So what was I thinking? I felt invincible at age 20 until I was strong- armed by two soldiers each sporting an AK-47. I entered Niger, a country on the edge of the Sahara Desert, without a visa where I didn’t speak the language. So what’s the big deal? This never mattered to me back then in 1973. Here is an excerpt from my memoir, Part VI, Chapter, Deportation:
Out of nowhere two green-fatigued soldiers, each with an AK-47 slung over their shoulders, flanked me and forced me out of the customs line for further interrogation. In a meek respectful voice, I whimpered, “I’m just a Peace Corps volunteer innocently traveling to visit a friend. I won’t be a threat to your country. I…I promise.” When the soldiers’ grip nearly squeezed the blood out of my arms, I realized they took their job seriously.
1 page later I had summoned an American embassy foreign service officer:
Fred said solemnly. “You need to leave. I’m sorry. The customs officer stated you must re-board the plane right now that you arrived on from Mali. This plane will take you to Ouagadougou, the capital of Upper Volta.”
I pleaded, “Please go tell them, one more time, I have no money for a ticket, and I have no visa for Upper Volta.” I wasn’t willing to give up hope. I remained defiant.
2 pages later:
A hush overcame the airport terminal when all eyes turned toward the plane on the tarmac. A man came down the flight stairs, a French pilot in his navy blue slacks, white short-sleeved shirt with red, white, and blue service bars on his shoulders. With purpose in his step he marched twenty-five yards across the landing strip directly up to me, looked sternly in my eyes, and said in perfect English, “Get…on…the plane!”
3 paragraphs later:
Two hours later we landed. I entered the customs line [in Ouagadougou.] I handed the official my Peace Corps passport now stamped with a “Non Admis,” the deportation insignia from Niger on January 4, 1973.
Here’s proof with my visa entry. I could have been jailed and had my nails ripped out. Maybe being naive was a blessing. Never once was I scared, only angry and defiant. Oh to be young again…or not. I’m thankful to be able to write this story.
2 thoughts on “Deportation”
Loved this! Oh to be young again or not… SO true!
Thanks Sharon. What would we do without the young people taking the risks. Can’t wait to get on an airplane again and take more risks, probably not as many as I took when I was 20.