Saturday, January 19, 2008

The 102nd good thing about Lagos: I realized I actually WANTED to get back here.

Getting out of Houston is a bit of a chore -- making sure the house, pool and yard are all as ready as possible for a period of neglect, along with shopping and packing as much as possible in the bags. It was a relief to get to the airport -- I got a ride with an airport shuttle for the first time and the traffic was bad, so I was really worried about missing the flight. Little did I know that the bigger challenge was yet to come. I had a skycap help me with my bags because they were quite heavy, but I still needed to check in inside. He weighed them and I needed to offload some things from one of them to get into the "overweight" allowance. I knew I was going to have to pay extra, but they currently won't allow anything over 70 pounds. It's $50 a bag for 50-70 pounds (I'm saving almost that much just in the cream cheese I brought back), but when I got one bag down to 71.5 lbs, they said I still needed to take out that extra pound and a half -- they are very particular. But I had left some room in my carry-on bag to allow for this, though I already had put a heavy transformer and some books -- the heaviest stuff in there. But when I finally got up to the agent, she looked at my passport and said "I can't let you on the plane because your passport expires in June and you have to have a valid passport for 6 months." My heart just sank when I heard that! I was blown away because I was specifically told by the US consulate here last fall when I went in to get more pages in my passport that I shouldn't bother getting my new passport in the States. They said it would be much easier and less hassle to do it here through them and it just takes 2 weeks and then I can get my new Nigerian visa while here which is less hassle. Nobody said anything about a 6 month rule about getting in the country. Getting a new passport and Nigerian visa in Houston probably would have kept me there for a month or so! Normally, I wouldn't feel too bad about a month more in Houston, but after I went to all the effort of packing my HEAVY bags and getting to the airport and getting the house ready to leave, I didn't want to go back and start all over and deal with those hassles. I asked the Delta agent how somebody was supposed to know something like that and he didn't have an answer for me. The supervisor who was called to look into it pored over his computer screen and finally found a way to go around it because I was a resident alien and not a visitor so they could get me in on a different rule, and also because I was on a return ticket and not beginning a journey. But maybe he just finally accepted my pleadings that it wouldn't matter at all to the immigration people here. They don't hardly even look at your passport picture page, they mostly care that you have a valid visa. But it was scary for a while there and I finally got my boarding pass like 10 minutes before the flight was supposed to leave. They told me to run for it, because the plane wouldn't wait for me -- when they were the ones that created my delay! Good thing there wasn't a line at security! But then the plane ended up sitting there for a while because someone was unable to take the flight after checking in and they had to get his bags off -- so I was able to see my bags loaded on the plane. That was a relief, because I had a cooler with my lunch meat and cheese and I didn't want it to have to wait another 24 hours to get on the next flight to Lagos. The rest of the trip was comparatively very easy: a flight of 1 1/2 hours to Atlanta, a wait of a few hours and then a flight of less than 11 hours to Lagos. I had an entire center row to stretch out in, though I didn't really sleep. But my bags got here fine and the stuff in the cooler was still cold. Of course, the traffic getting home from the airport was another story!

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