Two weeks ago, I was in Zanzibar for a short trip. Being my first time outside Nigeria, this trip was special for me in many ways. I travelled via Ethiopian Airlines, transited in Addis Ababa for two nights and spent five days in Zanzibar. A quick summary of my experience during my short vacation.
When the immigration official at the airport said, “Virgin passport. Are you are a virgin too?” I knew my trip was about to get interesting. My virgin passport and I were asked the most random questions.
“Tanzania? Why you no go Dubai?”
“Sure you are not planning to run from Nigeria?”
“Does your father know you are travelling?”
“Is it your boyfriend that sponsored your trip?”
“Your face resemble person wey sabi that thing well.”
The immigration officer said he wasn’t going to release my passport until I found him something for his own vacation. He kept to his word one thousand naira later.
The last security check at Muritala Mohammed International Airport, was where I was thoroughly searched by a woman. She kept whispering into my ears, “You no go find me something?”
I said, “English, no speak.” After all some of the officials kept asking me if I was a Nigerian or Tanzanian so where unnecessary tips were involved, the only language I was going to speak was Swahili.
As much as I enjoyed my first international flight experience, certain things did not bring my happiness to the fullness.
– I expected WIFI onboard but didn’t get any.
– My co-passenger was a bush girl!
– I had a window seat but my co-passenger in the middle kept sliding up my windows to look out as if we were in Lagos danfo. Only God knows what she was looking for outside even when it got dark. Oh I remember. She kept asking me questions like, “Wey that wey been dey there? That thing you don snap tire?” ‘That thing’ meant the wings of the plane and the clouds when it was 8pm!
– My co-passenger had BO. It was terrible.
– My co-passenger woke me up to lay my tabletop for food by slapping me in the groin. It was painful.
– I ordered white wine. My co-passenger asked if my wine was ‘sweet’ and before I could respond, she was ‘tasting’ from my cup. I told her she can have it all.
– My co-passenger took my Orbit gum without permission.
– My co-passenger wouldn’t let me rest until I captured the perfect shot of her while she ate. I took 12 photos to get it. She said, “When the food is about to enter my mouth, SNAP!” And I thought I was the JJC here?
– My co-passenger was a copy copy. Each time I took a photo of the clouds, she did same. She watched the same movies I watched. Ate in the same pattern I did. Went to the restroom each time I did. I kept wondering, who sent this girl Jehovah?
– Finally, I had panic attacks each time the plane shook. I was the only idiot that kept screaming, “Jesus! Jesus!” During our landing at Addis Ababa, the plane suddenly went on full speed upon hitting the runway. Kuku kill me. The Nigerian in me thought it was brake failure.
Zanzibar was fun. I stayed at Kendwa, Uroa and Stonetown. Thankfully transportation cost was reasonable enough to move from one town to another. I spent most of my time at the first two locations, playing with sand in ways I never did during my childhood – since there was nothing much to do on an Island.
I was told the population of tourists were few due to Ramadan. I partied, went on a boat cruise, went on tour about town in Tanzanian danfo known as dala-dala, went in search for local restaurants on Tanzanian okada known as boda-boda, snacked on Tanzanian agege bread, visited their local market, made friends with locals, toured prison Island and went snorkeling which turned out to be a disaster.
Quick tip regarding snorkelling, Zanzibar might not be an English speaking city, but ensure your snorkeling guide or fisherman like I was given understands English. Even if it’s only the word ‘HELP!’’ especially if he intends to take you alone to the middle of the Indian Ocean in your snorkeling equipment to demonstrate, “In! In!! In!!!”
Mba! I refused to go in.
I have a newfound respect for Nigerian cuisine since I returned to Lagos. One of my biggest challenge was feeding while I was in transit, and in Zanzibar. I knew I was in trouble when hunger had me licking my margarine like ice cream after I finished my main meal on the plane in less than three minutes. Why are airplane meals so small?
Travelling on a budget meant I couldn’t experiment or gamble with local Tanzanian dishes all the time and only a few pricey restaurants were open due to Ramadan. My breakfast at my hotels were mostly pastries and it wasn’t long the Nigerian in me started longing for jollof rice. A restaurant I visited swore they had something similar to rice and stew. I asked for it and got served a plate of white rice, lime and freshly blended tomatoes.
Flight to Lagos
A Nigerian girl and her friend at Addis Ababa Airport walked up to my seat at the boarding area and said, “You be Nigeria?”
She was still wearing a hair net at 8am for an international flight. They were the upgraded version of the girl I had as co passenger en-route Zanzibar, so I quickly moved away since I wasn’t ready for any ‘My Naija sister’ relationships.
Unfortunately, the chatty Igbo guy I had as seat partner was no different. He wouldn’t stop asking the air hostess for an extra can of beer – even after the 5th can, before announcing to me. “Maka make I go pee oh.”
When lunch was served, he expressed his disappointment on why a Naija girl like me was using cheese on bread rather than some of the beef sauce meant for my rice on the bread. I told him I am Ethiopian. He apologized for his wrong assumption. I said, “Hakuna matata.”
He said he prays one day Nigeria can have their own airline like us. I said, “I pray for you people too.”
My week in Zanzibar was the shortest of my life. I still tell people that I may be physically present in Lagos but spiritually, I am still in Zanzibar. I may not have visited a country westerners consider as developed but they were organized enough to get me wondering how I have been able to survive the madness in Nigeria, especially when you compare the professionalism in Nigerian Airports against the others. At least no one at Addis Ababa Airport and Zanzibar Airport asked me if I am a virgin.
Travelling has made me an Oliver Twist and I haven’t gotten tired of documenting my experience. A large part of my leisure time is now spent on looking up affordable flights and reading up on more tourist friendly nations in Africa and the rest of the world generally. My faith is saying this is the start of many more travel experiences to come. Until then, Kwaheri.