I could feel the anxiety pains in my tummy. This is how I feel every time I need to deal with immigration. My green passport does not really do well with immigration. But shouldn’t it be better that it’s the Nigerian Embassy? My own people? Maybe. Maybe not.
I waited, tense as I entered the elevator and hit 8 to go up to the 8th floor to renew my Nigerian passport. As I waited for my number to be called, I noticed people disregarding number-calling and instead, jostling in front of the window while pushing their papers through its hole. It’s begun. My heart began to race as I stood up to figure out how I would not come last in this unhealthy competition.
‘Number 35’ she called. I thrust myself forward saying repeatedly ‘that’s me, that’s me’, only to have a white American block me and submit his own papers. The irony. I eyed him in the worst (or best?) way possible but he didn’t even acknowledge my presence. Like he did not just ‘chance’ me on the line.
I held myself and waited. Then it was my turn and she grabbed my papers, sifted through them, gave them back to me and said ‘your payment confirmation slip, not receipt’. ‘Number 36!’. So quickly I had been shoved along and so rudely, it hurt. But I murmured to myself ‘you’re a big girl, you’re not going to get upset’.
I headed back downstairs and printed my confirmation slip. I finally submitted my papers and without any direction, I had to head into a room where I would wait for an hour. The room smelled of a combination of things but I could faintly pick out what seemed to be some crayfish smell wafting in my direction. In this room, midtown east, New York City, I was transported back to a waiting room in Abuja Immigration Office, with the air warm and thick, the AC broken. After about an hour of texting, Facebooking and updating my mum (because, quite unlike myself, I forgot to carry a book), I got called.
‘Ehh so you may not receive your passport today because Nigeria made mistake and put male instead of female’. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
‘But look for Mrs. Dibia to help you. She might get it today still’. He said this as he waved me off with vague directions for finding this …. Mrs. Dibia.
And then another waiting period began.
While waiting, a woman started going around and shoving pieces of paper into people’s hands. I tried to look away in an attempt to discourage her from handing me one of the leaflets. My attempt was futile. She wasted no time in tapping my shoulder till I responded and collected the leaflet. However, I was not prepared for the abomination on this paper.
Meatpie – 90 dollars
Scotch egg – 85 dollars
Salad – 75 dollars
And the list goes on. Are you as dumbfounded as I am about these prices? I came ALL the way to America to be cheated by a Nigerian? Nonsense. Which kin meat pie? abi scotch egg? The ridiculousness of it all was not lost on me.
Half an hour later, the man who had waved me towards Mrs. Dibia passed and I grabbed my opportunity ‘excuse me sah, where do I find her?’ (have you ever noticed the tendency to thicken your accent when in Nigerian offices like immigration? The last thing you want is them thinking ‘see this oyinbo pepper that thinks she’s special’.)
‘Ah go upstairs and find her’.
I found her. And another waiting period began.
Isn’t this waiting tiring you already? It was definitely tiring me, as I kept on being redirected and told to wait. To continue explaining what happened next would be pointless because all I did was wait.
The last words I heard before I left, without my passport, were “ehhh Nigeria said they will call me back”.
Oyinbo – Foreigner