by admin

London was a series of connections, bridging my travels in France and my future projets.

As soon as I arrived at the Victoria Coach Station, I met a classmate with whom I studied in Iowa and who happened to be in England. I also got to meet my cousin Kayembe for the very first time.

We all headed to an English pub.

“A gastro pub,” the waitress specified.

None of us knew what that meant, including my cousin who had been living in England for the past 25 years. We figured it must have something to do with waiting for the waitress to serve you, instead of ordering at the bar.

While we waited for our food, my friend explained he was working on an economic system that intended to bring about a paradigm shift. I was intrigued and wanted to interview his boss. My friend called him to see if he was available within the next 12 hours before my flight the next day. Yes, he was available, but only if we went to see him that instant; afterwards, he was in meetings until midnight.

My stomach was growling for the food we were still waiting for and I really wanted to chat more with my cousin who had driven 3 hours from the suburbs to see me.

I had to let go of the interview. I was rewarded with a beautiful plate of salmon and potatoes.

When I asked my cousin for genealogy information, he said he had so many brothers and sisters that he did not know all their names, never mind their birth dates.

“How many siblings do you have?” I wondered. I know the names of all my 20 siblings. How bad could it be for him?

“I have 40 siblings!” he declared.

Forty? I am so glad I stayed at the pub instead of taking off on an interview. Who could pass out such opportunity to update a family tree!

My cousin is very British. It was interesting to talk to him and have a feeling that I was talking to a Brit. Except for his utmost generosity and compassion, there was not much Congolese left in him. He was skeptical about everything. Is that a British trait?

After the pub, my cousin hopped on his 4X4 to return home and the rest of us got on a double-decker bus. Another first time experience. I certainly looked like a tourist, snapping photographs every 2 minutes.

We arrived at the place where I would be couch surfing for the night, at Thulane’s apartment. Tall and big, this British guy of Zimbabwean origin certainly made an impression everywhere he went. His quick, firing mind was just as impressive. I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. talking (well, mostly listening to him) about black people’s condition in the world today. He is such a good orator that I pulled out my flip to film him.

The next day, as Thulane walked me to the closest subway (or tube, as they call it in London), we learned that my flight to New York was postponed. Perfect! It gave us more time to discuss how to raise awareness and re-build blacks’ identity with my media project. Sitting on a bench in the subway station, we let several trains pass by as we worked on the marketing of the project.

Thulane’s one liner description of what our film crew would be sent me rolling down with laughter. We must have been quite sight on the tube platform.

At Heathrow airport, I got on the plane, realizing that my time in London had been productive beyond my expectations: with personal and professionnal connections made, and 40 people added to my family tree. All this, on 2 hours of sleep.



by admin

A world without border. A rallye against Anglo-French Border Control (Photo from www.indymedia.org.uk)

A world without border. A rallye against Anglo-French Border Control (Photo from www.indymedia.org.uk)

In England, immigration officers do not discriminate. They are mean to everyone. The fact that you are American, Senegalese or Chinese is of little importance to them.

That’s a stark difference from the U.S., where I saw an immigration officer at JFK airport joke with two British passengers.

But here it is Great Brittain, you see. They offer no smile, just posters saying you better be nice to them otherwise you get arrested.

So at the border between France and England, we get off the bus and apprehensively wait in line to show our passports. In the queue, a French worker, who is directing people to the appropriate windows, breaks the ice.

“What’s your nationality?”
“USA? Oh! The country of Chuck Norris.”

I laugh and relax. Even the tight lip British officer at the counter cannot wipe out the smile on my face.

“How do you get to travel? You’re a student.”
“Well, I am also a journalist,” I tell him.

I am fortunate, he quickly stamps my passport and hands it back to me without a word. No ‘Have a nice day!’ or ‘Bonne journée!’ or even ‘Welcome to England’.

It could have been worse, I say to myself. I could have been detained for more questioning. That’s what happened to a friend of mine … because he told the truth:

“I am in England to work on a system that will change the world economy.”

His truth seemed too suspicious to them. They interrogated him for 8 hours.

Maybe immigration gates should be illegal. I once met a parliament member of Burkina Faso who said visas are unethical. They are used to keep the poors outside of one’s doors.

With my brand new U.S. passport, I quickly pass through border controls without a visa; the same will be for a European Union passport or a Canadian one. Had I been using a Congolese travel document, it would have taken me months to obtain a visa and details of my bank account would have come into play.

My new American nationality is opening doors.