January 8th, 2006.
The Air Berlin Airbus landed in the midst of an ongoing blizzard in Tegel Airport in Berlin. It was a miracle that we didn’t crash land. It was also then that I began to understand why we were told by the Air Berlin workers in Faro not to travel the previous day.
Everywhere was white and snow covered even the tarmac where we landed. There were a few hisses and frowned faces in the aircraft as the Pilot announced that there could be hard-landing but we eventually did that without any problems. It was my first time to witness such thing and if not that we were required to proceed to the arrival hall for immigration clearance, I would have stood in one place to admire such wonderful strange happening. There were some heavy vehicles in the far right, all clearing the runway for incoming aircrafts. A close look at the tarmac where we landed revealed that it has just been cleared of snow as well.
“Pay attention Jennifer,” The voice said in front of me, it was Solomon.
At that stage, I remembered that I was not guaranteed to enter into the Berlin City. Solomon has been preparing me for possible scenarios at the airport. He told me the questions to expect from immigration authorities and the answers to give them. According to him, they were most likely going to ask for my international Passport. I had none of course but he said I must tell them that I didn’t come with it. He told me to tell them that I had been traveling with the card in the past and that I never encountered any issues anywhere.
“They will warn you to take it along while traveling next time but that would be it,” he had said.
However, one area he didn’t cover was what would happen to me if I was denied entry into Berlin. He didn’t know what to say. I attempted to get the answer from him but it seemed he didn’t even know what to say about it. I was sure I could be turned around. The most dreaded part of everything was that he asked me to deny him if things didn’t go well. He asked me to call his friend Johnson in Berlin if I managed to cross without him. He took my phone and added the Phone number of Johnson in it.
All these scenarios started flooding back when he said “Pay attention Jennifer.”
“Like I told you inside the aircraft, there are chances that I could be stopped at the airport. I lived here in the past and I disappeared when I was supposed to attend a court case. They may recognize my face and detain me. Call Johnson as soon as you got out without me. He will direct you on what to do. I already told him I would be coming with you. Don’t panic, wait for me, I will be out before you know it, even if they chose to detain me. I believe you have some money with you, don’t hesitate to use it if you have to.”
He said all the above without even looking back at me. I was behind him, walking slowly as we inched closer to the clearance counter.
Then all of a sudden, we were faced with immigration officials who stamped people into the city of Berlin. There was no more time to think or talk; it was time to face the reality.
“Have you been to Berlin before?” The immigration lady asked Solomon.
I was right behind him and as a result, I could hear everything. Those with European International Passports were on a different line. The announcement was made as soon as we arrived.
“No,” Solomon answered.
“What are you in Berlin to do?”
He was using those annoying short answers I hated about him. I figured he used them whenever he wanted to hide something. It was funny the way he answered the immigration lady. I knew Solomon, he liked talking but there at the airport, he didn’t want to talk too much. Only God knew what he was planning.
After flipping through his passport, the immigration lady made a call and less than 30 seconds later, two Police officers showed up, took Solomon’s passport and asked him to follow them.
That was it, I was screwed already. I felt like jumping the counter and following him. I didn’t know where I was going and what to do when I got there. It was true Solomon prepared me for such scenario and I thought I was ready for it until that moment at the immigration counter.
The tiny female voice jolted me out of my sudden drift.
I handed my resident permit card to her.
“Where is your passport?” She asked as she looked on both sides of the card.
“It’s in Portugal,” I said.
“Have you been to Germany before?”
“No, this is my first time,” I responded.
“Are you with anybody Miss Falilat?” She asked.
Falilat was the name on the resident permit card I gave her.
“No ma, I am traveling alone,” I said and suddenly realized that I didn’t know what to tell her if she asked what I was to do in Berlin.
“When next you are traveling, make sure you have your passport with you,” She said as she handed my card back to me and waved me to go into Berlin.
My legs were shaking as I walked out of the hall and into the snow-white environment. I resisted the urge to look in the direction where I had seen the Police walked with Solomon. I had been asked if I was with someone; I denied. I already figured the question was asked because of Solomon. I knew I was likely going to be in trouble if I admitted I was with Solomon. The only link I had with him was that we were both from the same destination; Faro Portugal. Every other passenger in the flight wasn’t from Faro; we had changed flight in Palma De Mallorca Island in Spain where people from other destinations joined us. Some People, who also came with us from Faro, disappeared in Mallorca to different destinations.
There were Taxis everywhere. Some people were entering the bus too but since I did t know where to go; I decided it was Taxi all the way.
I walked to a cab driver, opened the door and sat down in the front seat, and then I fumbled in my pocket to get my phone at the same time he asked where I was going.
It was like a dream to me because that wasn’t supposed to be. My phone wasn’t there. Solomon was with it. I forgot to take it from him when he added Johnson’s phone number in it.
That was it. I was officially stranded in Berlin.