A Memorable Homecoming (Part 1)

03/10/2010 20:55

March 3rd, 2010

The author and his niece visited home for the first time in years. In the first installment of a three-part article, we learn of the difficulties of travel preparations. Getting an Affidavit of Travel Permission notarized for little Mariama turned out to be such a hassle.

Chaotic Departure

By Amadou Basiru Jallow

It is December 22, and the long awaited day is finally here. I took off work that evening to pick up my eight year-old niece who was anxiously waiting in Boston for my arrival. We had been planning our trip to Africa for several months (since March, 2009), and now the day had finally come. She would call me on the telephone and all we talked about was our trip. Sometimes, we would stay on the phone for more than an hour. When she was ready to hang up, she would tell me, “Uncle, I cannot wait, Mariama’s first time in Africa, we are going to have a lot of fun, right uncle?” I would answer on the other side, “Yes, Mariama. We sure are going to have a lot of fun.”

I arrived in Boston the following morning (December 23rd). It was freezing. It had been snowing for the past couple of days. Mariama had gone to school. Later that afternoon, I went out with her mom to sign and notarize her Affidavit of Travel Permission that I had already drafted in Phoenix. We were supposed to get this taken care of as quickly as possible so we could make it home in time enough for Mariama’s school bus. Instead, her mom decided to make some last minute shopping. We hadn't realized that it was about closing time for most banks and we had not signed and notarized the travel document. We had to have one done if Mariama was to make her trip to Africa. We ran to the closest bank. Thank God! It was still open. Unfortunately, the notary agent was off for the day.

We got directions to the next bank. It was closing on our arrival. So, we could not get the document signed and notarized at this bank, either. Now, emotions were running wild. Is Mariama not going to make her trip to Africa this time again? No, she has to, I said to myself. But our anxieties about a travel affidavit were taking the preliminary joy of our first Gambian trip away from us. To make matters worse, we got a phone call from Mariama’s aunt saying that the school had telephoned her because they could not reach the mother on her home phone. Mariama had been acting up. She refused to join the school bus home. She was hoping that her mother and I would pick her up.

Now, we were all getting more frustrated than ever. I was freezing. The temperature could have been in the single digits or below zero. What about Mariama? The school couldn't close until Mariama was picked up. The principal was at the airport traveling for Christmas and couldn't leave until he/she knew that Mariama had been picked up. Mariama’s mother didn't want to call the school before she got there because the aunt had told the school that she was on her way in a taxi. The official keeping watch over Mariama at the school rang up the mother constantly. It was hard to fetch a transport to the school right away. We could not find a cab. It got so bad that I was looking for the police to beg for a ride. During all this time we were still trying to locate a public notary office so we could get the travel document signed and notarized. Our plans for the day seemed to be going awry.

Eventually, we found a public notary office called ALLAH MATHEMATICS ALLAH. Allah is Great! I said. At least now the travel document would be taken care of. Now, we had one less problem to think about. At this moment, the school official called again. Now, I was afraid that if we ignored her call, she might be tempted to call the police and even get the Child Protective Services (CPS) involved. So, I decided to answer her call hoping that I would be able to calm her down. But the lady was frustrated! May be we had been ignoring her phone calls for too long. Or, she just wanted to be home early and plan for Christmas and was upset that we had been unsettling her plans.

Either way, it was evident that she was frustrated from her tone of voice. She said to me in a rather angry tone, “I hope Mariama knows her home” and then she hung up. Well, I thought she was going to drive Mariama home and if she did not find us there then obviously she would call the police. The mom couldn't ask Mariama’s aunt to go pick Mariama up because she was at work. I insisted that she call and let me do the talking. This family matter at hand was more important than work. When she picked up the phone, just as the school official did to me, I went straight to the point with a frustrated voice. I said to her, you have to be at the house right now or have somebody go there right now. The school official is on her way with Mariama, and it would be too bad if she did not find anyone home. She sent somebody to the house, and Mariama’s mom also called one of the neighbors to pick Mariama up when she got there with the school official. In the meantime, the two of us were freezing on the streets trying to get a ride home. For some reason, we could not find a cab. We had to ask some private motorists, one after another, until we found one who was willing to drive us home for a fee. We kept wondering what might have happened to Mariama as we drove home. We kept hoping for the best.

Moments later, we arrived at the house. The school official had gone and left Mariama with the neighbor. Her mother went over to the neighbor and picked her up. When they walked into the house, Mariama was looking timid. She knew what she had done was wrong. She walked over to me with a guilty face and apologized. I did not want her feeling guilty on the day we were supposed to leave. I just advised her not to do such things again and had her apologize to her mom. Her childish antics that day had caused us so much emotional headache. We never expected such a dramatic day especially at this time. But now the drama was all over. We did not have to worry about the school official again because Mariama was not going back to school in the next three weeks. We were all happy that everything had worked out great and Mariama would be making her trip to Africa.

Several hours later that evening, we were getting ready to travel to New York from where we would be flying the following day. We all dressed up in our traveling clothes. I wore my pair of jeans with a dark-blue T-shirt that had my company logo on it, a sweater, and a black leather jacket on top. Mariama quickly pointed out to me, “Uncle that was the same T-shirt you wore last time when we missed our flight.” She was right. I had worn this particular T-shirt in preparation for the dusty roads in Africa. Our original trip was scheduled way back in July, 2009. Unfortunately, we missed the flight. We left for the airport rather late. We decided to leave Boston the same day we were supposed to leave New York for Africa. It is only four (4) hours’ drive from Boston to New York. It never occurred to us that we would miss our flight especially when we had been planning the trip since March.

Amadou with his niece Mariama, in Maryland.

The driver picked us up at 8 that very morning and our flight wasn’t until 4:50pm. I still can't understand why we missed that flight. I believed that it was God’s will. Or maybe we should have left Boston a day earlier. Anyway, it was very interesting to see Mariama determined to make her trip to Africa. She was seven (7) years old at the time. When she saw me all frustrated with the Delta Airlines customer service agents trying to make travel arrangements, she did not know what was going on. She thought we did not have enough money for the tickets.  She said to me, “Uncle, I have money, you can use it to pay for the ticket.” The funny thing about it was that she had only four (4) dollars in her pockets. For some reason, we were unable to find a flight within the next two weeks. Thus, we were forced to abort our travel plans and reschedule another trip at a later time which turned out to be in December.

Mariama never wanted to go back to Boston before our initial scheduled return date of August 1st, 2009 because she had told every one of her friends that she was going to Africa and would not be coming back until August. We then traveled to Maryland where a friend was happy to have us for several days until we were able to overcome our disappointments.  We had a great time in Maryland.


Anyway, back to the trip at hand. In case you were wondering if I had changed my T-shirt, no, I did not. Few minutes later, the driver was honking downstairs. We hurried with our luggage. Finally, it dawned on us that our African trip was becoming a reality. Mariama started crying as we boarded the van. Her brother also started crying and calling out her name. Family bonding was being temporarily broken. Mariama was heading for her first major adventure to Africa. She kept crying until she felt asleep. We arrived in New York early in the following morning (December 24). We had a great time with our hosts. Later that afternoon, we visited my friend’s mom who was admitted at the hospital before heading for the airport. Having learned our lesson, this time around, we arrived at airport well before boarding started. We were not going to take any chances this time. After checking in and going through security, we finally boarded our flight.

In a few minutes, the plane was taxiing off the runway. And into the wintry skies, Gambia, here we come! 


Amadou and Mariama on board the Banjul-Barra Ferry


Amadou Basiru Jallow (Cherno Mbaila) is studying Nuclear Medicine Technology at Northern Arizona University in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. He is also a member of My Basse editorial board.


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