By Winfred Nyokabi
What plans has Rona thwarted in your life? Well, for me, I had been saving for as long as I can remember for a trip to actually take a walk at the footsteps of Jesus when He lived as a handsome young lad challenging the sages of His time.
That dream was just about to become reality had someone not eaten a raw bat somewhere far, far away. Now I will have to add a few more shillings to my budget to take that trip later. Anyhow, since I am granddaughter of a freedom fighter, I was taught from an early age that any journey needs to be meticulously planned months in advance giving time for any eventualities that may arise in the process.
I went ahead and booked my flights, got accommodation in a monastery and finally secured a visa appointment. This story is about my visit to Israel while still in the land of cayenne pepper.
Those who have interacted with me back in the armpits of Laikipia will tell you I never get lost. You bring me to your house once, be sure I will never forget that route. Those skills clearly took a different metal tube from the one I boarded on my way here. I get lost in a supermarket these days. Sigh.
You know the way we give directions back home, ‘take the first junction you meet, beat a corner, walk/drive/ride until you find a mabati gate, pass that one and count two gates. Your destination is on your left hand facing the mountain’.
Shock on me! Here you get an address with GPS coordinates that you add to your Google maps and it will give you the bus number, duration needed to get there and how many stops the bus will take. The architects here have also never heard of the word personality.
All houses and streets look the same. The number of times I have alighted at the wrong stop thinking it’s the same place I was last week are uncountable. This must be the way I missed future husband probably, nilishuka basi kabla nifike alipokuwa. (I alighted before I got to him)
I had all my paperwork in order
The embassy did not disappoint. They sent me an address and a time. Knowing my newly acquired talents of getting lost in broad daylight, I left the house two hours earlier to factor in the time I will waste looking for someone to ask which the correct bus stop towards my direction is.
I had all my paperwork in order, double checked that my fingers did not have any new cuts. I hear they might deny you biometric registration if you have the tinniest cuts. This is a rumour. Clearly I have also become a rumour monger. This is the point we invoke the help of the ancestors once again.
Checking into my journey planner, yes, I have that nowadays, it showed I would be there in thirty minutes. I packed a book just in case I arrive too early and have to wait outside or at a coffee shop nearby. As usual, I stayed true to getting lost and did several rounds in the same spot trying to locate the bus stop.
A police car parked next to me and the lady got busy scrolling her phone. I had promised myself I would figure this out without asking anyone. I still had an hour and a half left before my appointment. Eventually I saw the bus stop which was right in front of me but in the wrong direction, by the way, did I ever tell you these people drive on the wrong side of the road? I mean, who drives on the right side?
Twenty minutes later, the lady in the app tells me to alight. The place has a school and no sign of security presence that I attribute to embassies. I follow the path she is leading me through and I start to be suspicious of her. I almost never get it right the first time. This time I was on the right track the whole time!
Three minutes’ walk, I come across a barrier, like the one at that military barracks I like to brag about. Still no sign of security personnel. The lady keeps telling me to walk straight. I decide to approach the barrier and try to go round it. Boom! A voice from nowhere! ‘Can I help you?’ it bellows.
I get cocky and answer yes
Waaaa, I forgot I have the genes of a freedom fighter! I mean, I have the eye for security cameras, I could see none here. Who was talking to me and how did they know I was there? I stammer my name as written in my primary school leaving certificate. Then I remember I’m in the land of cayenne pepper, and I start the name again.
The questioning continues, remember I’m an hour earlier for my appointment (victory dance right here). Eventually the secret eyes are satisfied with my answers and they give me directions of where to put my bag. If you have been with me this far, you have probably seen my large black bag that I take with me everywhere, whether it has anything or not.
That one. I’m asked to put it on a pit outside, take off my jacket and any weapons I have. I place it on top of the big stone and the eyes tell me no, ‘lift up the lid and place your bag inside the pit’, they say. I must have looked ridiculously confused at such absurd directions. He assured me it’s safe to leave it. I still see no cameras!
I start walking past the barrier, and keep looking at the app to see if I have the house number correctly. They send out a uniformed Hungarian policeman to meet me at the entrance. To be honest, I breathed a sigh of relief at seeing that uniform. I mean, c’mon, we have all watched American feel good movies, and there was an invisible voice talking to me.
He verifies my passport, he can only ask my name, the two English words he can speak. I’m so nervous I cannot do small talk and practise the few words I have picked. In a minute, this handsome son of a woman shows up, asks if I have any weapons, this is like the umpteenth time this question comes up!
I get cocky and answer yes, and take out my rosary. If you know you know. I have to pass through a scanner, like the one at the airport or Nyayo house without my extra clothes. Temperature is still below ten, of course I’m wearing half my wardrobe. I can hear Mr handsome talking with someone else in Hebrew, yes I watch movies.
I have no idea how this voice can see me
He is asked to make me walk through it one more time. I still cannot see any security cameras. I have no idea how this voice can see me. At this point I am completely convinced they are truly the chosen race of God. How can I explain this? Small talk once more, and I bring up a touchy subject of whether it really is Israel or Palestine as my former roommate insists, we laugh about it.
He asks one more time if I have a weapon, I take out the chaplet to St. Michael and smile back and we share a hearty laugh. The voice is not impressed and the app is given an order to leave me alone.
He shows me the door to go to and he leaves. I finish my interview, there was an absolutely delightful lady at the office, and it’s time to go my way. The voice escorts me all the way to the exit.
Freaked out? Heckya! The difference between the American embassy and this is like night and day. There is no show of might here, yet the efficiency is on point.
Ps// future husband, please come with a sense of direction. We both cannot be getting lost in a parking lot.