A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part 30, read it Here
The flight that would take me from Sierra Leone to Las Palmas was a Ghana Airways DC 10 aircraft, and it would travel from Freetown to Banjul, and then to our final destination, Las Palmas. I was nervous at the airport—I didn’t want anything to go wrong this time. It was impossible to relax. Fortunately, I became friends with two other men who were traveling on the same package. One was a Lebanese businessman based in Freetown who was going to the fair to explore a potential business opportunity, and the other was named Danny, a young hustler like me who was once repatriated from Las Palmas. Hearing his story helped boost my confidence. He saw the same opportunity that I had seen on this package trip and couldn’t believe how easy it had been so far. The three of us stuck together until our first flight took off, and then again during our short layover in Banjul. To ensure that everything went smoothly for me, I had brought some expensive traditional clothes that I had procured from Nigeria especially for the trip. I also bought a costly briefcase, all in an attempt to have a semblance of a legitimate businessman. As soon as we got off the plane in Las Palmas, Tony gathered our entire group and had everyone turn their passports over to him, which he took to immigration for group processing.
It took all my effort to calm down and avoid drawing attention. I pretended to be cheerful and engaged the other guys in conversation. Those were the most excruciating moments of my entire life up to date, waiting to fulfill a lifelong dream. After what seemed like a decade, Tony walked out of the immigration office, announcing that we should gather our luggage and proceed to the buses waiting to transport us to our hotel. I couldn’t believe my ears. At long last, I had made it to Europe without being repatriated! This experience was nothing short of amazing; everyone at the airport was cordial and treated me with respect.
We collected our bags, and our group boarded two luxurious buses. Everything smelled nice and fresh, and the bus was the most beautiful and cleanest one I had ever been in. As we headed to the hotel, I looked out the window. In my nervousness during landing, I was too occupied with my thoughts to look out and enjoy the view of the city. Now I couldn’t help but admire the magnificent scene. There were a lot of shiny cars. The streets were filled with mostly white people. I wondered if this town also experienced frequent power failures like most parts of Africa. I asked myself why there was so much light everywhere; there was hardly an unlit spot.
We drove past beautiful beaches with boats and yachts. I had only seen such scenes on television and postcards, and was overwhelmed to finally experience it live. For a minute, I was completely lost in my own world until someone tapped me and told me we had reached the hotel. As we disembarked from the buses, Tony handed us our passports. I flipped through mine and there it was: a one-month Spanish visiting visa.
At the hotel reception hall, Tony gave us an orientation lecture and a schedule for the next three days, as well as pamphlets, maps and city guidebooks. We received our room keys and I departed with my two new friends. The three of us happened to be on the same floor. We agreed to meet later.
Walking into my room was another eye-opening experience. I had never stayed in such a beautiful room. Everything smelled nice. The linens were clean and ironed. The towels were in several shapes and sizes. There were so many towels I wondered how one person could use them all. I turned on the television—so many channels. I didn’t understand Spanish, but the reception was so much clearer and brighter than in Nigeria and other African countries that I had been to. It took me a half hour to learn how to turn on the heater. I had never used one. However, on this trip, I was much better prepared and remembered to bring some winter jackets. Minutes later, I took a long, hot bath, afterward using some lotion that I figured a previous guest had left behind—I only later found out that the hotel supplied soap and lotion for their guests. Relaxed and happy, I climbed into bed and drifted off into the best sleep I had ever had.
The next morning I woke up very early with a jolt. I was confused by the beautiful environment, but after a minute, I remembered: I am now in Europe. I quickly did some pushups and jumped in the shower, then got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. My two new friends were already waiting when I arrived. The restaurant had prepared a breakfast buffet for our group like nothing I had ever experienced before. Never in my life had I seen so much food. When I had seen images like that on television, I always thought they were just props. But now, right in front of me, were all kinds of food for me to choose from: continental breakfast, Spanish breakfast, Canary Island typical breakfast. My friends and I indulged ourselves. I ate like I had never eaten before. Tony noticed how I was gorging myself and reminded me that there would be more for lunch and dinner. At eight o’clock, we all got into the buses and went to the trade fair.
The fairground was huge, a magnificent display of the latest and greatest technology and products. There was a wide array of stands and kiosks—so much to see. Our group members wandered off in different directions, having been advised that the buses would return to the hotel at 1 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. In the meantime, the idea was that we go around and check out the stands, and possibly make business connections. Danny and I stuck with our businessman friend, Faruk, going from one stand to another. Faruk was excited because he saw many items that interested him and had marketable potential in Sierra Leone.
After roaming around for three hours, we got some lunch at the food stand. Again, I was amazed—this time to see people buying and eating whole grilled chickens. Where I came from, nobody ate a whole chicken. You were considered lucky if you got two pieces of meat in your soup or rice. Faruk treated each of us to a whole chicken with some delicious grilled potatoes. I attacked mine with gusto, but as soon as I started eating, my appetite shrunk. I was not yet acquainted with the kinds of spices used on the chicken. Apparently, one had to acquire a taste for Western food before one could fully appreciate it. I did justice to the potatoes and tried to eat most of the chicken; somebody else had paid for it, and the least I could do was show appreciation by eating it.
In the evening we went to the hotel bar and had a few drinks. We were there until almost midnight. I was low on cash, and in a few days I would have to leave the hotel. Our package was just for four nights, after which we were supposed to fly back to Africa. I had three more days to make my move. I heard back in Africa that European women were generous. It was said that European women loved African men and would often provide accommodation for them in order to have a relationship with them. I was also told that one could easily meet women at the clubs, so it was important that I get there sooner rather than later. Maybe I would be lucky and meet someone who would like me enough to provide housing. Danny hoped he would luck out with a Spanish girl, too. Faruk seemed intrigued by our situation and wanted to go with us wherever we went, including the clubs, so he could see how we would make our move.
In my room that night, I knelt down and thanked the Almighty for what He had done for me so far, allowing me opportunity to enter Europe without a hitch. I prayed for guidance and protection, and that He would not permit a situation whereby I would be repatriated to Africa.
I woke up the next morning very conscious of my environment. After breakfast we were bused back to the fairground. Being at the trade fair this time was no longer exciting, not because I had seen all there was to see, but because I couldn’t continue pretending to be a businessman. My hustler friend and I were just passing time at the fair, waiting for the right opportunity to split from the group. Danny and I couldn’t leave the group just then, because that would raise suspicion. We had to play along until the last day, when we would simply not show up for the flight back to Africa. Meanwhile, our biggest priority was where to stay once we moved from the hotel.
That afternoon, after having lunch at the hotel, we walked around Las Palmas window-shopping. In the evening, we went to an address where a cousin of Danny’s lived. Danny’s cousin was happy to see him and told Danny that he could stay at his place—which still left me without accommodation plans. After dinner, Danny’s cousin decided to take us to another hotel to pick up a friend, and then we’d drive to a town on the outskirts called Playa del Ingles. Danny and I waited in the hotel bar while the cousin went to call his friend. In a few minutes, he returned with a guy who—to my shock and surprise—was none other than Nick. He recognized me immediately and we embraced. By the strangest coincidence, he was staying at that hotel. He was impatient to hear what my story was because he knew who my friends were back in Sierra Leone. Nick had assumed a lot of things about me, and vice versa. He didn’t believe my story about coming to Las Palmas for a trade fair and that I might be staying permanently; he thought I came to sell drugs.
Nick pulled me aside and we went into his room, where he told me to be straight with him—he would find me a place to stay, but I needed to level with him. He insisted that I would have nothing to worry about, as he was willing to show me the ropes. If I was going to survive in Las Palmas, I knew I would have to play smart. Since he opened that door, I walked right through it and never looked back.
From that moment I started living a lie. I told Nick that he was right and that my story about the trade fair was just a front. I told him that back in Sierra Leone we had just received a large consignment of Columbian white (cocaine), and my partners had sent me down to Las Palmas to make contacts and establish buyers. In order not to mess things up, it was decided that I shouldn’t carry any drugs on me when I came. But within three weeks, I was expecting three “suicide carriers” (individual drug traffickers who carried the drugs in their stomachs, and when they arrived at their destinations, would purge themselves and retrieve the drugs from their stool) who would carry more than one kilogram in samples. When we had established credible buyers, large consignments would follow.
Nick bought my lies and was so excited that he urged me to move into his hotel room, and he would pay. I didn’t want to seem too anxious; I needed to start playing my role perfectly. I told him that I didn’t want to share his room for now because I had two more days that I had already paid for at my hotel. He told me not to worry about anything, and that within the next forty-eight hours he would find me a place to stay. Nick had been living in Las Palmas for a long time now. He was married to a Spanish lady, whom he divorced, and they had two beautiful kids together. He also had Spanish citizenship. After his divorce, he had moved into a hotel, which was convenient for his drug business.
We went back down and joined the others, who were surprised at my sudden change of status. Within a few minutes I went from being a nobody, just tagging along, to being the most important person in the group. Nick was telling everyone about my friends and how I was a very important businessman in Sierra Leone. He flattered me so much, but I couldn’t tell him to stop. I no longer had to spend my money—Nick took care of my bills. I wasn’t surprised, though, because our mutual friends were very rich and money was no problem for them. They spent their drug money like it was water, so Nick assumed I was worth it. He also assumed that at the end of the day, my arrangement would bring more than ten kilograms of cocaine to Las Palmas, and I guessed he was thinking of how much money he would make off me. I let him dream on and continued to exploit his ignorance.
After a few more drinks at the bar, we headed out in two cars—me and Nick, and Danny and his cousin—for the hour-long drive to Playa del Ingles, a beach area with a large concentration of resorts. Right in the center of the town were several nightclubs, bars, and strip clubs. It was like nothing I had ever seen. We went from bar to bar and club to club. In the clubs, I put on my best moves and danced like I never danced before. There were so many beautiful girls, all dressed to kill. I had never seen so much exposed flesh in my life. I guessed Europe was a haven of liberalism. That night, I had my first opportunity to dance with a white girl—a beautiful blonde with blue eyes. She was tall and soft-spoken, and I ended up dancing with her for a long time. After a while, we decided to go out for fresh air. She was nineteen, two years younger than me, and on vacation with her friends from Sweden. I told her that I was just visiting from Africa. I knew I couldn’t do much with her because she wasn’t a native of Spain and couldn’t help me in any way, so we talked, danced some more, and then parted.
Later that night, we ended up in up in a strip club. The strippers were some of the most beautiful girls I had seen so far, but I was disgusted by what they did. I couldn’t see the pleasure in watching Unclad ladies dancing around poles, showing erotic moves and displaying their bodies for all to see, with men occasionally throwing money at them. As if that weren’t enough, we had arrived in time for the climax of the show: the lights were dimmed, and a Unclad guy and girl took center stage and had s*x in front of everybody. That was more than my fragile African heart could take. I immediately told my group that we had to move on; I’d had enough. We left the strip club and went to another bar. By this time I was tipsy from too much gin and tonic, and my friends were drunk. It was also 5 a.m. and we were exhausted. Nick drove me back to my hotel in Las Palmas, where I hit the shower and went to bed.
Fortunately, the evening before, Tony had told everyone in our group that since we had been to the trade fair two days in a row, some of us might have completed whatever we came to do and shouldn’t feel obligated to go again if we didn’t want to. So I slept until 3 p.m., when the receptionist called my room and connected me to Nick. He wanted us to meet that evening for dinner and said he had some good news for me. I said okay, and went back to sleep. By this time, Nick and I had determined that there was no need for me to hang out with my hustler friend and Faruk, so I didn’t bother checking in with them.
Nick took me to dinner at one of the most exclusive restaurants in town, right by the Las Palmas Harbor. As we ate, I reassured him that my plans had remained solid and I was recently contacted by my guys in Sierra Leone; everything was going as planned. Our suicide carriers would arrive in less than twenty-one days. He was pleased and told me that he had made contact with another Nigerian who was a big distributor of drugs in Las Palmas. Nick had told him about me, and the guy wanted me to live in his apartment. I feigned hesitation in order not to seem too eager. He pleaded with me and said it was the best arrangement. I allowed him to convince me, but insisted that I had to spend my remaining day in my hotel. They could pick me up at 3 a.m., since we were supposed to be departing from the hotel for the airport at 7 a.m. for a 9 a.m. return flight to Sierra Leone. After dinner, Nick and I went back to my hotel, and I gave him my bag to keep for me, in order not to raise suspicion when I left the hotel the next morning.
At 2 a.m. the receptionist woke me with a phone call. Nick was waiting for me. I showered, said a short prayer, and bid goodbye to my hotel room. I joined Nick and we drove off. We went back to his hotel, collected my bag, and proceeded to the apartment where I was supposed to be staying. When we got there, Nick’s friend welcomed us and showed me the room he had prepared for me. It was a nice three-bedroom apartment. Nick’s friend was married, but his wife and child were away visiting Nigeria. We all sat down and had breakfast. I told him that I wanted to get some sleep, but the truth was that I wanted to be indoors until my return flight to Africa had departed—without me. Even then, I didn’t plan to be outside until I was sure that the flight had touched down in Sierra Leone. We agreed to go out later that evening, and Nick and his friend left. I went back into my room, lay down, and let my thoughts wander. I eventually drifted off to sleep. By the time I woke up, it was 7 p.m., and my return flight had probably landed in Sierra Leone. I felt happier than ever. To me, that was the day my journey to Europe really began.
The next few weeks in Las Palmas were incredibly exciting. I hung out with Nick a lot, and he took me around and introduced me to all of his friends. He introduced me as a very important player in the drug world, telling everyone that I was waiting for my consignment, and once it arrived, everybody would be pleased because I would have the best product in town. I met a lot of Nigerian drug dealers through him. There was a particular lady with a unique situation. She was Igbo and used to be a prostitute who also did drugs in Italy, and from there she moved her operations to Las Palmas. She lived in Las Palmas, but supplied her drugs in Tenerife and Lanzarote. She was also married to a younger Nigerian guy who visited every weekend. I wondered why he didn’t live with her. I later found out, to my utmost astonishment, that he was a prisoner, and the Spanish system allowed certain prisoners to go home every weekend.
At one point she must have suspected that my whole story about bringing in a consignment was a lie. But she was very nice and usually invited me to eat Nigerian dishes at her house. Every time I went, she tried to persuade me to become one of her carriers for Tenerife City. She argued that while I was waiting for my supposed consignment, I could make some money selling for her. I would politely decline her offer, insisting that I was too big a dealer to be a carrier for someone else.
Through Nick and his associate, I was privy to the activities of the underworld in the Canary Islands. Drugs came on ships, on fishing boats, and by air. This was not the kind of life I wanted. I didn’t want to have anything to do with drugs. I wouldn’t do it in Africa and wouldn’t do it here in Europe, but I had to play this game in order to survive. The danger was that most of these guys were well-known drug dealers. The authorities knew most of these guys and had dedicated agents following most of them. If they were busted while I was with them, I would definitely be charged as an accomplice. Therefore, it was imperative that I devise other means to survive. I had to get to the Spanish mainland so I could continue my journey.
To Be Continued…