After my short sleep I woke up and through the internet I found a number for Sierra Leonean Emmanuel Turay. As soon as he heard my voice he said Kelvin I am coming over. Before he came over however I had asked one of the hotel bell boys to buy me toothpaste, brush and a shaving stick and he got me that for 100 shillings which was just over one US dollar, with tip inclusive. I had to use a little persuasion by appealing to his poor African brother sentiment, which he reluctantly succumbed to, thereby denying his employer a few dollars.
After a hot bath I jumped back into the same clothes, but I had been in a boarding home before so I knew the little tricks how to wash some clothes items and squeeze them on a towel and by morning they are dry. I met Emmanuel in the lobby while talking to a Sierra Leonean businesswoman who was going to China for business. I had known her long ago through my mentor the late Kawigoko Roy-Stevens.
I strolled out with Emmanuel who is studying TV production in Kenya. We walked through the University of Nairobi which was before my hotel and on to the Cultural theatre and then to a pub where we had a drink. Kenya was on the face value clean and the people were all dressed up for the cold weather. So it was not uncommon to see men in the western suit jackets, and women wearing calf and knee length boots. At the University was a sign “This is a corruption free zone.” This was revealing to me. The street lights, wide roads, constant light and running water was loudly shouting to me that this was a system which was working. Kenya airways alone was providing jobs for – I believe – tens of thousands of Kenyans. The airport does not sleep. The technicians servicing the aircrafts the ground attendants, the pilots the air hostesses, the hotels and the arrangement with them for overnight travelers was also meant to put money in the pockets of the hoteliers so that they could continue to keep in employment other thousands of Kenyans. Then when one looks at the other supporting activities like the drivers employed by a company which I believe is contracted by Kenya airways to provide transportation for their passengers and employees … the list goes on and on.This is despite the bloody election spill over we heard about leading to a national unity government. Indeed in Kenya the politicians were not saints, they were corrupt too, but the country went ahead things worked and there was progress. This is how different they are from our own politicians. And to see that Kenya was exporting tea and flower – this is a sad lesson for me.
I went back and a Kenya airways shuttle driven by a lady picked us up and took us to the airport, where I quickly went through customs. Waiting for the flight I spent the next two hours looking at the duty free shops and finishing my credit on my Zain phone by calling all I could at Awoko and my fiancée.
The flight took off at about 11.55 and we started a nine hour flight to Shangai. Needless to say I slept I woke up I walked up and down and we had not yet arrived. We were fighting to gain 8 hours. We arrived in Shangai and were on the ground for an hour. During this period the airways crew was changed and I was again surprised to see Thai and Chinese boys and girls in Kenya airways uniform working alongside other Kenyans. This proved to me that even it is out of convenience to be able to serve the customers here who are mainly Chinese and Thai and Japanese better, it was still a feat to show how global the sights of Kenya airways are.
Indeed before setting off on a three hour journey to Hong Kong I recalled my friend’s statement that it was a relief to fly out of Sierra Leone for a while, but for me it was turning to torment with the ever nagging question … are we not capable of doing all this for ourselves?
In Hong Kong the efficiency continued to astound me as someone was standing with my name ready to show me where to get my boarding pass for the Dragon Air flight which would now take me the next three hours on to China. It goes without saying that the airport is massive. Kenya’s too was not small but this was on a much larger scale and much more modern. Now the toilets do not require you to touch anything. After using the toilet you simply put your hand under the soap bottle and soap pops out, you rub it and put your hand under the tap and water comes out. You remove your hand it stops. There are sensors making all of this possible. I asked myself again … Sierra Leone when?
The thought raced through my mind if we can make our country near what I was experiencing then people will be rushing to come to our country and we will not be suffering all the humiliation we go through in getting British and American visas. Ghana along the coast is moving rapidly to that stage because for over four years now the car park at the Kotoka airport has electronic gates which accept your ticket and the gains open automatically even if the attendant is not around. And for diplomatic cars it is like a credit card which is simply rubbed over the gate sensor and it records that you have paid so and so and opens. Is this not why Ghanaians do not find so much problems going abroad or getting visas for UK and USA?
Well back to the journey, I again slept and woke up and slept again until China. I had become fed up of travelling. True to speak however the flight was smooth and without incident. At the airport I found out my bag had not arrived. The time was now nearing 1am in the morning. So I walked through customs and met a young boy from the Chinese Foreign Ministry to meet me. Interestingly he was standing outside. If it was Sierra Leone he would have been inside the hall and taken my passport as soon as I enter the immigration gate and I would not even go and look for my bag … but this is China. However this boy could not talk English. I asked him to change money so I can buy something to eat given the time, and he sounded like a dumb man. He soon came out with his small palm top and on it was electronically displayed ‘Currency’ I said yes then we turned back and I changed $50. I asked again what is the name of the hotel and he again searched his mind and I believe he typed in the Chinese characters for hotel and the palm top translated it to English for him. That is technology.
Out in the car park a benz compressor was waiting for me and the door was opened by a dressed up driver. I said to myself … so the Chinese think I am this important … what? It however felt good. Out of the airport we drove into a ten lane road with toll gates. After that it was a short five minute ride and another toll gate. Then the driver hit 80 kilometres per hour and he was cruising on good road sandwiched by – I think – man made forest and massive structures. I was just gaping through the windows until we got to the hotel.
This was around 2pm in the morning and I just registered and headed for the room checking only if I had free internet. Then it was sleep, sleep and sleep again trying to beat the 8 hour difference and jet.