Logistic problem is the thing that people say after plans they made don’t work out. Logistic problem is the thing that happened to us (my husband and I) a few days before our scheduled travel for our wedding anniversary, such that on the 6th of April (anniversary date) rather than be in our planned destination, we were sitting side by side in our living room, legs stretched out deciding on last minute places we could go to that didn’t require any visa application because we didn’t have the time. We sat squinting at a map on my phone and a list of visa free countries on his- looking at places, crossing out the obviously impossible ones. No to any cold region, no to any place bombs are going off, no to any place whose cuisine we cannot pronounce.
One last catch, atleast one of our three usual airlines must fly there. So that we can claim miles. Helloooo
Mentally, we tick and strike laugh at the audacity of some countries requiring visa, tick and strike, then begin the process all over. And all of a sudden, we strike gold, at the same time.
Lets do this, we high five, Morale is very high. We sleep over it. The next day we pay for flights, the day after we pack our bags, and the day after that we head out. Dada, mama, toddler.
When we chose Barbados, we knew we were in for a swell holiday no doubt, the excitement perhaps did not let us take into consideration however, how one hell of a stressful journey this would be. For the single fact that we do not live in Accra, there’s always one extra leg of flying for us. Anyway 5 airports, three flights and 24 hours later, Barbados is in view, water as clear as water.
We land in Heathrow first, before connecting to Gatwick, and as usual Immigration has to chit chat a little, because… Nigerian passport. I’ve noticed though that Immigration is always a lot nicer to my toddler — I’m Nigerian born, she’s British born, spot the difference.
After immigration man sees that we are no strangers to London, his countenance lightens, he un-stiffens himself, the squint in his eyes ease. He encourages me to publish my book fast-
“What are you waiting for?”
Put it on Amazon, c’mon now, do this he says.
I smile, and thank him, I tell him I’ll remember him in my acknowledgements when I eventually publish. He says he knows I won’t. I look on his chest for his name tag, he doesn’t have one. Too bad.
In Gatwick, the British Airways queue is like 20 lagos mama put queues merged together. The only difference is that we are not dripping sweat. Every one seems to be going to St Kitts or St Lucia. There’s a Las Vegas crowd too. It is obvious most people are going on holiday. You can see straw hats, ski boards, and generally flimsy clothing. There are no stiff men or women in suits talking on the phone or touching iPads. We are all in groups. Families, friends, couples, students all laughing loudly. Babies are crying though. Except ours *insert slow clap* Thanks.
We all make small talk, occasional nods or motion with the head or eyes that the queue is moving. A strange familiarity envelopes us. When you are in front or behind me for an hour, guess we can say we know each other. The long queue takes a toll on everyone but we all bare it because a holiday is waiting on the other side.
An English man has the painful duty of shouting across the hall the flights ready to board so that those still way behind on the queue can be allowed access. Once, twice or even three times, we thought we heard him say Barbados, when we listened more carefully, dude was actually saying Tobago. The rhythmic cadence of the British Accent. Of course when we finally got in front of the queue, he started to call out Barbados for real. #ThisLife
One of our biggest worries, well atleast mine was the inevitable jetlag after such demanding journey. Plus the fact that we were travelling back in time. But the forces of the universe happened to be in our favour. Taking off from London in the morning and touching down in Bridgetown in the afternoon seemed to our bodies like a day trip even though it was now night time in London. We woke with the humans of England and went to bed with the Humans of Barbados. Pretty fair travel deal if you ask me.
No jetlag however means no need to rest (much) No need to rest equals – immediate tourist behaviour.
Oh wait, hold up. Before tourist behaviour, there’s immigration again.
Nigerian passport??? Lady went the whole 9 yards of questioning, plus into the office for more questioning.
“Where you staying?” Paynes Bay.
“How much you gat?” More than Enough.
“You Nigerian, what you doing in Ghana?” Working.
“Where’s your permit to live in Ghana?“ This Aunty with dada hair ooo, look in the passport biko.
“Why the permit expired?” We are processing the renewal (shows letter to that effect), besides, Nigerian’s can travel freely to Ghana for ninety days?
“They can?” Yes, they can. Like what you have with the EU passport.
She nods. She knows the EU Passport, never heard of the ECOWAS ONE.
But who can blame her? When you live in a small dot on the map, how will you know?
All of these questions were in “Bob Marlian” accent, which would have been intriguingly funny and charming to hear on a normal day, but after travelling 24 hours normal was in the bin.
We find later that some Nigerians had done “something” a few weeks before hence the thorough checks. Of course, Nigerians always do something everywhere.
Anyway we are here. 3;15pm, Rihanna where you at?
Rihanna is one of the main reasons the husband high fived for Barbados. The silent hope that they would run into each other in a supermarket, exchange numbers, meet up over some Barbadian rum and hit things off, abandoning me and moving into her vila on number 1 Sandy lane. But my angels were on special assignment from the God that never sleeps. Rihanna never shows up, except on airport welcome banners and supermarket walls. Bikini clad, advertising everything from beer to soap to oil. I am certain she knows nothing about the ads.
JESUS IS COMING
The first thing that catches my eye, a permanent fixture of sorts on trees and walls and lamp posts are the familiar words JESUS IS COMING. This is obviously a Jesus zone. Catholic, Anglican, Baptist and some Pentecostal churches litter everywhere.
LIFE IS A BEACH
Except for private houses with beach view, every beach is your’s to bath and play in without charge. The earth (water) is the Lord’s kind of policy works here. You see a beach, you possess your possession. The beach belongs to everybody and belongs to no one (see where I’m going with that) and all of them are no-filter-needed-completely-instagram worthy kind of beaches. To understand the magnificence you really have to see for yourself.
GREEN MONKEYS AND WHISTLING FROGS
In Nigeria, where I grew up, if a strange bird or cat landed on your window at midnight making awful noise, you cast it out with Holy Ghost fire. You reject whoever is coming at you from your village through a bird and return to sender, then immerse yourself in the precious blood of Jesus. What manner of disrespect from the pit of hell?
So imagine my holy shock when every morning, there was a frog inside the house, sometimes dead, sometimes alive. Singing if it was alive. Small, like a quarter of your pinky finger, but frog is frog please. Many have said it was a highlight of their trip and I have no comment about that.
We were told that green monkeys paraded themselves in the early mornings too on people’s fences and windows. Thankfully they never came to ours, although I saw one on one of the days I went running and since it wasn’t on our window, I did not cast it anywhere, but in my mind, I still plead the blood of Jesus. #BetterSafeThanSorryPls
RUM BUM BUM BUM
While I had no taste of it, for every time someone said rum, which was nothing less than 6 times a day, I sang Rum bum bum bum rum bum bum bum, the exact way Rihanna said it in her Man Down song. #DontJudgeMe.
Rum is the official drink of the Bajan people. Every shop has rum. There is rum in people’s hand bags. Apparently it mixes well with every other thing. Coke, juice, water, stew, anything. Two rum shots is all you need. Next in popularity to rum might be fish cakes, with it’s subtle hint of Nigerian akara.
Where is the one absolute place to go if you are ever in Barbados? Oisteens baby, Oisteens. On Friday nights, the entire country is here. Almost like a food carnival. Here, we ran into people who were on our flight. This is to help you understand when I say the entire country is there on Friday night. The food is so good you forget how the sweaty waiters just toss it on your table for you like a prisoner and move to the next person or how they recite the menu to you like a rap song because hello…can you not see how many people are here to eat?
The crowd is mammoth. This is the place to meet your holiday fling and get drunk on rum (bum bum bum) and eat like 4 times before 12 midnight, and meet Canadians who can’t stand Americans. And half naked, sun fried people, photo bombing your middle of the street selfie. This is the same place your child wants to run around because other children are running. So you slide her arm in your armpit. #NoChildIsGettingLostOnMyWatch
If I paid extra attention in Geography class many years ago, I would have understood a little of what the tour guide said to us as we travelled underground aboard a tram seeing some stalagmite formation and waterfalls. But I didn’t – something like it being naturally formed from water erosion. Anyway we go to all the depths feeling like real cave men, only we have phones and camera and our exploration is for instagram not for actual studies.
My eyes miss many things partly because I’m carrying a child and partly because it’s dark, but they do not miss the Italian couple who stare at me almost the entire time as though wondering if I have in my hands a stolen child. I realise I’m short and wearing shorts. In the dark I probably look like a teenager.
The people of Barbados are the country’s economy, it’s spice, the sugar in the Bajan tea, Literally. Everyone is a tourist guide. Everyone is happy to see you. Everyone smiles. They have to, because that smile is what put’s food on their table. There is no oil or cocoa to export, only that smile, and some sugar. The smile is etched in the numerous apartments and flats that they build along side their’s so that they can welcome guests from all over the world. It is in city tours they give you in their private cars, it is in the quick history of Barbados lesson a cab man feels the need to give you. It is on the concerned face of a driver who has never met a Nigerian or knows anything about the country but says very gently to me, almost as if pleading; we have to bring back our girls. It’s in the spices they give you to take home so that the taste of Barbados never leaves you. It’s in the unsuspecting eyes of a man selling souvenirs, desperate to sell to me. I find it a little pricey, so in true Naija fashion I tell him that “I am coming back”
There are no grumpy drivers here, but they are grouped into two. The ones who play music from their cars really loud and the ones who don’t play music at all. There is no in between. Your music must either be blaring as you race the streets or nothing.
When we pack our bags to go home, we know that we will come back…sometime.
At the airport, we buy a replica of what a Bajan house looks like. They are built such that when freed blacks moved from one plantation to the other back in the day, it was easy to unbolt the structure and mount in a new place.
This is the slice of Barbados we go home with. You can unbolt and go from place to place, but the spice of Barbados never leaves you.