‘It must be a curse! Please someone help me, officer please help me! This is not my portion in Jesus’ name…….The fury of my ever-faithful God will be unleashed on the wicked person that wants to ruin me.’
‘Madam, please wait to my left while I ask my colleague to come over.’
As I tense in alarm, ‘madam’ makes a beeline for me, hands in the air, handbag across her shoulder. She asks me if I have seen her passport, it’s a green one she says. In that split second before answering in the negative, I recall that we have all just got off a plane flying in from Lagos and we are standing at the immigration control queue for those holding ‘other’ passports. It’s safe to assume that the alleged missing passport must be a Nigerian one. There goes another person, destined to become an immigration statistic – will she end up seeking asylum because she is being persecuted by the phantoms who stole her passport 33,000 feet in the air? Or join the thousands of faceless settlers living just below the radar? We collectively shrink in a bid to dissociate ourselves from the problematic lady. Oh, we definitely have genuine documents: we’re not one of those. Good Lord, no.
It’s almost my turn as I brace myself for the inevitable grilling by the immigration officer. Pre-Abdulmutallab, the experience was hardly ever going to be a hot topic on the ‘wish you were here’ email. You grit your teeth, seek patience from above and endure. Post Nigeria’s infamous Underwear Bomber, there’s a new twist. Not only do immigration officers think that all Nigerians are trying to pollute the UK by entering using falsified documents or that they are smuggling in hard drugs using any available orifice but we are now potential terrorists. With over 60m passengers a year passing through this terminal, I can almost understand why there’s no smile on his face. A quick glance at the EU/British passport holders queue and the immigration officers are smiling, as are the travel-weary returnees. Welcome to immigration 21st century-style. I look around to see other passengers moving towards another door. They are the ones that will go on to do a ‘mini medical: in the land of swine flu and mad cow disease outbreaks, there’s a lot of effort going into preventing deadly tropical diseases from far off lands. Heaven help me, I am neither fowl nor cattle. Do I have to let them know?
A stamp on my passport, still no smile from the officer and I walk through the narrow access to what will be a completely different way of life for us as a family.
I am reminded of my colleague, who when I told her that I was joining my husband in the UK, exclaimed: ‘why do you want to go there? Those people only think about sex and alcohol, they don’t believe in God and they don’t train their children!’ She didn’t let up on this. Every day until I resigned, her advice continued. She told me never to forget our culture and to make sure the children didn’t fall prey to ‘western’ ways.
So, here we are about to embed ourselves in those self-same ways – exchanging the dynamic life in Lagos for……….I’m not sure what yet. It will certainly be different to coming on holiday. Holiday-mode means packing loads of activities into a few weeks; frenzied shopping sessions and meet up with family and friends who are holidaying in the UK. Now, I am essentially a home maker – first brief: transforming the house on the suburban fringe into our home. Then we’ll settle the children in school and start to build a new life. This should be a breeze!