Sunday, April 20, 2014

My friend is going to America for Christmas, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Published:

Victor Ehikhamenor

Congratulations, I heard they finally gave you American visa after five years of praying and fasting, gathering documents from bank to bank like babalawo collecting items for sacrifice. More interestingly, you have chosen to celebrate your Christmas in America. Great choice but before you buy that ticket to God’s own country, here are a few things to note.

As you pack your travelling bag, remember it is winter over there. That means the temperature is the same as your deep freezer (assuming you have light in your area). Pack some heavy clothing, I don’t mean aso-oke, I am talking real thick jackets. Don’t waste too much money you can get second-hand winter jacket in Balogun market. Don’t take palm sandals and slippers or that dry-lace kaftan because you will freeze faster than Ibru ice fish.

If it snows, those your smooth-sole shoes will be totally useless. Step out on Nigerian shoes in America when it snows, your falling will be worse than okada accident on 3rdMainland Bridge. I can not really tell you what you are going to break if you fall, but usually it is the tailbone, because you slip forward in the car park and the next thing you are high up in the air as if you are a participant in World Wide Wrestling Foundation and bam!

Trust me when you land on your ass, the entire white snow turns to technicolours before it turns black. When your eyes are clear, you start laughing at yourself like a mad woman in Ekpoma market. So, keep the Italian shoes and go for real boots or trainers aka sneakers and save yourself a disjointed downfall

Ha! My brother those your Polo t-shirts and jeans are too tight o.  You may be attracting the wrong sex and that is all I have to say about that. Wear oversize suit. I am sure you have seen a certain Pastor T D Jakes, with 8-button suit?

He is American and please borrow a button or two from him. Make sure the sleeves of your suit shake hands with your palms. The more you look like a newly ordained Pentecostal bishop the better.

Where are you going with that bush meat and okporoko? Jehovah! Well if you think LASTMA guys in Lagos are wicked, you apparently have never encountered United States’ Customs and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) officers – especially the ones that look like they are immigrants from Vietnam. Yes, short from calling you an animal who carries disease about, they will seize everything you have in your bag that resembles food.

Before I forget, please do not tick “Yes” on an entry form that asks if you have been to any farm, even if you live in a farm house in Isikwuato. If you tick “Yes” you might as well tell them you are a card-carrying and bomb-wearing member of Al Qaeda. So don’t waste money on bushmeat, fried meat, snail or the likes. But here is a small secret if you still decide to take Nigerian food - tell them everything you are carrying is “Processed Food”. That phrase usually work like magic, in America words can get you in and out of trouble.

Yes, I know you want to shop till you drop dead while in America because you would have found out that the Ikea kitchen napkin you bought for N15,000.00 in Victoria Island is just $1.99 in America. As they say, who nor go nor know. Make sure the dollars on you while entering America is $9,999.00. If it is or over $10,000.00 you will have to explain where you got the money from in multiple forms.

Never mind that our hardworking Nigerian leaders have numerous accounts spilling will billions of dollars in American banks and buying houses the way you buy Tom-Tom from Iya Bose without anyone asking questions.When you have gone to America and come back, check the synonym of America in dictionary you just might see “Hypocrites”, depending on the version of your dictionary.

If you don’t want that American visa to become melted ice cream in your hands, set aside a large sum of naira to “tip” the driver that will drop you at the airport, the Air Force man that will open the glass doors at MMA for you, the young man who will invade your privacy while you try to empty your bowels and ration tissue paper and hand washing soap in the bathroom (Some have lotion and one bottle of perfume for men and women),  the gum-chewing-bleached-out-frustrated ticket lady (she is very important, she has the power to give you a seat next to the airplane’s toilet. And trust me, you don’t want to stay near a toilet for that number of hours in a flight departing from Lagos), the cleaning lady who will beg openly or sell recharge card of N1,000 for N1500 to you,  NDLEA and Customs (who might seize your crayfish or ask for your receipt for the okporoko you bought in Mile 12 market) Navy, Police,Army, Immigration officers of different versions (those that check your passport before you get your ticket, those that stamp it at the long hot security line before you get to your boarding gate and those that will take the passport from you once your hand luggage passes through x-Ray and just stare at you waiting for you to “drop”), FAAN, NAMA, CID,NSO, etc. Trust me, Christmas travel through Murtala Mohamed Airport is brutal, you are the one that will provide the money for these government uniformed  filchers !

Now that you have successfully landed and you listened or ignored (most first time travelers usually don’t listen, that is why you see many Nigerians buying Ghana-Must-Go bags and reshuffling their entire life, stuffing Victoria Secret panties in handbags in a dingy corner of the airport) some of my initial advise and sailed through US immigration -Welcome to the famous America the land of the free in bondage!

First of all braze your self for a few changes that no one can warn you about. If your friend that swore by his late father that he will pick you from the airport is not around when you land take heart. And when you are able to work the public phones to call him, he start describing for you the nearest train station and what it will cost you to take a bus from Union Station to Silver Spring, don’t be shocked at all. He is not the one on vacation, you are. He cannot afford to be late to work because your flight was delayed in Lagos. In America, people do not joke with their time and jobs.

When you hear the term clock-in and clock-out, it means an actual clock that makes a very loud noise like a rabbit trap when it stamps time of your resumption and closing on a card. There is no “abeg sir” in America. You get paid only for what you do, unlike here.

It is finally Christmas Day and the initial excitement of enjoying fast Internet, shower with good pressure and uninterrupted power supply are wearing off ( Although you still cannot figure out why your friend keep switching off lights after you every two-two seconds and keeps reducing the heat even when your teeth are jammed together with cold and telling you to wear sweater and socks more in the house). Well, in America, like Nigeria, you pay for everything, the only difference is one of the two countries actually deliver what you pay for. Go figure!

Without a doubt, you are definitely going to be indoors on Christmas Day for two reasons. It’s either your host has to work to earn double-pay so he can pay for the expenses you will incur within two weeks or he takes the day off from work to rest from the multiple-shift he has racked for weeks, (by now you have gotten over the shock that he is not a medical doctor as you were made to believe but a male nurse in Providence Hospital, Washington DC who hardly sleeps in his big mortgaged  house). And you really don’t know anywhere or cannot go anywhere by yourself. All your friends you usually enjoy Christmas with are here in Lagos deciding what party to attend from numerous invitations, sifting through gift cards and gift baskets from corporate bodies and business partners.

If you are expecting the streets to be exciting with colourful children as if you are in Nigeria, you are in for a shocker bros. The days leading to Christmas are the only exciting times, because that’s when America capitalism come out with chainsaw to separate you and your hard-earned money. But on Christmas Day everybody is pretty locked inside as if they are in maximum security prison. Immigrants who don’t have to work that day may have one or two indoor get together and drink watery Budweiser, mellow down small stout and Heineken and tasteless fried chicken.

The really old Nigerians who have been in America for so long will be playing Don Williams and Eric Donaldson, wearing ironed jeans and reminiscing on Gowon’s administration and Udoji awards that brought them to exile. They shake their heads with eyes fixed on a faraway objects of no substance, thinking about the nursing home in which they will spend their retirement.

For the white people, they stay by the fire and, in-between loud wonderful farts, roast chestnuts and marshmallow, two things that are far from roasted corn, plantain or yam you are used to. If it snows, you may see hooded white kids building a snowman and sticking carrots on the nose of their temporary Pinocchio sculpture – a reminder that America life is nothing but lies.

Have yourself a cold Merry Christmas in God’s own country. I am off to my Esan village where I can tie wrapper round my waist waiting for yam to roast in the fire, receive blessings from toothless and grey hair elders, watch colourful children with plastic eye-glasses and wristwatches match up and down the dusty path of my childhood, bare my chest to receive organic air and wait for Ogbone to come down from the palm tree with a foaming gourd of God’s own juice!

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