Posts tagged ‘Travel’

The Madrilenean

“I will go to a place where nobody knows my name, a place where the language is different”

The Madrilenean

By Adeola Aderounmu

Adeola Aderounmu

Adeola Aderounmu

Pablo grew up in Girona. This town has about 100 000 people. His childhood went too quickly or maybe not. It depends on which perspective he chose. When he thought about the years he had to endure with his sisters, then it was a long, uneventful childhood.

On the other hand when he thought about what could have happened if he could turn back the time, then it was a period that went rather quickly. As a result of his feelings during his teenage and college days, he forgone many things that many other children his age did.

There are many things that Pablo will like to forget. There are so many things he hoped will be left in his thoughtless moments.

But what happened to Pablo actually that almost destroyed his life especially his relationship with his family. Here is the story.

Pablo has 3 sisters. He is the only son of his parents. At a very early age, he started to pull away from everyone in his household. He felt totally different. When his parents noticed his strange withdrawal, they tried to pamper him. Pablo’s withdrawal became more intense and his parents regretted that they did not consult a professional. Where did we go wrong? His mother pondered.

One day his father decided to take a long walk. He thought deeply about his family situation-how his daughters are having the best days of their lives and how his only son is turning to a complete stranger. He slipped at the edge of the pavement and broke a toe. He is a man who believes in omen. His favourite is the spirit of the puma.

Once he had a twisted ankle when he was taking a walk in the woods and thinking about Pablo. When he got a broken toe walking on the other side of the town, he decided that he will never worry about Pablo again. He thought he may develop a serious health problem like stroke if he worries more about Pablo. A twisted ankle and then a broken toe will do. The spirit of the puma will guide Pablo, he reasoned.

It didn’t matter what anyone did, Pablo did not feel that he was loved. At home the conclusion was that Pablo was acting the last child or the last born. One day Aleksandra the eldest sister told a joke and said, mamma, maybe you should have let pappa make the 5th baby. Maybe Pablo wanted a brother to play with. He doesn’t like us because we are girls.

Pablo was 10 years at the time and the joke turned out to be a bad one. He locked himself in the room and skipped school for 3 days. He came out only when everyone had left home and helped himself to some juice and biscuits. His mother cried. She was completely devastated how bad things turned out socially for Pablo.

Pablo had always thought that his sisters are getting all the attention at home. No one is sure exactly when he got that perception but it must have registered in his brain quite early. His mother even said, maybe he heard too many voices when he was a foetus and got fed up with everyone even before he was born.

On the surface everyone at home knew that Pablo’s feelings or perceptions were incorrect. But deep inside they don’t know what approach would make him cherish and love them the way they love him. So the most difficult task at home and sometimes at school and at the playgrounds was how to correct the impressions and help Pablo get along socially. He was growing up and his family feared that he may become a social misfit. This trait is uncommon in Catalonia.

What was obvious was that Pablo did not know how to feel as a boy because everywhere he looked in the house, he saw girls and things that belonged to girls. This made him uncomfortable and sad and he thought he was different from the other boys in his class. His heart continued to grow cold as he grew up.

Pablo hated school. It is a place that brought him in contact with many other categories of people. However he learnt to dissociate his social deficiency from his academic needs. Therefore he excelled even as a withdrawn student. This was one of the reasons his parents did not seek professional help for him. His future looks bright, his mother said to his father one day when they looked at some of his results after a quarterly conference with the school teachers.

When he was 18 Pablo started to work at the postal agency. He saved a lot of money because this is a work he had no need for. His father is wealthy and even his mother inherited a lot of fortunes from her grandparents. His parents understood that Pablo took the job so he could skip encountering his sisters at home. It was one of his weird ideas of what freedom means.

By the time Pablo became a graduate at the age of 23, there was only one of his sisters left unmarried. With only Cecilia at home, Pablo was beginning to see the world from another perspective. But he had a hard time to express his feelings. He never liked his sisters yet he’s feeling the vacuum created when Aleksandra and Viveca left home forever.

When he was a young boy he promised never to love anyone because he doesn’t know what it means. I will never know what it means to love, he told himself. He hated his childhood. He does not like to remember it. He felt lonely, quite often. These women have ruined my life, so he thought. He cannot remember when he started hearing their voices but it appeared like forever until now that Cecil is the only one left.

Despite all his troubles Pablo turned out to be one of the outstanding engineers in Girona. People have noticed that he likes to be alone but they have also come to appreciate his effectiveness and productivity at work. This was also an outstanding observation his former boss made when he worked at the postal agency.

Pablo found the courage and will to rent his own apartment. When he was 25 and Cecil was preparing to get married, Pablo decided it was time for him to move on. That’s what he did.

One day Pablo was tired after work. It was his third year at the factory and he had accumulated his annual leave. So he decided he will travel to another city in another country. He made up his mind to travel to a place he had never been before.

I will go to a place where nobody knows my name, a place where the language is different. So he left. He travelled by road to Barcelona and flew from there to St. Petersburg.

One day he stood at the central station at St. Petersburg. He was looking at the map, trying to find his way around.

But the map he was looking at was inside a frame made of glass. So it also looked like a mirror. He saw himself as he looked at the map for directions.

Suddenly he saw the image of a woman too. There was a pretty woman looking at the same map. She stood behind him.

(Read Part 2 Next Week)

The Day I Was Arrested At Frankfurt Airport

Adeola Aderounmu

I’d wanted to tell this story since December 2010 when I was arrested by the German Police at Frankfurt Airport.

Sonala’s article stating MMA as a metaphor of a Non-Governing Governance gave me the needed impetus.

I have a butterfly knife that I love so much that I always carry it with me. It serves as a utility tool. Last December I took it with me to Nigeria. Somehow it ended up in my backpack where I also have the basic things that my children need.

We left Nigeria on Dec. 28 after celebrating Christmas in Lagos.

We went through rigorous checks at MMA. They turned everything inside out and we even went through the scanners and all their cancer-inducing machines.

You can imagine my shock when I was stopped at Frankfurt the next morning and ordered to step aside. The police were called immediately and I was interrogated and made to give a written statement.

They found my butterfly knife in my bag. They have a functional scanner there in Frankfurt. Or maybe they are not looking at just the human physiology like our brethren back at MMA.

They told me that I could be required in the court of law and a notification will be sent to me about that. I have waited since December 2010 but it appears the case was not pursued further. Hopefully this essay will not stir it up again.

The officers took my knife and wanted to retain it as an exhibit. I guessed they will throw it away. I told them that I really cherished the knife and that it meant something to me. They were a bit surprised but respected my views.

They said I can only retain the knife on one condition. I have to go out of the waiting hall and check in at Lufthansa’s desk. To save my knife it became necessary for me to check in at a point of transit. I took one of our baggage with me, put the knife inside and checked it in.

Even though I had the status of a “potential terrorist” I was still allowed to exercise my rights and to choose what I wanted to do with my knife.

We had luck that there was ample time to our connecting flight. I was still able to fly with my family. They were waiting for me at another point but they could see me. The arrest was something I had to sort out alone since I was the one carrying the bag.

If a butterfly knife on the side pocket of a backpack cannot be detected at MMA, I could only imagine the possibility of a terrorist being able to blow up the entire airport in these days of micro- and nano-technologies.

I remembered one day in 2002 when my things were taken from me at MMA. I was not given any choice at all. They just “obtained” me like that. They took my things and I left Nigeria with such a sad experience. The story is the same today. When I leave Nigeria these days I travel light.

There are several sad things about MMA that Sonala didn’t mention. I trust that he wanted to save Nigeria from some serious embarrassment.
MMA should actually have been converted to a local airport altogether. On developmental scale, MMA is on the same level as Iyana Ipaja because Oshodi is far better these days.

There is nothing about MMA that fits into international standard. I was embarrassed that my family first’s visit to Nigeria took them through this point of entry. There was nothing to explain because they have read many of my essays.

The traffic in Lagos almost made us cry and the work rate of NEPA not only made us deaf temporarily, it also ensured that my kids found a special toy in Nigeria-the torchlight. How they loved it!

I have also wondered about the crowd at the airport. Is it possible to divert the crowd to Onikan, Adamasingba or National stadium so they can provide the spectatorship that our football games are longing for?

I was afraid I could be mishandle by the thousands of uniform men at MMA and that was the reason I didn’t take any picture at all. Too many angry faces looking for preys!

It is as if all the security men in Lagos are based at MMA. The variant of uniforms will make a good thesis for a post-graduate student.
Someone should take the offer so that the rest of us can understand why thousands of uniformed people are stationed at an overcrowded point like MMA. Is that the meaning of double wahala?

There are so many waste materials, big and small, different forms and shapes, electrical and others littering all the premises of the airport. The interior of the airport is too stuffy, hot, disorganized and haphazard. It pains the eyes.

It took more than 2½ hours for us to retrieve our luggage when we arrived that fateful evening that eventually turned to night at MMA. I had to tell my cousin to take my wife and children home while I waited for the remaining luggage. My brother in law it was who kept record of the time. I’m happy he didn’t faint in the waiting process.

There was one funny but sad situation also that same night.
One of our luggages was not on the major conveyor belt. We were told it could have been sent to the small or extra conveyor belt. Bu alas!
They can’t find the guy who has the key to the conveyor. It was a sort of crazy-looking conveyor that led directly from the outside to the inside and it is used for transporting wheel chairs and sorts into the main waiting hall. After a long wait, they found the guy with the key.

When we got back to our base in Europe my brother in-law politely told me that it has taken just 20 minutes since we arrived and we are already driving home. What was I supposed to say?

He didn’t have to tell me about the absence of crowd or uniformed people. He didn’t have to say the rest. I’ve been living with it for nearly a decade.

The level of security at MMA is appalling. The long wait and long queues are surely pretenses that someone or some people are working hard. It’s all nonsense. The things that take you 5 minutes at other airports around the world can take you several hours at MMA. If you have a heart disease or you are hypertensive you should either avoid MMA or take loads of medication with you.

The sad stories about MMA are inexhaustible.

I was also frustrated that I have to fill some forms as I entered Nigeria even though it state clearly on the top that it is for foreigners. And every time I gave the form back there was something I didn’t do right. I was turning brain-dead on the queues and I can’t believe that officer expected me to write my full address on that form. Who knows there the forms are heading?

As far as MMA is concerned it is a serious embarrassment to Nigeria. To call MMA a disaster or a disgrace is an understatement. It is not organized at all. No one should hope for a terror attack at that airport, the fatalities and consequences would be devastating. Let’s not imagine it. MMA is the worst airport I have been to. It is what you get when you have a Non-Governing Governance.

Wale in Geneva: Are Nigerians Abroad More “Human” Than Nigerians At Home”?

By Adeola Aderounmu.

This article is a follow up to The French Embassy in Nigeria must be useless

Wale is now in Switzerland and I must say that while I respect the views of other people I find it unbelievable that some Nigerians will defend the behavior of the French.

Why do the foreign embassies respect Nigerians living abroad but disrespect Nigerians at home? Why are they more relaxed with their visa application rules with the same Nigerians abroad than at home? Are Nigerians abroad more human than Nigerians at home?

It is true that many of us have travelled out on visiting visas and never returned home. It is also true that many of us have travelled abroad to study and established niches for ourselves after our studies instead of returning home. However, it is still not the duty of the embassies to deny visas to prospective/regular travelers, students, private persons or civil servants who can demonstrate the genuineness of their proposed trips.

These various countries have functional immigration monitoring authorities. However, on a global basis, immigrants have found ways to beat different systems and stay illegally in various countries. In other cases, some temporary migrants have gone through normal procedures to prolong their resident permits. Sometimes employment, businesses and new family ties offered the ways to settle in another country. With the arrival of the internet, there are now no limits to travel opportunities.

As an illustration on the title on this essay, let me take just two examples. In 1999 Tayo was denied a UK visa in Lagos. In 2002 after studying in Sweden for just 5 months he was offered a 6 months visa to the UK. It was on that occasion only that Tayo had to apply using an invitation letter from a friend who resides in London.

With subsequent applications, he put his forms and passport in the mail and each time the passport was returned with UK visa affixed. He didn’t have to appear for the other UK visas that he got and there were times that he didn’t even bother to make the trip after obtaining the visas! To obtain a UK visa now, he has to show only that his permit in Sweden is still valid!

In what ways are Tayo’s applications more credible nowadays than when he was living in Lagos? Why was Tayo’s application to the UK acceptable in Stockholm but not in Lagos? Why was Wale’s application to France unacceptable in Lagos? Why doesn’t it matter that Wale had a valid Swiss visa to attend a course? Why does it not matter to the embassy of France in Nigeria that Wale’s passport contains valid visas to several countries including UK and USA or that he had traveled extensively in Europe before? Why is a hotel booking in Paris more important than Wale’s travel possibilities and options?

The difference of course is that Wale still resides in Nigeria and Tayo is now studying in Sweden. So it is essentially useless to these foreign embassies how many times you have travelled before or how many Nigerian passports you have exhausted. Are they not telling us that we are less human at home? Doesn’t it mean that they are using their "so called" discretion to humiliate us?

So Tayo is now more human than Wale, abi be ko ? I also know Femi. Femi was denied a visa to the UK as well. He is a vet doctor and he had been admitted to a school in the UK. He failed to secure a visa that would have enabled him to attend the Masters program. Anyway in 2005 Femi landed in Uppsala in Sweden for a similar Masters program and he told me that he would still like to go to the UK to make enquiries about his school. What happened next?

Femi secured a visiting visa to the UK. Just like Tayo he never had to go to the embassy twice. As I write this article, Femi is on his second summer holiday visit to the UK and he didn’t have to visit the UK embassy in Stockholm. He also got his visa by post and didn’t have to do any useless interview. By the way, he is now studying for his PhD degree.

Suddenly Femi is more human now because he is living in Sweden. If he had been given the UK visa in Nigeria (by my interpretation of the embassy’s decision to deny him a student visa) he would have gone to the UK and disappear into thin air like some other people did. The foreign missions and embassies in Nigeria must learn how to judge individual applications on its own merit irrespective of what others have done after being granted entry visas.

Indeed, Nigerians travel daily and MMA is never empty but the conditions under which we get the visas to travel out of Nigeria makes me wonder if applying for a visa makes us less human than when we are repeating the same application on another soil. If it is because of a hotel booking that the French denied Wale an entry visa, then they probably consider him less human and untrustworthy.

Yes, thank you! I know that they have standard procedures…why are these procedures not followed when we start to live abroad legitimately? Is it because we are now suddenly more human or is it a direct consequence of the society that we live in. Yea, it’s so cheap to blame the arrogance and the ineptitude of the embassies on Nigeria and Nigerians even if those are strong factors. In my own opinion, an embassy that cannot refund money for visas not granted is a looting organ.

In the meantime, many other questions and humiliating rules are begging for answers. Why do the embassy shield applicants away for a specified period of time when it is actually possible to provide missing items in less than 24 hours. A hotel booking can be provided in less than 1 hour-it’s just a phone call away. There are other questions and legitimate/ genuine travelers who are still suffering in the hands of the embassies can fill them in.

I hope that my friend

    Hakeem Babalola

can see one of the reasons why many Nigerians will pick up dual citizenships or a single foreign citizenship when the opportunity beckons. Ever heard about the expression: visaless countries? The experiences at the embassies can be frustrating, heartbreaking and humiliating (in your own country and abroad too). I wish Wale a nice stay in Geneva and Lugano and a safe trip back to Abuja come July 5.

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