Touch down finally. The Adewales were depleted from the flight back to their father’s land. They were lucky enough to board Mr Ali’s cab, one of the few good men they’ve met in a long time since their interactions with humans. Mr Ali took them to the closest hotel, where they could rest their weary selves for the night. He stepped on the break heavily in front of a three storeyed edifice, standing like a giant, it must be one of its kind in town. Its green and white paints were instantly appealing to the eyes.
“I can’t wait to get energized in here”, The wife threw a smile at her husband, who nodded quickly as he made for their luggage in the trunk. The porter was sighted speedily rushing out of the hotel, Mrs Adewale’s heart was filled with joy, ‘the reception here is superb too’, she concluded too soon with a grin.
“Let me help you with your briefcase, sir”, she heard the porter who had ran past her, say to a white man just behind them.
“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary”, the white man politely rejected the help. The unyielding porter swiftly collected the briefcase with a smirk. The foreigner had no choice now, but to prepare his tips.
Mrs Adewale couldn’t make out the little drama that unfolded in front of her…the porter obviously abandoned their luggage for a mere tip of five hundred Naira. “Don’t they get paid anymore?”, she asked her husband.
“If you find fish then you don’t have to eat bread”, her husband uttered as he carried his cross and left the handbags for his agaped wife. The couple refused to let bad vibes tear them down completely and strode towards the main entrance of the hotel. The doorman stood paying no heed to his environment.
“Hey, man. Can you open the damn door”, an impatient man of about twenty-five bellowed. The doorman forcefully jerked the hideous red door open. It was no doubt a damned door, seeing that the doorman passed through turbulence to open and close the door which had uncountable missing hinges.
“I can’t wait to leave here, first thing tomorrow morning”, the young man sighed.
“Good Evening… Kedu?”, Mrs Adewale greeted the receptionist in a native language and added immediately when she got no response, “You’re Igbo I presume”, with a fixed gaze on the receptionist’s name tag which reads, “Chioma Okeke”. The receptionist nodded slightly and responded in English language, “Welcome to our prestigious hotel. How may we help?”. She sounded like a robot, programmed to lie to people even when the truth is blatant. Meanwhile, in Mrs Adewales head, the issues of overdependence on the English language that has torn the cords that binds us as brothers, kept on replaying. Our language is vernacular, their language is international.
“We’ll like to book a room for the night, Miss”, Mr Adewale said as he scanned through his wife’s face. He saw defeat of expectation written all over her face. They’d traveled down for their three years wedding anniversary with the idea that celebrating it in their father’s land would be great but with the recent encounters it was beginning to look like a bad decision.
“We’re sorry sir, but all our rooms are full tonight…we greatly apologize”, the voice of the receptionist disrupted his thoughts.
“Are you trying to say as big as this hotel is that there is no room for my wife and I?”, Mr Adewale was getting furious.
“Sir, please you’re drawing unnecessary attention. I’ll see if there is any spare room on the ground floor”, she said pitilessly.
“What about the white man? Did he get a room”, curious Mrs Adewale asked. The receptionist shot her a ‘how is that your damn business’ look and added still in a matter of fact attitude, ” In our hotel, there are reserved rooms for our foreign customers”.
“Oh…I see”. The intercom rang interrupting the mouthful that stood in front of the reception. Chioma picked the call absentmindedly and informed the Adewales, that there were five empty rooms on the ground floor. She handed them the room keys which were in a state of decay, like the last person to use that room got his blood splattered all over it.
“If you don’t like the room, don’t hesitate to return the keys or better still call the concierge”, she said reading the objectionable look on their faces. “Next person, please…”.
The tongues of the couple were tied. To search for another hotel would be like traveling to another continent, a total waste of time which their weary state wasn’t ready to embark on. They silently strode to the ground floor in search of room 419, the room avoided by everyone in the hotel. It clothes itself in deceit and nothing gives it joy than stealing from its occupant, leaving them barren and hopeless. The choir of mosquitoes ushered them in with a resounding welcome song along the pass way which looked abandoned, some doors had fallen off, it was like the last civil war took place down there. The soiled white paintings on the wall was unpleasant to the eyes. They couldn’t believe such errant.
“Here, darling. Room 419”, she stopped her husband who was lost with shock. As he fumbled the key into the lock, the door nob fell off, “I wonder what will fall off next”, he let out in an irksome tone. Soon they heard footsteps and waited for the owner to come into view. It was the young man from the main entrance. He read their shocked faces and shook his head in a somewhat sad manner.
“You two don’t look used to the system down here”, he said when he came closer. He sounded like one who was totally used to it and no strings pulled would affect him in any way. He cautioned them to watch their steps as the foundation was a shaky one.”Down here, there is no hope, no one is comfortable here”, he said with great resentment.
“Why are you down here by the way? You two look like you can afford the deluxe room, joint room and even the suite”, he asked with raised brows.
“The rooms were all occupied by the time we arrived”, Mr Adewale reported with no worldly experience. This made the young man laugh so hard and had to stop when he thought he heard the walls crack.
“What’s funny, Mister?”, an irritated Mrs Adewale asked.
“Did you actually believe that this enormous edifice is full for the night? You’re too naive. What the receptionist meant was a little bribe…and boom there appears an empty deluxe room”.
“Such Bunkum…don’t they get paid for working?”, the cultured Mr Adewale asked. The question was after all a rhetorical one because they all knew the answer.
“Why are you here too?”,
“I’ll simply say, the poor and the rich man do not play together”, with this statement, he entered into his room and banged the tired door behind him. The environment he found himself in was one which have turned its back and therefore made him invisible. Nothing was hitting the Adewales as a surprise anymore, not even the stercorous smell that welcomed them into the disarrayed room. They both scanned the room from the stained ceiling to the windows that lack windowpanes, inviting all kinds of evils into the room; down to the sheet less bed and the damp floor; which all ooze with the remnants of yesterday’s guests. They sang songs of sorrow for negligence on the path of the management, who were enemies within. These enemies within have paid deaf ears to their cry for restoration of the lives they once had, the hope they once felt and the equality they once dreamt. The management have long forgotten they existed. The foundation of the edifice was being treated like slaves waiting to hear the final whistle.
The Adewales flung their luggage on the quarter to go bed and fled to the restaurant adjacent the main edifice still in the same premises. They tried to catch their breathe when they got to the restaurant. Food at last, the only language they understood at that moment.
“Waiter!”, an almost fainting Mr Adewale called out as they took their seats at the far end of the restaurant close to the window for easy inhalation of fresh air, that is if the air is fresh.
“I want Egusi soup and two folds of fufu with a bottle of chilled water”, his wife ordered, salivating to the sound and thought of an African food.
“Uhm…I am sorry Ma, we don’t serve such here”, the waiter vomited the words which brought Mr Adewale who was about to place an order for Okro soup and Amala, to a sudden stop. He referred to food ordered for as ‘such’ with a tone of disdain. People lodging in a brightly painted hotel as the “Giants Hotel “, shouldn’t be caught serving such with the fear of scaring their foreign customers away.
“What do you have then?”, the angry hungry man asked.
“The menu is on the table”, he said pointing at a laminated green worn out cardboard paper on the table and on it were scribbled some foreign dishes. Mrs Adewale picked it up with great disgust and read them out loud.
“Seafood paella”, she began,
“Fish ‘n’ chips”,
“Chicken rice…so how is it prepared?”, she asked in a vexed tone. The foods on the menu were not going to do much for their strength less bodies. ‘How difficult was it for a brother to stick to what he knows best’, she thought deeply.
“French toast?!”, this one made her husband laugh out loud, “French toast for dinner?”, he asked the now mute Waiter. His wife couldn’t bare to finish reading out the dishes as she flung the paper, called menu away. She was certain that those dishes would be poorly prepared by people who called themselves chef in that kitchen. She wondered the reasons the management of the hotel bypassed the inclusion of their native foods which were easy to prepare with available ingredients. The grasshopper which is always near its mother eats the best food, but not in this case. The grasshopper left its mother and journey to a faraway land where it is now dying of starvation.
“Get the chicken rice”, the couple said indifferently to the Waiter. By now, they heard the sound of the drum played by their stomach and were left with no option.
“You should know what is being cooked in the kitchen otherwise you might eat a forbidden food”, a man in a black suit with a little patch of white on his neck collar, who have been watching the couple since they came down for ‘dinner’ advised as he came closer.
“It’s sad we can’t boost of eating our delicacies in public places for fear of one calling us bush men”, with this he sat down in an empty seat and introduced himself as Father Francis.
“Nice to meet you, father”, the couple introduced themselves with lamentations.
“Have you asked yourselves, what happens to a person who can’t afford to buy these foreign dishes?..they starve”. Father Francis shook his head tragically. The land is barren from promoting a foreigner’s food and paying no attention to theirs…which stood as a mark of identification. That identity is gradually fading away. One who eats an African food in the hotel is seen as not orderly or mannered. They’re also seen as lacking swag in the scenario where they eat with their God given hands.
“Chim O”, Mrs Adewale voiced out with the revelation dawning heavily on her.
“Mr and Mrs Adewale, you say?…but I heard your wife speak Igbo not too long ago”, he looked puzzled. Mr Adewale gently explained that his wife is from the south eastern part of the country. “Love did all the magic”, he added,
“This is lovely indeed…you two are the perfect definition of unity in diversity”, the Rev. Father remarked and pointed out, that the hotel lacked what the couple shared.
Reverend Father Francis, a typical African man was on an evangelistic mission. The hotel out of no options became a temporary refuge to rest his head. He holds the strong belief that if brothers don’t treat each other with love, they shouldn’t expect such love from a stranger. Genuine love, not the one based on status, power or wealth. The management have so far treated him with great respect as due a clergyman. They claimed to be notoriously religious as indicated by their motto, “service to humanity” but their actions are all shades of ugliness. The true beauty of a place, isn’t by its look but by how many people it has made to smile. So far, the hotel haven’t placed any smile on the faces of Mr and Mrs Adewale.
“Have you met the hotelier?”, the Father Francis asked,
“What business does the occupants of the ground floor have with the hotelier?”, Mr Adewale was beginning to adapt to the terrible conditions just for the night until when they both find their square roots tomorrow morning. This made the wife laugh to the point she had tears rolling down her cheek. They’ve not seen the manager not to talk more of the hotelier.
“We need to make a positive impact instead of leaving the hotel just as we met it…so that others, our children will benefit from our efforts one day”, he tried to resurrect the enthusiastic spirits, he sighted in them which were unfortunately dimmed by frustrations.
Just as they were about to accept and move towards the part of redemption with Father Francis, the power went off throwing the edifice into abject darkness even the brightest teeth of a black man couldn’t be seen. Immediately the power on the executive suites for foreigners, top business men and other big dogs were restored with no attention to the ground floor as usual. What do they need power for to start with…was it to see the mosquitoes clearer or to admire the sullied walls?
“I can’t wait to see the dawn of a new day”, Mrs Adewale cried. Every time the couple think they’ve seen it all, something more alarming proves them wrong.
“That new dawn is only possible, if we put our voices together and raise the banner of equity. We’re all humans, same before the eyes of God. Let us look into one another’s eyes with love, firmly holding hands that can’t be torn apart by any vices. Let us be united by one voice”, Father Francis slowly stood up as he spoke and his face shone with hope for the rejected to see.
“A single bracelet does not jingle, together we make a difference”, the waiter who have been squeezing his foot to fit an undersized shoe for ages, shrieked. Those who knew how it felt to be snuffed down the ground floor because they chose not to dance to the tune of the master, or because they were not privileged like those on the top floors, joined their bracelets so as to produce a life changing jingle. They recalled the promises made by the hotelier and its management, ‘Our doors will be open for all and all will be treated as BROTHERS’, but they have long forgotten the meaning of brother. They have over night turned their services to those who pay in different currencies and look nothing like brothers to them. They have cherished this new man’s food and made theirs vanish into the thin air, even their unique mother tongues have gone missing. They disguise their ugliness with a smile plastered on their faces and have turned their workers to robots, always saying ” Yes” when its a “No”. There is no beauty in their actions.
“Let us pray…” Father Francis held the hand of Mrs Adewale and she did same to her husband’s, who in turn held that of the waiter and extended towards so many others who have passed through cold passages and knows what it means to see the walls painfully loose its once colorful splendor. People who also deserve the good things of life came together to cry out for love in the hearts of all.
“To the ever Supreme Being, who created us in his own image and likeness. We pray this night that tomorrow will bring joy to our hearts and lifelong satisfaction for our generations to come. Let us love our neighbours as our selves just as You have instructed”, this followed a resounding Amen.
“Plant in our hearts the seed of unity, when we see our brothers let us rejoice. Let us work together without resentments for one’s origin but stick together as people from one mother, Africa. Help us to build our father’s land and not travel far away in the search for nothing. O God, let our efforts and labour not be in vain”.
“Iseeeee“, an Igbo man responded and others chorused in their various mother tongues. Its fusion indeed penetrated through heaven.
“Give us leaders that will take us to the promise land, not leaders that will abandon us and run alone to the promise land. We want leaders who are open to our opinions and who our cries touches the inner most part of their being. Give us leaders, who are beautiful both in appearance and action. Every one-sided leader, throw them away for we have no use of such O God!”
“Teach us Supreme Father, to learn to appreciate our own and be contented with what we have. Let us not be hungry in the midst of plenty. Help us not to be agents of discrimination. In one another, let us see our selves”, Father Francis felt the grip on both his hands tightened.
“Forgive us, Father our grievous sins which have clouded our blessings. Wash our hearts of all hatred and malice. Help us that bribery and corruption won’t be the order of our day. Hear our prayers and perform your mighty miracles. As we stand in one accord, Father there must be a change…a permanent change with your unending blessings”, the chest exploding ‘Amen ‘ brought the manager out to find out what could be amiss.
Immediately, the potbellied manager was sighted, they all stomped towards him with the intention of a better tomorrow at heart. A new dawn!