We start some journeys
Without knowing how we will get there
We sometimes begin and end at the same time.
It is the second trip,
The next attempt,
The one last try
That might make all the difference.
Yamousssoukro. The word; The place; Once my home embodies so much.
At a pivotal time when I yearned for a detour in the suits and heels career path I had chosen, Yakro was the answer.
It took a year to save and some months to convince myself. Soon thereafter my bags were packed. The first stop was Lagos, Nigeria for a 3 weeks visit, then Yakro for a 3 month trial. So when I arrived in Lagos July, 2014, nothing prepared me for what was to come next.
Yamoussoukro is the official capital of Côte D’Ivoire. You know how everybody has heard of Lagos and many have to be reminded that Abuja is actually the capital city? Yakro shares a similar tussle with Abidjan.
French West Africa was my overall destination. As Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone battled to contain Ebola in the months before my arrival in Lagos, I knew I was in a safe zone. Côte D’Ivoire shares borders with 2 of the above named countries but I wasn’t afraid.
I booked a round trip ticket with Camair-Co after combing the entire Lagos Island for their ticketing office. At least they were friendly and helpful. My departure was for August ending so all I had to do was wait.
Things took a different turn when the first Ebola case surfaced in Lagos. He flew in via Asky airlines and things went beserk shortly after. One of the most contagious diseases had found its way into a compact city teeming with over 20 million people. The stakes were high and the casualties kept increasing.
Rumors circulated that flights were being cancelled. It was about a week to my scheduled trip and I remained optimistic. This journey was for a good cause so nothing bad was going to marr it. Not even Ebola. So that day when my phone rang and the voice on the line identified with Camair-co airlines, everything else he or she said dimmed in comparison to the reality that I may not fly to Côte D’Ivoire after all.
My mind was set though. I was going. I sat down and did all possible airline permutations and combinations that would defy the said circular that restricted anyone who had spent some days in an Ebola stricken county. The solution: fly to Ghana first then Côte D’Ivoire next.
When I walked into the Emirates ticketing office at Churchgate Towers, I had no idea it was going to be a 4 hours ordeal. It was finally my turn and I presented my proposed itinerary, a one-way leg from Accra to Abidjan. My heart started to sink when the officer reached for his phone to confirm any travel restrictions for Nigerians. But, I exited the building that day smiling and assured with my ticket in hand;a guarantee that I was a step closer to Yakro.
African World Airlines was my Lagos to Accra carrier and I felt so much anxiety following the toll Ebola was taking in the city. The pressure, the mental anguish, the stories, the what ifs weighed heavily on my mind. I spent a day obtaining the new yellow card form and felt feverish on departure day.
The Kotoka International Airport was crawling with medical checkpoints. Questionnaires were filled, thermometers beeped, and sanitizing stations were utilized as we made our way to the baggage area. My Emirates flight was for 2pm so I had time to eat breakfast and nap.
I hoped it was a bad dream when I stood on the line for check in and the officer began a rehearsed script to the effect of why I wouldn’t be allowed to fly. I was horrified. I began a tirade of how unfair it was for the Emirates ticketing officers in Lagos to say I was good to fly while Accra was singing a different tune.
Tears followed as reality dawned that being in an Ebola infected zone had edged me further away from Yakro. 3 months in an Ebola free zone would clear my hazardous travel record, but I didn’t have plans to stay in Ghana. I returned to Lagos via Aerocontractors at past midnight, stumped and surrendered to the melancholy that accompanies self defeat.