Transit is no-man’s land without a passport

Our driver to Entebbe airport was right on time and as it was an early morning flight, the journey was pretty much straight forward as there was hardly any traffic which Kampala roads are famous for, apart from the mad road etiquette. Hoping that my bouts of fever and visits to the toilet were not going to give cause for concern necessitating a delay to our departure, I took another swig of the herbal medicine hoping I’d finish the whole bottle before boarding given all the excitement that surrounded carrying liquids on board..made a mental note to check on it as the cap didn’t close properly, which meant I’d have a mess in my bag…

Checking that my stash of medicine in my clutch bag was still intact after the heavy dosing I was taking, I relaxed in the knowledge that my partner was on hand to take care of all that what was needed. ūüôā These are some of the perks to having a caring partner or traveling with someone that cared… The medication was a herbal mixture my nephew had obtained for me in a small bottle – it must have been good – I couldn’t feel much and soon most of the symptoms I’d had prior to taking it disappeared, replaced by sleep which was so seductive.

Part of the check-in process was somewhat of a blur but somehow, made it through to the boarding area. ¬†Looking forward to spending the remaining cash in duty free at Istanbul in transit, I checked my clutch bag which held my passport and wallet before blissfully falling asleep for the 6hr flight. Whatever was in that herbal mix I was just grateful that it did the job of keeping me “together” as opposed to becoming quite familiar with the toilet or the paper bag. ¬†Made a note to ask partner why it was that luggage tickets always got placed on my passport but sleep must have won…

Given the great discomfort in the outbound journey with Turkish airlines from London coming to Entebbe, I cannot claim to have felt anything on this first leg of the return journey to London other than welcomed sleep that hadn’t been effected from overdosing on in-flight alcohol. ¬†Mind you, it was still a case of little leg room and putting up with families that had to carry babies on their laps…Glad that I was ‘out of it’ for the greater part as the hostesses were not all that happy either. There was this old man who had two girls lapping up everything he did and another one who opted to move seats to where I was to apparently give the couple with the little baby some room to spread out…Yeap. The herbal mix was definitely worth it. ¬†The announcement that we get ready to land was a welcomed reminder. ¬†I needed the bathroom to sort out my frazzled appearance after sleeping through.

Istanbul airport is an intriguing airport…reminds me somewhat in part of Portobello market. ¬†However this romantic vision soon came to a halt when while standing in line to have my documents checked I find I don’t have my passport on me. ¬†That’s when the any drug-induced haze evaporated…because that was the unraveling of a traumatic twelve hours of my life spent at Instanbul in transit before boarding a plane back to Entebbe. It was the time when I learnt that simply being a British citizien held no water for the British consulate in Turkey who were unprepared to come to the transit area. It was the realisation that I had become a person of no nation/land that awoke my senses. ¬†This was no movie! This was a living nightmare and I was an unwilling participant.

It was then that I appreciated my motherland Uganda, that irrespective that I had become adopted by Britain, Uganda would still welcome me back and assist me in sorting all that was needed to carry on my return journey to London. That the immigration officers at Entebbe airport were more humane to the traumatic experience as opposed to the Turkish airlines officials who had left us to make the necessary and expensive communication to the British Consulate officials etc.  It was also the realisation that being honest in accounting of events did not get you any where but instead complicated matters, hence the brown envelopes which thrive so well.

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Shades of corruption

Night-time travel

Rain has been on the lips of virtually anything or anyone moving here in the UK over the past recent weeks.¬† Ironically it has come on a backdrop where a hosepipe ban had just been reinstated for the low water levels in some eastern parts of the British Isles.¬† Even while the ban was being read out over local news channels, the rains appeared to be mocking the forecasters. My one and only concern as always is how much sunshine are we going to have for this summer period.¬† By looks of it, recession hasn’t been limited to the financial world alone.¬† However it is not only recession crippling the Eurozone, nor the never-ending rain causing Britain to become incontinent that captured my interest last week. It was something I’d overheard taking place on a public transport system.

In the haze of dripping rain over the window panes of the bus carrying a mix of night passengers with varying takes on life, the bus driver appeared to exercise something that is slowly diminishing these days. He must have spotted two young ladies running to catch his bus as it prepared to pull away from the stop and decided to stop and wait for them to board.¬† Perhaps it was because the bus driver was moved because of their gender and the time of night¬† or maybe his patience levels had not yet been tested on customer care – I really don’t know.¬† The two passengers proceeded to offer to pay their fare with a ¬£10 note between them.¬† Now, there is a flat fare throughout the bus network of ¬£1.30 with a pre-pay Oyster card and ¬£2.20 if you are paying by cash. I am pretty sure that these two ladies knew this but seemed unhappy to part with their money towards the cost of their travel – more so when the driver told them he didn’t have any change and they’d be short-changed by 10p until such a time when he got some change.¬†

The carry-on of passengers boarding the bus without the correct fare or pre-paid tickets did not stop with these two ladies – it seemed to be norm.¬† Still the bus driver kept repeating the well worn statement “I am not supposed to issue you with tickets – you should get a pre-paid ticket before boarding the bus. But I will accept the exact fare if you have it as I don’t have any change.”¬† I started to think this ought to be a slogan for Transport for London on their publicity campaigns in varying languages if not signs.

We got to our last destination for the bus and all made to get off the bus.¬† The two ladies walked down to the bus driver’s cabin and asked him why he had made them pay for their travel.¬† The driver told them because transport is not free unless a person is carrying the appropriate identification that exempts them.¬† This reasoning didn’t quite seem to connect with the two ladies, so they pressed on asking him why he felt it necessary to collect money which didn’t go in to his personal pocket but instead went to his company bosses.¬† Furthermore, they reasoned, he was of “their kind” – meaning he was a black African like they were and as such, this should be reason enough for the driver not to charge them anything but allow them free travel.¬† Why should he have any affinity towards this company’s collections of travel fares? I left the conversation at the point where the bus driver appeared to have concluded that this was a no-goner of a discussion eating in to his short break before resuming his next run.¬† To the two ladies – the fact that they were black Africans and the bus driver was also a black African, this alone should entail them to cheat the system in solidarity.