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Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The voices in my head began shouting louder as soon as I stepped out of the taxi and rolled my luggage into Boston Logan Airport. I know the voices well; they often come to plague me when I travel around, when I need a passport, and I cringe when I think of how weak my Kenyan passport is; how I am allowed to travel to relatively fewer countries. This time, the voice began scowling about what I considered inequality of the highest level: I need a visa to go to South Africa but South Africans don’t need a visa to come to Kenya. Kenyan government, why?

The voice visited me last three months ago, before I met her. Glinda.

By the time she walked up to me, I had already been daydreaming about angels—perhaps a young swanky man or woman professional (sex didn’t really matter) who would walk up to me and swipe a credit card. Or maybe an older citizen, more likely a greying old lady with a walking stick who would take pity on me, and grant me a portion of her inheritance upon seeing my tears. I never imagined the angel as Glinda — big-boned, bob-cut permed hair, traces of a grey testosterone-induced beard, and a drawling Jamaican accent, the kind that makes you daydream about eating banana fritters and sipping on coconut juice under the shade of a palm in a Kingston beach, the kind that makes you lull about as if to a reggae beat by Gramps Morgan, a tune like Wash Away the Tears, a voice to still your soul.

“May I sit here?” she asked me, training her gaze to the seat next to me. “Of-course, I answered quickly.”

And when she had sat down, she began.

-Are you African?-


-Where from?-


-You live in Nairobi-

-Yes, I do-

-Do you like it there?-

-No I don’t. I prefer the countryside but my parents work there-

-I’ve come today to make reservations to go to Ghana-

-Oh wow, what are you doing there?-

-Art. I’m going for the artwork-

-Wonderful, so you’re an artist?-

-Yes, I am-

The conversation went along as she told me about her own Jamaican background, how she came to the US to study but ended up staying, working, starting a family, befriending Africans, and teaching high school English. She talked unceasingly, and with each word, I began thinking less about my predicament, the fact that I needed $1000 for a ticket change as a result of missing one of my connecting flights due to weather conditions. We walked over to the ticketing counter at four o’clock, as soon as the British airways counter opened up for business. An Indian man went before us, and we remained second in line, behind the same cart, like mother and daughter. But the Indian man took an insanely long time, and patience began to wane. Glinda began tapping her foot, looking right and left for other attendants who might rescue us from the three-hour wait for the counter to open, and then the arduous wait for service.

“This is the worst service ever,” she said to me.

“Mmmh...” I muttered under my breath. At high-pressure times like those, I often resort to my best behaviour, my sweet voice, and humility at its best. Surely, if someone sees tears tracing my eyelids, they’d be more merciful, right?

“Excuse me lady, we be waiting here a long time with nobody to help us!” she accused the manager overseeing the operations. I was shocked, betrayed, Glinda had messed up the plan, the one where we look helpless and offer the agents a chance to redeem themselves through us.

But Glinda seemed to have instituted a paradigm shift. Visibly shaken, the manager found another agent to cater to us. I chuckled under my breath as I imagined the manager interpreting Glinda’s words as, “I’ll rearrange your face if you make us wait a minute longer”.

Then the new lady handed me my ticket home, no questions asked, no eyebrows raised, no money solicited. My heart swelled with joy, and the voices left. In between muttering, “You are truly God, You are God”, I braked the cart and looked over at Glinda. She wasn’t just an older caring woman, she was loud. She complained for about the long lines. She set a precedent for me. For those who know me well, you will know that I am non-confrontational, and where possible, I like to keep my peace (unless of course, we are competing, which becomes a different story.) Glinda had stood by me on the line like a mother protecting her young, shouting at the attendants for the worst and most incompetent service she had ever seen. And they were scared.

So when the voices revisit, I remember Glinda. Angel.

Not because I forgot to bring tea from home for her, or that I’m not sure if I’ll ever see her again. Remembering Glinda reminds me that the voices are subject to God, reminds me to be thankful because I’m never alone, even in the midst of my most dramatic travel experiences. (Sigh with me if you know all I'm talking about)

God is truly God over everything, even the little things, like thirty-two pages of an embossed travel document.

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