And so it was after being refused entry to Hong Kong I was driven back to the four star hotel in Shangai to await my fate. It was not long in coming. I had called the embassy in Freetown and they had called their colleagues in Beijing, and those in Beijing were in touch with those in Shangai.
For me however I was too exhausted to worry again. Ivy the Chinese Foreign Affairs lady was being overly apologetic and even as I submitted my passport again to the front desk official at the Hotel she had gone up the stairs to a make sure that I can eat dinner (this is after I declined her request to eat out) and was desperately trying to get me to feel at home whilst also apologizing profusely and I mean profusely, but I knew I was in safe hands. So I went upstairs this time to the 22nd floor, entered my room had a bath and then got down again for a quick meal and up again and to bed.
Before falling asleep the Foreign Affairs lady called to ask for my passport number and date of birth. Then she said that it is possible that I may have to leave through Dubai then to Kenya and on to Freetown but I had to wait for the confirmation. With this I slept like a log.
All throughout the program I was being forced to get up at 6am Chinese time which is 8 hours ahead of SaLone time to be ready for the day’s work. So I decided with no pressure to wake up early this was an opportunity to sleep well, and I did sleep well. I jumped up at 8.30 China time took a quick bath and rushed to get breakfast and then jump in bed again. This time sleep evaded me so I decided to walk the streets. As I started my phone rang and I was told my flight had been confirmed for the evening and I should be ready to leave by 6pm.
So with my spirits lifted I stepped out. I was greeted by pimps who were offering to sell me mobile phones and Ipod for cheap. When I declined the subject turned to sex. They offered me to look and not pay and if afterwards I am interested then it will cost me cheap. They were such a pest that I stopped talking and this drove them away. I window shopped for a while looking longingly at things I would have loved to buy but could not.
Then it was five and I brought my bags down and checked out. I had not used the mini bar so I had nothing more to pay. The Chinese lady Ivy then helped me with my luggage into the car and we drove off to a Chinese restaurant for my last meal in China.
At the restaurant we met the other Chinese lady and the two again sought to make me feel so comfortable. They urged me to test the Chinese food and showed me the ceremony of eating a duck. Soon I was laughing and we were exchanging life stories. Grace was educated in the UK and had just been back from assignment in Europe. Before then she had been working for television and that was why she was now assigned to take care of the media. The other lady Ivy was just starting her career as a diplomat.
This was when I learnt that all airline seats into and out of China had been booked until first week September. Also that a round trip ticket had to be bought to simply get me onboard a Kenya airways flight even though I had a valid ticket for them. This means I can go again to Kenya but I have to foot the bill for my return not bad, but …
Arguably I got the best meal in China on that night. Later we then went to the airport and they saw that everything was fine with me before they said good-bye. They were so courteous and helpful that I was embarrassed. So I myself became a diplomat and in a short speech expressed my gratitude for their “warm hospitality”.
The flight to Dubai onboard Emirates, as expected was long and tiring. The little screen attached to the back of the seat in front offered touch screen facilities and a range of movies. I settled down for the long flight, sleeping and waking in between the movies.
On arrival in Dubai I continued to be embarrassed by the dreams of other people. This was a desert which had been transformed to contain one of the best airports in the world. For me this shows that the Arabs were thinking of the day when their stock of oil will run out. Therefore they were now investing in the services sector which would continue long after. Dubai is not only a destination for shopping it was a major connecting point for travelers all around. Have we started thinking what would happen after the diamonds and iron ore finish what would happen to our economy?
Strolling through the airport in Dubai I came across a Nigerian lawyer Sam Kargbo who is sponsoring the music group X-project made up partly of Sierra Leoneans. He was in a team from Abuja and they were returning home after a study tour of Singapore. They now want to make Abuja such that it is like any of the well functioning cities in China, Singapore, Malaysia or elsewhere in the world. He said in Singapore all the streets leading into and out of the City were ten lanes. That is what they have now started doing in Abuja building ten lane highways. So the Nigerians have started, where are we?
Dubai is a luxury destination for travelers. I watched the reclining seats for those who felt like sleeping. The electric points for those who want to charge their computers and mobile phones and of course the shops. For me however the shops were not cheap. The mobile phones cost about the same here.
Lap top computers were not cheap but you had a variety. Looking out the window I figured Emirates has maybe a thousand planes.
After some 6 hour wait we boarded the Kenya airways flight. Another long flight but the facilities were not too far from those offered by Emirates. In the airport however it was another thing.
In Dubai I hooked up with a group of other Sierra Leoneans one of whom is a staff of Awoko who had also been visiting China on a youth program. They had suffered like me with their baggage reaching them late so we all went to the transfer desk in Kenya to make sure that our bags are transferred.
Then we had to fill the swine flu form, before crossing immigration without any problems.
For me thanks to the Chinese embassy in Freetown I would have a hotel room but for the others they had to find other means of lodging. Lucky for me the DIG Oliver Somasa is in Kenya as the deputy AU Commissioner and he had gracefully agreed to pick me up at the airport. He also intervened in getting the others some place to sleep and in getting them picked up in the morning for the airport.
Early in the morning the hotel shuttle took me to the airport and I got inline to have my bags scanned. When the Kenyan official saw my passport he said with a smile “Sierra Leone” so puzzled I asked have you been there he said no but he smiled which was nice. Going through immigration, the lines were strictly maintained, Kenyans, Comesa and others. However waiting for the flight now I observed that while in Dubai passengers were sleeping in reclining chairs, in Kenya there were just finding a corner on the ground and sleeping.
The good thing was the luggages were safe and there was no danger of their being stolen … so black and white were seen sleeping on the bare floor this is Africa I said.
The flight was uneventful until we arrived in Lungi. At the door we were handed swine flu forms before proceeding in to pick up the immigration forms. Sadly the scene was one of organize disorder.
What struck me was whilst in other countries ID cards were displayed for all to see the name and designation, in Sierra Leone all the ID cards were turned over hiding the identities and showing the back of the cards. One of such men was busy on the counter which was marked for Sierra Leoneans filling the form for a foreigner.
And when he finished he just pushed the form in regardless of the designation on top of the window. This is Sierra Leone, where chaos and organized disruption is the order of the day. Amused I saw foreign nationals being taken through the lines without as much as showing their passports.
I recalled that I was a guest of the Chinese foreign ministry but the foreign affairs official who came for me waited until I had cleared immigration and had come out like any ordinary passenger before he collected me although with a sleek Benz. If this operates in China why not Sierra Leone? Well that was to tell me I am back home to … Oh God!