Travelling in America

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I am writing these lines around 7 am in Buena Park, California, but it is close to 3 pm on Tuesday afternoon in Nigeria. I had to wake up consciously remembering the time difference between here and home.

That is a constant part of my consciousness when I travel around the world: Eritrea, Canada, Western Sahara, Guinea, India or even Darfur; it is a long list of destinations!

My life remarkably reflects my nomadic origins and as I often tell my friends (a painful fact that my family lives with!), I carry the gene of travel; and in the past week, I have been in the United States. I have retained a very ambiguous relationship with this incredible country!

This time I have been in Houston where my sister-in-law was delivered of a set of triplets. Then I decided to do the Greyhound bus to Dallas to see my old friend from the Radio Nigeria days, Frank Oshodi.

Back in secondary school we used to read those James Hadley Chase books, and I cannot quite remember which one was set around Greyhound buses. Somehow, I always felt I should do the trip and almost like a Nigerian experience, a smooth trip through the expansive Texan countryside came to a sudden halt about 34 miles to Dallas.

The bus developed a fault! The African-American driver was some character; he regaled us with stories which kept everyone laughing and he wanted us to know how lucky we were anyway, because a $1million Mercedes Benz bus was on its way to pick us!

There was an assortment of human types on the bus, including a Nigerian Pentecostal preacher from Warri.

His phone was the busiest and his voice, the loudest too! I naturally spoke with him and he told me he had been out of Nigeria since February! He was on his way to attend a son’s graduation ceremony.

Monday brought home to me the horrors of the various American wars in distant destinations around the world. I was on the queue at Dallas airport to take a flight to Phoenix, Arizona, on my way to California.

I was dressed in the normal Northern Nigerian kaftan with a cap when a huge soldier-type, White man tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and he asked: “Which was your confession sir?”

I paused for a while puzzled about his question and he saw that on my face: “Oh, it is because of your dress sir”. I answered that I am a Muslim. “Well, a few weeks ago, I would have been loath to come close to you”, was his answer!

Frankly, I was worried, because this hulk could wring my neck in a minute! He then went on to tell me that he was a soldier and had just completed a training/therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD (I recollected that I wrote about that in last week’s column!). It was that therapy which has calmed him considerably.

He assisted me to put my bag through the screening process as I also told him about my late cousin, who I believe died from complications of PTSD after Nigeria’s tragic Civil War.

We were headed for different gates for our respective flights and the last thing he told me was: “May Allah be with you”! That was another unintended consequence of imperialist wars! But the humanity we all share will somehow seep to the surface of all manners of subterfuge.

And talking about our humanity, I was to have a two-hour stop over at Phoenix, Arizona. It is a destination I am familiar with; and I picked up a conversation with an elderly Somali woman cleaner dressed in a typically Somali manner, especially in the USA and Europe.

A couple of minutes after our conversation, I saw her at the counter of a beverages shop where I wanted to purchase a drink.

She asked where I came from and I replied that I was Nigerian. I knew she was Somali, but strangely, I guessed that she was from Puntland, and I got it right! She was pleasantly surprised I knew that corner of Somalia!

She ended becoming my ‘saviour’, because I had mixed up the time, still using the time from Dallas! She suggested that I checked with the airline about time for my trip; the boarding pass I held read Gate 21, but the flight had been processed through a different gate.

I was so sure of the gate and had been engrossed with my reading of Naomi Klein’s SHOCK THERAPY. I needed some amount of shock to find my way to the flight; the gate was about to be locked.

And I just made it; just! We arrived on time in Los Angeles and my friend, Adeyombo Aderinto, picked me up. We drove through to Buena Park, listening to and discussing the last debate between President Barack Obama and his rightwing opponent, Mitt Romney. America’s election impacts upon our lives.

I was not caught up in the Obama wave four years ago, but I am realistic enough to know that he is generally more progressive than his opponent.

I want Obama to get a second term; the alternative of Romney will mean more invasions and killings of peoples around the world and Iran might just be the first!

That is what Bibi Netanyahu is priming the world for and if Romney wins, then the Israeli tail will certainly wag the American dog into another war! It is so scary really!

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