So it is 5th June, it’s summerish in New York I think. We touch down at JFK at 6:55am or about local time. Never mind I still call it JKIA every so often because that’s where I frequent most. I am excited and anxious at the same time. It’s been a 15hour flight and to be so sincere, I can’t feel my big toe. I just want to get out of this freaking big plane and breathe some fresh air. So I walk past the flight attendant at the exit door and in a small scared coarse voice I whisper to myself, “Welcome to America Village Girl.” I then walk behind this particular lady whom from a distance seems to be nice. She was seated across my wing in the flight, between a black old lady and a Mzungu guy. Everybody is walking very fast. Why on earth do people walk that fast after alighting from a plane? Let’s just assume most of them have connecting flights and the rest of us are just scared of being left behind. Deep within, I am sure this lady is going to help me because I am sure I will definitely get stuck at the immigration section. She seems to know where all the passengers are walking to. I walk faster to keep the pace. Then start that useless conversation that everyone hates.
“That was a long flight. Right?” I say hoping she responds. Mind you we are still walking very fast. She has all the rights to just ignore me because walking fast and talking at the same time is no joke. But no, she is the kind ones.
“Yes indeed. It was my first time using the KQ direct flight. It was even tiring for me because I had to watch over the old lady who was seated next to me. I couldn’t imagine her people let her to travel all by herself”
“I thought she was your Mom.”
“No. I met her on the flight.”
“Wow. You got a nice heart. May God really bless you for that?” I replied.
“It’s the least I could do for her at her age.”
We are now approaching the immigration section. My heart pounds even faster.
“Citizens here… Non-citizens walk over there.” Shouts an immigration officer.
That’s how we parted with the kind lady. I walk towards another officer who looks very unfriendly. She is busy directing the non-citizens.
“Use the Machines… use the Machines.” She shouts.
As I approach one of the empty teller looking like machine, I meet this middle aged black man walking back to the officer.
“I do not know how to use the machine.” He tells to the officer.
The officer shouts even louder. “Use the Machine sir.”
The man cowardly walks back to another empty machine… Hapa ndio kitaeleweka. The travelled and the ones who believe only their mother makes the best porridge. I am not really better than this man. Looking at that freaking machine, I just freaked out. My passport could not scan. I could not take a photo. And I was tapping hard at the screen which was non responsive.
“Jeeeez?” I shout. I remembered Mr. Titus who told us to work hard in school so that when we travel overseas we don’t get stuck in the big airports. I never listened to him. See my life. I thought being an average student was enough. But not at this moment. I was already freaking out.
I lift my head from the machine and notice a white lady across the teller printing her data. She is wearing a Tanzania Jersey. Damn. It’s time to “return” a hand for wearing our jersey. By the way, do we have a national anthem for Afrika Mashariki? Never mind.
I smile at her. “Would you help me figure all the process here?”
She smiles back and asks. “First time in America?”
At this point I feel a little bit smaller. Really small. “Yes.” I respond.
She assist me and I thank her for her kindness.
Back home I am used to immigration desks with these guys who pick your documents and clears you into or out of the country. Here I am scanning my own passport, taking my own photo and keying my own information. It feels like I am clearing myself into this country. I request her to assist the middle aged man who is already sweating from the look of things. She does it gladly. I walk to the next queue which has a few guys ahead of me. On the counter is this black uniformed officer who is asking people what brings them to America. He is masculine, I am sure he goes to the gym. He is hot too. He looks like the black guys we get on Tyler Perry movies. The bad boys. I snap out of his physic as he calls the next person in line. I soon realise how close I am to deportation.
I remember a story I had been told of a guy who had been deported back to Kenya on arrival to the airport. Yaani. He spent more than 15hours on a flight and all he did was smell the air and back to JKIA. Forget the humiliation. The Jet lag must have made him to rethink his life. Mind you he had told all his friends of his relocation to the land of milk and honey, he sold his stuff at a throw away price and chances are he even had a bash to bid his friends goodbye. Am told on landing back to Kenya he went straight to Kikuyu for solace. A place he would not have lived when he was planning his trip to the US. I understand deportation is cruel, it humbles you. It make one to soul search themselves. It gives you an unexpected U-turn in life that can make you fall apart unceremoniously. I am definitely not ready for this. Not now!
“Next….” The officer shouts.
Oops. It’s my turn. I walk over to the counter.
“What brings you to America Maam?” He asks
Periods. I feel some serious drop in my lower abdomen. Shit. It’s my periods. Not now. I thought my only need was to get past the immigration officer. But not anymore. I need a bathroom ASAP. I need to change my tampon.
The officer is stuck with my documents and seems to read and re-read them over and over. He looks at me and back at the documents. I am taking longer than anyone who was ahead of me. The people on the queue are getting impatient for some reason. I am too…
He looks at me again.
Oh my… do not do this to me. Please. NOT NOW…