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 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.
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.