I had only just started flying, I think four flights in total, when the airline set up South Africa operations. Nine of us were selected to go ahead to Johannesburg so there would be a crew on ground for when the maiden flight landed in JNB to operate the return flight. We could not get on a direct flight to SA at the time, so we had to fly to London, and then back over Nigeria to South Africa! Imagine completing a 5hour 30minutes flight in 24 hours. As if the ordeal was not harrowing enough, we were detained by Immigration for not having visas. Two hours later, the paper work got sorted out and we were each given a one-day working permit, and then we were allowed into South Africa.
Now, most of us had only ever been to the UK, and were used to spending our allowances on shopping. After a few hours of rest we met up and went to the mall. Sandton is one of the more expensive places in Johannesburg. Imagine our shock when we walked into the first shop armed with our $100 allowance, to discover a shirt cost $120. A shirt that cost more than my entire day’s allowance! Michael Jackson would have been proud of our Moonwalk as we backslid out of there. The story was only slightly better at the other shops.
That evening, the Captain invited us back to his room for drinks and some socializing. After drinks he invited us out to dinner and we jumped at the offer. Since he was familiar with the town, he took us to a restaurant not far from the hotel and we took a table for 12: us 9 Nigerians and 3 Britons: 1 Captain, 2 On Board Managers. One look at the menu and I knew we were in trouble. See, I have five years of catering school and most of the meals sounded like Greek to me. So imagine my colleagues who were used to rice, beans, swallow, or a variation of these. What is more, in Nigeria we order food by the carbohydrate, where protein for some is optional. Here, same as everywhere else in d world, the protein is the main meal, and the carbohydrate is just an accompaniment.
Straight away we ordered main meals, and when the Oyibos made the observation that we had not ordered any starter, someone then ordered a smoked salmon. When the meals were served she went pale at the sight of her starter. Her complexion worsened when she tasted it. It was from table to toilet for her! The restaurant manager had to get her a proper fish meal – well done. The Oyibos ordered everything on the menu plus four bottles of wine, and when the bill came, imagine our shock when the bill was divided by 12!!
Shuo! In Nigeria, when Oga invites you out it usually means Oga wants to pay, abi? Mercifully I always carry my wallet with me, so I was spared the embarrassment some of my colleagues who had come out without theirs had to endure.
Lesson learnt and filed away: there are no free meals, not even in Freetown.