Larry Madowo Clears The Air After It Was Alleged That He Was Arrested With Drugs At The Us Airport

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NTV’s Larry Madowo was recently held at the US airport for
Royco cubes suspected to be drugs. Below is a full narration of the ordeal:

If you’re ever travelling abroad, please pack clean underwear.
Know-it-alls will tell you to never lose sight of your passport or to keep your
return tickets nearby, but this is the single most important advice you’ll hear
from anyone. The last thing you want is a uniformed stranger disapprovingly
rummaging through your soiled undergarments while the passing masses judge you
on their way out. In case any of that was confusing, let me summarise: pack
clean underwear! Very important. Even more important, though, never bring Royco
cubes into the United States.  Royco and
Ujimix.
Let me explain .
I mostly fly cattle class, with all the crying babies, smelly- mouthed
seat neighbours, and food so bad no self-respecting pig would eat it. This is
not to complain, because I suffer from an acute form of wanderlust that I don’t
even need a fully formed excuse before jumping into a plane and heading
somewhere cold and much too expensive for me. I had a moderately complicated
flight routing last week: Nairobi—Amsterdam—San Francisco—Minneapolis—London—Amsterdam
—Nairobi. I was heading to Silicon Valley to watch former Apple CEO John
Sculley launch his new baby, the Obi worldphone, and then head to London to
co-host Kenya In the Park, an outdoor celebration of our culture in the British
capital.
FLYING WHILE BLACK
I happened to be travelling in the upper deck for once, so was among
the first people out of the plane in San Francisco. I may have come from a
small village in Siaya and didn’t even get on a plane until I was 20, but I
know how to fake being posh when I end up in the business cabin. So I didn’t
take to it kindly when the customs officer asked me to proceed to Counter 2 so
his colleague could “process” me further. A humourless African American
gentleman in his late 20s called Long took my bags and proceeded to unpack
them. He didn’t ask for my permission, just started removing stuff and putting
them aside. I only remembered that I had three one-kilogramme bags of Ujimix
for some friends in London when he got to them. “Why don’t you just mail it to
them?” he asked after I had explained what they were. “You have much to learn
about us Africans,” was the appropriate answer. “We’ll tie and lead a live goat
through international airports and into America if we could.” But I just kept
quiet because he still had my landing card and could send me back. It is then
that he discovered I had several sachets of Royco cubes — the star that lifts
every Kenyan meal from the bland category. He put them aside as well as he
asked me questions that suggested he wouldn’t stop until he had my DNA samples.
He left me standing there while he went to channel his inner Walter White with
my flour and seasoning. “Is this a random search or have I been flagged for
something?” I asked his colleague. “It’s totally random for compliance issues,”
he assured me. Except it wasn’t, because I was the first black person out of
the plane and only one to be stopped. Just like I had been “randomly” selected
for a secondary search at Amsterdam 12 hours prior to this episode. Meanwhile,
Long had broken into my Ujimix and Royco and was testing them for heroin,
marijuana and opium. “I just want to make sure that they are what you say they
are,” he said with the seriousness of a mortician. His little Chemistry
experiment complete, he plastered the broken ends of my gifts with the world’s
most conspicuous blue tape and handed them back to me.
SMUGLER OR SOMETHING
If you think the walk of shame on the morning after a one night stand
is repulsive, there’s nothing worse than repacking your bags in full view of
half of India entering San Francisco. My only consolation is that it was still
better than being taken into custody for being a drug dealer. “Larry Madowo
arrested in America with drugs” isn’t a headline that I want to see. A young
black male travelling internationally always raises eyebrows and you get
racially profiled in our post-911 world. Travelling while black is to accept
indignity, racism and delays because of the colour of your skin, even in a
post-Obama world. Those of us village boys who grew up dreaming of faraway
cities and now have opportunities to visit are resigned to that ugly downside
to it all. Sometimes you’re temporarily suspected of being an international
smuggler or a drug dealer. It is all worth it when the Ujimix and Royco cubes
make their way to the UK and to grateful hands.
LARRY MADOWO

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