then pushing fellow Nigerians some more, keeping up with the rumours about the ever-changing application or entry or passport photo or payment "system") or lobbying for a visa. Naturally, I surmised that "they" don't want "us" to stay. As a dear racist friend of mine used to say "Go back to Africa." No problem.

One day in July I tried to go home, having accepted that I wouldn't be able to come back due to the fierce gate-keeping by the Immigration authorities. We got tickets (thanks N) and packed for the airport where I was told that I couldn't fly without a transit visa to cover my one-hour stopover (for flight-change) in Europe. I couldn't get a transit visa without a few days of embassy palaver. Transit visas are only required by people from selected countries, whereas until recently Americans could travel overseas for weeks without a passport. Siooma.

Anyway, this taught me that bureaucracy is not as rational as I thought; it would work to keep me from going back to Africa as well as block me from coming in. Oh well. I returned home. Home is in Berkeley (a guy named Raj.)

My new cynical take on the whole thing is: they want you to go, they want you to stay. Do what you want. You may need to get a lawyer. Nobody understands chaos like a lawyer.


Abeeb said...

Hi Tosin,
You haven't changed much since you left U.I. in 97. I was wandering what got you into acting. You spent so many years in Engineering. And truely your reasons for wanting to go home isn't too clear. For wanting to stay, if it were for that guy named Raj., then good enough.



Erik Donald France said...

"they want you to go, they want you to stay. Do what you want. You may need to get a lawyer. Nobody understands chaos like a lawyer."

Or a writer ;)

Either way, cheers and good luck! It's good to have options, even if difficult to negotiate through them.

t said...

Hi Abeeb,
You've been around the world in these past years. Why acting? - like it a lot. You can act and engineer if you want...

Hi Erik,
Funny how things change around here. The cool news is that I actually see work that I can't wait to start, in Florida. Awesome people, awesome weather, awesome work. Now I have to actually get the job, formally, and proceed to make the best of a great situation.

What's the chaos in your writer's life nowadays? Hope you have fun with it.

t said...

This is an angle on the H-1B visa mess that I hadn't known before now:
Desi Consultants, not even lawyers who file creative paperwork to get work visas for unqualified people. It's funny how POPULAR lying is. Does anyone tell the truth anymore?
Makes me want to be an athlete sometimes - a little sphere of life less prone to cheating. JOGA BONITO.

t said...

"Creative paperwork" is not something I'm considering. Eeew. I'm considering truthful options only. Works for me.

Anonymous said...

Truthful options only. Of course, dear sis. It is all in your last name :)

mpush said...

Hi 't'

Sorry to here about your travelling blues, been there last going to and fro England; looks like these days it's better to just stay home; perhaps they want us to be stupid provincials okes like the rest of them.


Fatymah said...

hi tos,
fatymah here.. to add to this string of comments!

i totally feel you o! 2 weeks ago. i went to ethiopian airlines office to enquire about a ticket to addis. do i need a visa?
they said. a ticket is this much.. nope.. EVERY country gets a visa on arrival.

wow.. nice. i though

my ex roomie was getting married.
i got tickets for my bf brad and 1,
bookings at the Uber posh sheraton in addis.. 3 day get away planned. brad and i got time off work. (fantastic since we are with different agencies) .. all set to go!!

i recofirmed with them.. no.. nigerian girl. u dont need a visa.. ull get it in the airport.. ok. i said.. perfecto!!

we got to addis airport.. they said.. go to immigration and pay $20 for ur visa..
then immigration was like. NOPPPPPE
nigerians cant get a visa here.. u mr american go thru.. she stays and gets on the next flight back to sudan ( in 3 days time)

dude.. i wanted to faint.. it was 8pm friday night.. my pals wedding is next morning. i called meron.. she called the head of immigration.. nothing!!

aparently, they changed the list of countries 2 weeks ago for their millenium celebration.. can u believe that?

they were like. if u have a european residence or a US one.. we can consider u.. but now.. nope..

ur not entering our city!!

to cut the long story short. me and B ended up sleeping in the addis airport.. 12 degrees centigrade.. no heating. and got on another flight to uganda the next day at 11 am

so i left juba, south sudan at 4 pm and got to uganda.. 45 minutes away.. at 3 pm the next day@!!

welcome to AFRICA!

the UN has an agreement with entebbe, uganda airport so all UN staff dont need to apply for a visa.. all u need is an ID.


23 hours later.. i arrive into an actual country!

that was my last weekend! i just clocked into work today

t said...

My God, that's what's so annoying, besides the fact that they're just stupid borders what's so annoying is the rules change so rapidly that no one can keep up. We have to do something about this crap.

Sorry about the airport camping adventure. Miss you, girl.