Let me start by saying despite the topic this post is NOT about some injustice I received at the hands of Immigration & Border security or Eurostar. This is rather a light hearted laugh at my thoughts going overdrive about my afro hair at immigration following a recent return trip to the Uk from the Netherlands.
Let me talk a bit about black women’s hair that differs from other races. Our hair is beautiful, we are graced with the ability to wear our hair in many different styles and textures, from natural/afro, relaxed hair, dreadlocks, perms, braided, coloured, twists, wigs, hair extensions, pieces, long, short, bob etc – the list is endless in short black women are blessed with varying degrees of what we can do with our hair and that’s not including various trends over the years some of which i have extensively followed. Being a Black women who loves to travel I can safely say I have had all of the aforementioned styles and possibly more.
I recently returned from a family bereavement on Friday the 13th August 2021 on the direct train from Amsterdam central to London St Pancras. (Yipee, this is such a seamless easy journey I don’t think I will be flying to the dutch capital anytime soon its #Eurostar all the way for me). As we are all aware due to the current global pandemic travel is different. Various checks & paperwork needs to be completed prior to travel. Eurostar is no different, to enter the UK you must have a vaccine letter from an recognised government facilty i*e NHS (No vaccine means longer quarantine), PCR test taken within 72 of your travel, your ticket and a passenger locator form completed and day 2 or 8 release tests paid for. I also do not like to be late to anything and this includes travel. So with my mother in tow we arrived at the Eurostar platform at exactly 11am for the 12:47pm return trip to Uk, a good 1hr 47 minutes before departure enough time to correct any issues or apply for any other requirement that may have popped up overnight during these uncertain travel times. Turns out we are not the only early birds and we ended up being 14th in the que as boarding had not commenced. There was clear and ample signage:
Step 1: Eurostar Staff check your affore-mentioned paperwork and its validity (in pairs when we were in the que)
Step 2: You present your ticketing at the next counter, but your bags on conver, walk through the blinky blinky scanner
Step 3: You present yourself and passport to Dutch Immigration
Step 4: Next counter you present yourself to the Uk Border Force Immigration
Simple steps yes and despite me being an avid traveller, with this pandemic there is something about all the checking, double checking of paperwork’s, requirements, payments that put a little nervous churn in my stomach and me praying we have everything required to return home. I am not an eavesdropper and evan with the 1.5 meters recommended social distancing you can pretty much hear the question or questions fellow passengers upfront are being asked so you prepare yourself.
Step 1: went through perfectly
Step 2: perfect yet again got our drinks vouchers as no table service until after Brussels -nice. Bags popped up on the conveyer belt and the blinky blinky Scanner did go off I had to walk back again but no biggie, underwire bra and all that
Step 3: Gets interesting not sure if there was training in force or what but passenger no 5, (she is white, remember this is not a post about racial equality) she gets stopped her passport gets passed over to the second person to check she is made to stand side. I did not hear what for. Passenger no 9 this time a white male gets stopped an officer appears from behind the counters somewhere and starts talking to him again I have no clue what for but my thoughts are like shit Immigration are on a rampage today. When they took out the Loupe- you know the magnifying glass used by jewellers and watch makers to closely examine another passengers passport directly in front of us my thoughts went overdrive and i got into a panic about my hair of all things.. Don’t ask me why but my mind went shit I have cut off all my hair, I have extremely short hair now, like a no 1 sides and when I took my new passport photo some 3 years ago I was rocking locks/ dreadlocks to be exact. My face is still the same but will they be able to see its me? I mean they get about less than a minute to look at me and do these Dutch officers understand the different types of black women,s hair? I quickly pulled out my phone and started to look for current pictures of myself on social media and a comparison to last year, again totalling different hairstyles with quarantine I was having fun colouring, plaiting my hair including some with hairpieces and wigs. I kid you not 12 different styles in a year and i am not evan in showbiz. My mind went into un-necessary overdrive, they are going to think I am a fraud, its not me etc . So I thought I am going to get ahead of this myself before they pull me out and I get embarrassed (as I have been pulled aside before in Sanya-China for different hair) I will explain myself, so I presented my passport with a smile, masks off and said 2 returning to Uk leaving your lovely country and by the way you will notice I had dreadlocks in my passport picture I cut them off but its me. The lady officer not sure if was bemused or thought I was high just looked at me took our passports and passed them to the office next to her, he looked at them gave them back she stamped them (cause we are out of the eu now) and said enjoy your journey, me to her you too, not sure why?
Step 4: Uk Border and Immigration they are also asking passengers up front questions but only 1 passenger been walked off or stood aside but I am not taking chances and go into un-necessary overdrive. Same approach, but this time I am not sure what took over me but I started waffling on. It could be that my husband & cousin returned some 2 days prior to us and had told us there was extensive questioning about where they were coming from was it necessary travel etc. So I present myself and mum to the counter , masks off, good morning 2 returning to the UK and you will note that my hair is different from the passport picture because I had locks and I cut them off, I think it makes me look younger and besides its easy maintenance since I have been here in the Netherlands a month and honestly its me I can vouch for it. The officer must be a part-time comedian on que and rather bemused burst out laughing and said of course its you because you said its you. I responded just trying to do you a favour because you officers see so many people and given the small time you have to check a document, person and other stuff, I really didn’t want to take up too much of your time with the changes in my hair. After flicking through our passports he retorted, thanks for thinking of us but your eyes have not changed and if in doubt we have the finger print scanner to help us determine its you. At his point I had to laugh at myself, oh yes good old A.I why had I a person who travels internationally extensively not remembered this, the solution is :We need to get back to travelling I am totally loosing my travel skills.
Would love to hear your funny thoughts or experiences with immigration, pop them over in the comments section.
#Eurostar #Amsterdam #Immigration #Travelstories #Travelblog2021 #blackgirltravel