After checking in, sitting at the boarding gate, and being delayed for one hour, in the process of talking to my friend on the phone, I realised that I had forgotten my wallet at home. That was the beginning of trouble for me, as all my naira and dollars were in my wallet. A ray of hope flickered when I confirmed to check that case where I keep my electronic cards was in my bag. That was before Olamide (a friend I had made at the boarding gate, who would later become the angel God sent to rescue me) told me that Nigerian cards don’t work in Gambia.
At this point, I was crushed. Basically, I couldn’t withdraw, but could only use PoS, but PoS machines are not common in Gambia. We decided that I should ask an airport official to take me through back access so I could withdraw and change to dollars. This was a less preferred option for me, as it meant I had to withdraw about N70,000, which was all the money I had in the account associated with the card I had with me.
I talked to one of the airline officials, and asked him to help me call for my checked in bag, that if the wallet wasn’t in the bag, then we can go to the ATM to withdraw money. He called for the bag, but delayed me for about one hour, after which we had to board. When we got to the entrance of the plane, I checked my box in faith, and my wallet wasn’t there. He then told me I would have to go to Gambia like that, because it was too late for him to take me to the ATM. I was shocked at him because he was the one who delayed me for one hour.
Anyway, by this time, I didn’t know what to do. I was going to another country, and I had no money. Even the hotel bill being paid was a gamble on whether my hotel would have PoS machine. I was just loitering at the entrance of the plane, confused. I asked one flight attendant if she could give me dollars, and I would transfer the cash equivalent to her, but she said she didn’t have.
At this point, I had caught the attention of one of the baggage handling guys, who was just looking at me in pity, and trying to reason out how I could be helped. He eventually got his colleague who was also loading the plane to loan me N5000.00. I asked the guy why he’s trusting that I would return the money since he’s not aware of my integrity. He said if I like, I shouldn’t keep my word to return it, that it’s all good. After all, it’s just N5000. I was really touched, because I know those guys are paid peanuts.
And that’s how I flew out with N5000.00. On getting to Banjul, I gave the lady who I assisted, her bag. She asked what was wrong, and I told her I didn’t have my wallet. She said she would get her ‘father in the lord’ to take me hotel, but they took her to one corner to search her bag because she had a lot of luggage. I went to the bureau de change guy, but he said he won’t collect naira, but dollars only.
At this point, Olamide (who had lost her laptop because a passenger who stopped over at Dakar mistakenly took hers instead of his) came to my aid by changing more of her dollars to dalasi, and collecting my N5000 and giving me the dalasi equivalent. Then she refused to leave me at the airport, as both of us and some other lady took a cab together, and she covered my own cab fees cos I needed the 700 dalasi she gave me to survive for 2 days.
We left, searched for my hotel for almost 2 hours, without success. And then Olamide was thinking of just taking me to hers, when I finally saw a hotel that accepted PoS payments. Though the only person who knew how to operate the machine wouldn’t be around till 8am, and it was 5am, they allowed me to lodge. I slept off immediately, not having any idea if the card payment would go through.
I woke up later in the day, a bit refreshed but still tired. I freshened up, and went about the business that took me to Gambia, something I did all day. I ate, moved around, made enquires, etc. I was left with a little over 300 dalasi. Transport was really cheap, but food consumed the most.
By the time I returned at night, Olamide had checked up on me twice. The next morning, I woke up to a silly text message from Arik saying they had moved my flight that night to the next day. Imagine having to pay an extra night unplanned. By this time, I had very little money left. I was almost crying. I went to the reception to settle my bill. Thankfully, the card worked, but they mistakenly charged me 3000 dalasi instead of 2000. It was a very fortunate mistake cos I got the extra 1000 in cash, and it sustained me for my extra day in Gambia and get me back to the airport. At the point I was getting my change, I had just about 40 dalasi left, cos I had eaten and bought biscuit and water to sustain me the next day (Note, I was eating just one meal per day).
The next noon day, I checked out, and did some sightseeing with Olamide. Later in the day, I went to her room to rest till almost midnight, and then off to the airport, I went, ready to leave my beggarly lifestyle in The Gambia, never to experience it again.
And that my people, is how I survived with a N5000 loan in another country. Thank God for sending an angel called Olamide my way.
Next edition, I will upload the sites, views, and few facts about The Gambia.