A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part Fifty Three, read it HERE
Meanwhile, Maria Joana received bad news from her job: she had been posted to Mallorca, effective immediately. I was devastated and had no idea what this new situation would mean for our relationship. However, she allayed my concerns and promised to not only support my effort to go to the U.S., but also help pay my first semester of tuition and fees. She would also allow me to use her property document and bank account as evidence that she was my sponsor when I went for my interview at the U.S. embassy. I was very pleased by her unending kindness and knew that it was God using her to help me. Within a week I had obtained visas from Germany and three other European Union countries. I had no intention of traveling to any of these countries, except maybe Germany, to see Chibuike.
That same week Maria Joana moved to Mallorca. We agreed that I would rent out two of the extra rooms in our apartment to raise money to sustain myself, pending the outcome of my U.S. visa application. My plan B was to move to Sweden if my application was denied.
Maria Joana’s move to Mallorca completely changed the equation of our relationship. I couldn’t move there with her because of her racist family and her fear that if they found out about us, she would be disinherited. To me, this was the final play. I could either get it right and pursue my future in the U.S. or play it wrong and live in perpetual regret in Europe, which, to me, was an environment where black people had little or no meaningful chance of freely exploring their full potential.
On the day of my interview, I arrived at the U.S. embassy in Madrid full of anticipation and anxiety, knowing that my future would be determined by what happened there that day. I had prepped myself well for the interview; I had relaxed my hair and trimmed it nicely, and bought new clothes and shoes just so I could project responsibility. As I sat waiting to be called for my interview, pondering what the future held for me, I noticed the officer in a booth in front of me going through the passports dropped for him to process. At one point he picked up my passport, looked at it, and flipped through the pages. He then called the attention of the officer next to him. I knew that Nigerian passports always attracted attention, given our reputation. The officer showed my passport to his colleague, and I heard him say, “Another one.” His colleague looked at it and they both laughed, saying that Nigerians would stop at nothing in carrying out their fraud. They wondered why anyone who had recently gotten married would leave his wife to travel to another country to study. When they were done, they tossed my passport aside. My heart immediately sunk to my stomach, and I wondered if this was how the journey would end for me.
I prayed silently in my seat and waited. A strange calm and inexplicable confidence came over me when my name was called, and I walked up to the booth. Already knowing what the officer thought of me, I decided to take charge and do things my own way. He asked for my Form I-20 and other documents. As he looked them over, I started to explain how supportive my wife had been all the while, and as I spoke, I handed him the documents for our apartment, Maria Joana’s bank statements, and paperwork to prove that she worked in a bank. Suddenly, the officer looked up from checking my documents and asked if I could wait to pick up my visa that afternoon. I was a little startled by the question because I had expected to be probed and interrogated. Nevertheless, I decided to play it calm and with a little cockiness. I said that I would love to leave for Barcelona that afternoon, and that if it was okay, I would prefer that the embassy mail my passport to my house in Barcelona. The officer said that was fine. He congratulated me and asked me when I intended to depart for the United States, given that my school was scheduled to start on January 2, 1995. I told him I planned to travel on December 30. The officer said I should expect to receive my passport in a few days.
I thanked him and strolled out of the embassy, thinking that I was a crazy fool to walk away instead of waiting to collect my visa. What if something happened or they changed their minds? All the same, I walked away from the embassy, counting my blessings and thinking that day was the best one of my life.
Indeed, a few days later, I received my passport—and lo and behold, I had been granted an F-1 student visa to study in the United States of America. I was in seventh heaven. I spent the next few months traveling and getting ready. I went to Düsseldorf, Germany, and stayed with Chibuike for a few days. I traveled by road through France, and the trip brought back a lot of bad memories, but all of that was behind me now. I would soon be going to the land of freedom.
I left the shores of Europe on December 30, 1994, for New York City. I went through immigration and customs at JFK Airport without incident. Ike, my old friend from secondary school, was waiting to pick me up.
It was a whole new world for me—indeed, the beginning of a new life.
To Be Continued…