January 2 2017. Nelson Mandela International Airport, Santiago Island, Cape Verde. [1]

I’ve been chatting with this Swiss guy. We met at the airport in Lisbon, while boarding. He’s a cool guy.

We just landed in Cape Verde. We are at Santiago- the capital. For some strange reason a flight to Santiago (through Lisbon) from Berlin, was more expensive than a flight to Santiago, and then connecting to Sal. The budget was tight, and so the cheaper flight was chosen.

I am at the point of entry into Cape Verde. I am on the queue. Being a Nigerian citizen, I have an ECOWAS passport which grants me visa-free entry into a number of (mostly West African) countries. I learnt about this while embroiled in disorientation and confusion and anxiety, as I researched my post-Berlin plans in late December.

Rolph is on a different queue. I think he is on a visa-on-arrival queue. He is to pay like 50 euros or so.

About fifteen minutes have passed. Rolph has long been let through to the main hall for his connecting flight. He’s heading to a different island- Maio. He’s doing some volunteering on a boat there, something like that.

There seems to be an issue with my documents. The immigration officers have been passing my passport about. I’m not quite sure what is happening. I think it’s a Nigerian-citizen issue. They don’t trust my country of origin. They don’t trust my passport. They don’t trust me.

At the same time though, they’re not quite sure how to interprete the visas on my passport. I have a Germany visa which expired 2 days ago. I have a US visa which is still valid.

He has a valid US visa. He’s coming here fresh from Berlin. Surely he cannot be such a terrible human being?? Surely he cannot be a potential drug dealer?? Surely he cannot be a reprehensible criminal element who will make life even more difficult for our law enforcement?

Oh man, but he’s from Nigeria though. Should we let him in? Should we not?

I watch them deliberate. My passport is passed through the chain of command. It goes in and out of a number of offices. I keep waiting, wondering what’s going to happen.

At some point an immigration officer walks up to me and communicates that they would like to know how much I have in my bank account.

I hope I’m not hearing him correctly. I have just about a hundred dollars in my Bank of America account, and that’s my most fleshy account. I did some internship work in Berlin during the holidays, but I’m not getting paid until two weeks time. But even then, that is just a little over a hundred and fifty euros. I don’t imagine those are the sort of numbers that make immigration happy.

He’s telling me how much needs to be in the account for me to be let in.

“Mil euro”.

Mil what??

Mil freaking what??? Did he just say a million euros???

Wait wait, are Nigerian citizens so terrible that they need to have a million euros in the bank to be let in???

See, we’re going to have to figure something out. I have nowhere to go, you guys. I have absolutely nowhere to go- as a matter of fact, my flight ticket here was covered by the generous assistance of a number of people.

He clarifies. Mil euro is a thousand euros. “Mil” means a thousand in Portuguese.

Ohhhhhh. Ohhhhhh okay. Okay I get it now.

He takes my sigh of relief to mean that I have at least a thousand euros in my account. He begins to walk me to the ATM.

I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next. I feel heavy as we walk past the point of entry into the main hall.

The ATM is right up ahead.

One thousand euros.

I am in trouble. I am in so much trouble.

All of a sudden I see Rolph, seated in one of the chairs at arrivals.

Heyyyy Rolphhhh!!!! Wassuppppp!!!!

We exchange excited handshakes.

The immigration officer stares at me with surprise. I think he is trying to re-evaluate his assessment of me.

Hm, he has visas from the USA and Germany, and he is friends with a Swiss. I think this guy will have the required amount of money- maybe I shouldn’t have stressed him with this ATM trip.

We are at the ATM. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I have absolutely no plan. At this point there is zero sense in requesting my account balance, but I do it anyway.

The ATM is taking some time to respond. I think there is a network issue. I attempt the operation again.

At some point the immigration officer tells me not to worry.

Don’t worry, don’t worry- let’s head back to the other room- You’re good to go.

I am superlatively relieved. At the back of my mind I am thinking about the somewhat racist thinking that influenced his final decision (I’m a suspicious traveler until it seems to be the case that I’m friends with a white guy- really?), but right now I’ve just been granted entry into this country so I’m not really complaining.

We head back to the point of entry, and my passport gets stamped.

I head back in to keep chatting with Rolph. We talk about skiing and Swiss watches. “Switch watch” is a phrase I have heard an uncountable number of times in my life, but right now- talking with a Swiss about his first-hand experience with watchmaking factories in his country of origin, the phrase takes on a new noteworthiness- a much more personal and less distant significance.

We keep talking. He shows me skiing videos he recorded in the Alps. I am very excited to watch them. I went around in Berlin in December, making inquiries about snowboarding. Visited a number of shops, got information on snowboarding locations. Someone said good things about Oberwiesenthal.

Bucket list: Oberwiesenthal. Snowboarding.

[Part 1]

Image: Bedroom in the Berlin apartment.

This post is directly connected with a number of others. An index of these other posts can be accessed here.

January 1 2017. Aeroporto de Lisboa.

January 1 2017. Aeroporto de Lisboa.

I’ve probably been in Portugal for less than an hour, but people seem significantly shorter here than they did in Germany. I don’t know how representative the current airport demography is of Portugal’s general population, but that’s just my observation.

I look around, watching the different streams of people moving about. I am submerged in a trepidifying internal pool of wrenching heartbreak, and am being unnervingly chafed by the scathing anxiety for the future that intermittently eats at the raw insides of my chest.

I booked a one way ticket to Cape Verde from Berlin. I have about a hundred dollars in my bank account. I have no idea what will happen once I get there, but I know I have no choice but to go.

The certainty is not in the specific location of Cape Verde- I was actively considering Madagascar for my flight destination about a week ago. The certainty is in the decision to spend some time in a new environment, uncumbered by the commitments of an academic programme and let my thoughts which for the past few months have been discomfitingly repressed and constrained, be freely expressed.

So far no one has stopped me from skateboarding around this airport. Those German airport security guys were less tolerant.

I have about four euros in my pocket. I had a twenty dollar note somewhere in my bag upon leaving Berlin, but for some reason it is now nowhere to be found. I first realised it was missing in the taxi to the airport, on my way to catch the first Cape Verde flight I booked – one which I eventually missed. Regardless, I am subconsciously optimistic the twenty dollar note will reveal itself when I eventually arrive at Cape Verde, and am able to pour out all of the contents of my backpack.

For some reason I overestimated how much time I had before the day of the flight. I had just emerged from like an hour long warm immersion in the bathtub of the Berlin apartment. I opened up my computer, still dripping from the bath, only to realise I had a Cape Verde flight in about thirty minutes. The panic was intense. I eventually got to the airport about fifteen to twenty minutes late. The nice lady at the reception kept telling me in the most placative of terms that there was nothing that could be done about it. No flight, no refund, nothing.

It was one of the very highly discounted flights so I think the refund policies were a lot less well-defined. Something like that.

I scribble some lines of what could be called poetry on a piece of paper.

Somehow I find myself in a conversation with a guy. He is on his way back to his country of origin after an extended period of time as a missionary on an island in Cape Verde. I think it was Mozambique. A few years later I would check him up on Facebook to realize that he now had a baby boy – a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) alert that I had now entered the age group of people who were beginning to have children.

We are walking through a luxury items store at the airport, browsing through the interesting looking female bags and high-heel shoes that line the posh hangers which seem to go all the way to the ceiling. A few weeks ago I would probably have been having thoughts in the direction of buying something here for someone who occupied a special position in my life- in my heart, but not now. Not anymore. The thought hurts. My heart hurts. I need to think about something else.

I am in a conversation with a woman advertising some luxury personal effects. She is telling me about the Brazilian fashion designer that came up with the ideas for the items. I am listening to her voice and following her explanations, entranced by her red lipstick.

You just keep talking please. Just keep talking, you interesting Portuguese woman. Keep telling me about this evidently very remarkable Brazilian fashion designer that came up with the ideas for all of this cool stuff. Please keep talking so I can be calmed by the sound of your voice and the sight of your red lipstick and not feel too immensely perturbed by all of the uncertainty in my immediate future. Oh you want to give me your card? Please give me. Oh yes thank you very much. You keep going.  You just keep going.

At the Lisbon airport checkpoint I saw the line for the travellers who were headed to Madagascar. There was a guy with very long dreadlocks being attended to by the immigration officer. I wondered what it would feel like to be on that line. Headed to Madagascar. I just wondered.


It is gradually getting dark. My Mozambican companion left to catch his flight a number of hours ago. I think I’ve been to every publicly accessible part of this airport. I spent most of my four euros on a cup of coffee and a croissant earlier in the day. I’m lying down on a small sofa at what seems to be the children’s playground section of the airport. The colour theme is lemon and purple, thereabouts. There is no one around to give me any judging stares.

I keep waiting for the flight to Cape Verde.

This post is directly connected with a number of others. An index of these other posts can be accessed here.