Note: this is delayed post....you might call delayed reaction ;)
Per normal when blogging, I am sitting on a plane. But this flight is different. I did not buy a ticket or have any plans of being on it. Even better, I am not sure exactly where it is going or when it will get there. For the first time ever, I have been deported.
Earlier this evening, I arrived in Cameroon set to spend the next few days with some of the largest ISPs (Internet Service Providers), tech hubs and mobile operators. But, it looks like after all, I won't be. Why, you ask? Due to the principle of treat others as they treat you.
I arrived in Cameroon without a visa but with multiple letters supporting my visit and lots of official documentation. The embassy website says if there is no consulate in your country of residence, you can get a visa on arrival. Cameroon has no presence in Ghana.
To be honest, I am still wondering what happened. I got off the plane, rapidly completed my entry card and headed for to immigration desk, was told to stand aside and then met with a heckle of aggressive female immigration officers. They denied my documents, my kindness, attempts at persuasion, multiple calls to high officials, sly offers of payment and them and finally a few tears. Nothing could change their minds because as they put it, in my country, without a visa, they could not even look out of the window of the plane. This was reciprocity - they were treating me as the US treated them.
Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about it. I strongly agree with the biblical principle to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But this requires and 'you and me' in the situation rather than an 'us and them.' To these women, I was a them. Despite my attempts at becoming human rather than a object of punishment, I could not. I could not appeal to any commonality or humanity.
Perhaps she was once deported or has a son in the US who can not come home to visit as he is there illegally. I could not deny her claims, if she was missing even the slightest document or stamp, she would be denied access to my country.
We have lots of information and people to process everyday. We naturally stereotype and categorize them to make life easier, and to give ourselves an auto-treat- response to others. I was categorized and treated according as I was not able to break out of the 'us and them' for her.
But there is a bright side. Once back on the same plane I arrived in, the flight attendance felt compassion for a 'me' and were incredibly kind. The end result, flight went to Point Noir. Not sure where that is. I was not either. I rang the call bell to ask......it was the Congo. you can bet I had no visa there either.
Luckily, the plane was sleeping in Togo and the crew let me stay on. Once on ground around 11 PM, the Senegalese cabin crew, helped me get a visa, drove me to a small hotel, had the airlines pay for it and my breakfast and then arranged to have a driver bring me back today for a flight to Ghana. They did not have to. I could have slept in the airport but luckily for me, they saw a single tired person, not a them worth attacking while weak. They treated me as they hope to be treated.
Sum of story, I was deported to the Congo. 30 hours = Ghana - Togo - Benin - Cameroon - Congo - Togo - Ghana