Hello everyone, how are you today? So, it’s throwback Thursday, and here is mine! – My trip to South Africa

I used to think South Africa is just another extension of Africa, but now, I know exactly what it is. South Africa is a nation of many colours – beaches, opulent winelands, rocky cliffs, forest, lagoons and the beautiful city of Cape Town, beneath flat-topped Table Mountain. You will say these things are but natural – yes, they are! Yet, South Africans have deliberately kept these national treasures alive.

Preparation

As part of the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship Programme, is a trip aimed at exposing the fellows to the international environment and polities. So, we have been concocting the trip to South Africa for months now.

The visa application process among many others, involved acquiring a yellow card (during which we had injections – I’m not scared of those anyways, I still prefer them to swallowing drugs and moving around with something dangling around my throat).

Although, the process was more hectic from the administrative part – all what we (fellows) had to do was get our passports ready, obtain a 6months bank statement, and sign an almost endless list of documents.

Sigh!

It was however relieving for us because everything was done in group.

So, about a week to the travel date, we carried out weather surveys to make sure there are no surprises on arrival. We discovered that the weather won’t be as friendly – the temperature gets as low as 12oC. Wow! I decided to make a checklist of things to travel with:

  1. Cardigans
  2. Cover shoes
  3. Face cap
  4. Denim & other warm wears
  5. Toiletries
  6. Writing pad and pen etc.

Journey

I was ready to have as much fun as possible without losing sight of the major reason we were vising South Africa – The 3rd quarter Education Seminar tagged “The Good Society (part 2)”. The Education seminar belongs to one of the four (4) cardinals of Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship Programme where we get to discuss crucial issues directly connected to the development of the nation.

Little did I know that there will be a bit of stress along the way – there is a mix of fun and stress (majorly the journey). Well, maybe you won’t find it as stressful afterall, but that’s my verdict.

Kaduna to Lagos

We left Kaduna State at about 6:30 a.m on Saturday 13th of April 2019 and took an 8:30 flight to Lagos International Airport. Our flight to South Africa is later that night, so we had to cool off somewhere, and in no time moved to a lodge located 10mins away from the international terminals.

By 5:30pm, we were out of the lodge to the airport in order to have our luggage checked in on time (even though this means getting your luggage last at arrivals). The security personnel can just embarrass you if care is not taken.

“Hello, hello, step back. It’s not yet your turn”

“Okay, you will say, even when you feel like ignoring them. And for the immigration officers with corporate begging skills, should we talk about them now? Maybe not yet!

We were all checked in by 7pm and had to wait till 10pm (boarding time). Times like this, I love to be online, but lo and behold, I discovered my phone battery was on 19%. It turned out all I had to do was chat with the fellows sitting next to me.

Coping-strategy during turbulence or general anxiety when you’re 35,000ft off the Ground

You will agree with me that its totally a different life when you are 35000ft above the soil level. Life on air is a different experience on its own. Handling phobia while on an airplane begins with the acknowledgement. From taking off, staying up there through turbulence to final landing is something everyone should be prepared for. Maybe flying Kaduna to Lagos or Lagos to Abuja which is within the range of 1hr – 1hr:10mins isn’t too much to worry about. But It’s a different game when you have to sit for 6hrs+.

I have watched people freak out on plane and inorder to stabilize, they will:

  • Shut their eyes
  • Hold hands with a partner
  • Hold their seat to feel comfy
  • Pray + read the holy book

Depending on what appeals to you – do anything that will make you feel better. Beyond handling anxiety, there are things to engage in during your time up there. You can;

  1. Read
  2. Write
  3. Sleep
  4. Watch movies
  5. Listen to music or combine with sleep
  6. Hold a discussion

Arrivals

It was so cold on arrivals than I had envisioned. My sweat-shirt wasn’t close by but Enyinnaya (a Kashim Ibrahim fellow) was kind enough to offer his jacket. He is a 6ft 4 and even though his jacket makes me look like an alien dropping from space, I will rather have it than get frozen.

Moving past the immigration was another dramatic experience. There was a long queue and a ‘brief man’ coordinating it all. He walks towards me and asked loudly:

“You’re Nigerian ehn?”

“Yes” I said as low as possible hoping to control his volume

“What are you here for?” he asked even louder

Ah ahn. Oga, how is that your wahala. Dem send you to me? Afterall, he is just organizing the queue, shey those to check my documents which entails purpose of visit are seated behind the computers. I knew the man wanted to show himself, so, I just answered as requested even though not pleased.

“We are here for a seminar – it’s on leadership training” I quickly added before he had time to ask.

“Okay. That’s okay. where will you be hosted”

“Stellenbosch”

“Good. Go there!” He said, pointing at one of the officers attending to us and walked away.

I felt so relieved right away. Just then, I heard his very loud voice again, addressing a young lady behind me.

“So, you are here to visit your sister ehn!”

“Yes sir”

“How many days”

“2 weeks”

“That’s a long time. How much is with you? We can’t allow you become a liability”

“A million naira”

“How much is that in Rand? I don’t know Naira” he said proudly and suddenly started walking towards me.

“My friend, how much is one million Naira in South African Rand?”

“I don’t know Rand” I replied, unshaken.

He then turned to another young man on the queue.

“You look like a professor. You should know Nigerian Naira and South African Rand”

“I’m not a Nigerian sir” The young man told him

“But you just arrived from Nigeria” he went on loudly as usual.

By this time, it was my turn to be attended to and the officer pleaded that I help out.

“It’s about 26naira to one rand. Kindly use your phone” he said smiling.

Ladies and gentlemen, 1,000,000naira became 38,000rand. So, where Naira is 360 to one dollar, Rand is 14.

Sigh!

What More About SA?

  • It’s so green: I noticed lots of trees and shrubs all around. The aerial view which I got while on plane and at the top of the Table Mountain, is something else.
  • The traffic was in order even without a traffic warder in sight: I noticed that on the streets of Cape town to Stellenbosch, the vehicles maintained a certain distance from one another while waiting for the green light – you can’t but appreciate. I couldn’t even hate.
  • The attitude of conservation: The hotel where we were hosted clearly illustrates this by the principles that govern the running of the facility – emphasizing reduce, reuse, recycle.

Some of the fellows also reported that while bending over at the mosque to perform ablution, they noticed a quotation from the Holy Quran which encourages conservation of water, below the hadith, is a statement boldly written:

“If in doubt, check where they have none.”

  • There is an informal settlement: Well, just so you know that it wasn’t all rosy, we identified a shanty area. So huge that it stood in mighty contrast with the rest of the buildings around. Although the buildings were very small with old rusty roofs but looked organized and surprisingly connected to the grid with cable ditches everywhere.

On the Streets of Stellenbosch and Cape town South Africa

As designed into our stay in South Africa, is an organized tour led by Mr Waleed, a coloured South African. Being the first real tour outside the farm since arrival in SA, we were all very glad to do it.

Our tour guide, Mr Waleed, took time to narrate the South African history prior to apartheid. He humorously narrated the story of the San and kwoi-kwoi people who were named so because of the click sound in the latter’s diction and the former because of their place of residence (sand-related) These are the oldest inhabitants of South Africa.

We visited the oldest church in SA rightly seated on church street – A Roman Catholic as expected. We sighted the first bible used among other things. Mr. Waleed gave out another story about “the Stinking rich people”.

He said in those days of apartheid where the rich sit on the front rows and the poor blacks sit behind, it was widely spread that the rich buried their dead on the ground of the church, so, it got to a time that the earth started breaking up and giving way to the stench from the corpses of the rich. Thus, reacting to the poignant smell, you’ll say ‘the stinking rich’.

Next, was the University of Stellenbosch where we saw the image of the father of Rugby whom we were told vowed never to get any Black on his team as far as he is alive. We finally retired back to our lodge after visiting a coffee store just after the university.

A day after, we set out once again to Cape town – where we visited the Malay streets, Waterfront and the Table Mountain. We viewed Robben Island from a distance, heard bookings are made 6months prior to the actual visits. Got to the Table Mountain through a cable ride after going through a very long queue. There, we saw creatures, got cold water from the rock and enjoyed the beautiful sights. We left for the waterfront where we saw a band playing and just opposite is a huge mall where we were able to shop.

Departure!

I’m very emotional about departures and the case of South Africa wasn’t an exception. Livin la vida loca is very sweet to get accustomed to, therefore, leaving it is painful. We repeated the process. Moved from Capetown to Johannesburg, then, Johannesburg to Lagos (on this flight I met a 5 year old smart girl who became so close and won’t leave me after landing)

 – I miss you Omobolanle.

Arriving Kaduna International Airport the next day, I noticed the alphabet ‘A’ is no longer up there (the same way I had left it few days back), and I was vexed by that. Now I understand why those who are well traveled and exposed complain bitterly about the state of affairs in Nigeria. You simply have a base for judgement. Anyways, South Africa is a place I will visit over and over again.

BT, we can make Nigeria great

Thanks for reading.

Author

Rebecca Maulome Padonu is an enthusiastic writer with a soft spot for factions. A RubyWrites 2016 finalist. She has completed several freelance writing projects, including BBC Media Action’s Drama series, Story Story (series 32 & 33).

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