I remember the first time I travelled by air.
I stared curiously at the lady at the Emirates check-in counter as she turned the papers left and right. She looked straight into his eyes searchingly .Her white and red bow tie spread across her neck like a butterfly and she looked exotic in her red suit.
I was about third in the queue, behind another sophisticated woman, dressed in a multi coloured kitengi standing next to him. Her hair was in medium Ghana style cornrow scattered with gold plated rings .I looked at her feet, she had on purple sandals and her nails were painted with blue and white flowers.
The man was wearing a black tailored suit and holding a brown leather brief case. He spoke in a European accent although he looked East African to me.
“Is my ticket alright?
“Yes Sir” replied the lady rolling her eyes, her long braids swishing from side to side.
SIR, he must be important or he is a high class frequent traveller, I wondered to myself. It was all strange as this was not a VIP queue. I looked at his shoes, they were very polished and shinny. I could feel the reflection bouncing off straight into my face. They reminded me of the childhood song ‘Ekiva e Bulaya.Buli avayo akona ngatto’ (everyone who comes back from Europe thumps shoes)
I wondered whether I will have such shoes and a European accent in a month’s time when I return.
I wished I could ask him; how Europe looked like or what it felt like to sit in a plane.
It was my first time to come to this part of the airport.
I had visited Entebbe Airport on a school trip several years ago and climbed on the roof top to watch the planes land and take off. I was fascinated and excited. I could see the vast blue waters of Lake Victoria dazzling against the skyline in the scorching sun. A blanket of undisturbed green vegetation at the shoreline with only runways for company surrounded the airport
The landing was spectacular; the planes came so low I could feel my heart skip a beat as they touched down at the edge of the lake. The tyres seemed like they were about to sit on the water.
However it was now my turn to travel and I was feeling nervous.
The lady glanced at me and our eyes met, she gave me a wink as she realised I had seen her encounter with the man. I held my tickets close to my chest to calm my nerves and looked down on the floor to divert her attention.
After a few seconds I looked up again to see what was going on. She was busy serving the next customer, but I caught a glimpse of the man walking with a swagger and disappearing behind the glass revolving doors into the airport building.
Soon it was my turn.”Good morning madam” I said as I handed her my papers. She smiled, revealing a gap in her teeth.
“Good morning, Where are you going?” she asked politely.
”London” I replied.
“Do you support Arsenal?” she said cheekily.
“No. Manchester United” I replied
Back to business, she flipped through my passport and checked my visa as she intently looked into my eyes. She entered my ticket information in the computer and stamped into my passport.
“Have a safe journey. Make sure you return speaking like a Ugandan” she said jokingly as she gave back my documents.
© Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2013)