In May/June 2008, several members of the Work to Ride polo team travelled to Nigeria, Africa to compete in the Access Bank Emir of Katsina Charity Shield Polo Tournament. Richard Prather, a WTR alum and mentor, travelled with them. Here is the first installment of Richard’s experience, one which he and the Work to Ride kids will never forget.
Part One: The Journey Begins…..By Richard Prather
The Work to Ride team was leaving for Nigeria to represent the United States of America in the UNICEF Charity Polo Tournament. That is so cool to me. The simple fact that we are the only and first African American polo team in the whole United States of America is mind blowing. The first step was the flight to London.
Once on board Kevin was having some problems deciding what seat belonged to him. He wanted the window seat but his ticket was not letting him have his way, and Kareem made sure of that. Kareem and Kevin were having a bit of a teeth showing battle as we were boarding the flight. Needless to say Kareem won that battle. And Lez could see what was happing however she was not in any position to intervene. LOL!!! Moreover, neither could I! We both just had to let them figure it out for themselves.
Kareem always has a way of making people seem dumb. Kevin eventually gave in, but not before Kareem had a good laugh out loud making his victory that much sweeter. I could see from the look on Tasha’s face as we made eye contact, we both knew this was going to be a long flight. As things settled, everyone was into their movies. Except for me, I was the only one seated a row away from the rest of the group.
At first I was upset, not to be sitting alone, but because I wanted to be by the rest of the kids. This was their first flight out of the country, and because I had done this so many times before, I wanted to be there to answer their questions. However, I had a great conversation with a woman who was surviving cancer. She looked like the typical chemotherapy patient with a cloth that covered her missing hair. But despite her sad story, she was quite pleasant to talk to. Still, I eventually found a nice way to break away from her, so I too could watch some movies.
About two hours into it, our flight hit some turbulence. I looked to see what Kevin was doing. He was looking at me saying “oh my god” like five times LOL. I normally would get concerned when there is turbulence, but for whatever reason I was just fine. It may have been because I wanted to be tough in the eyes of the children. Kareem was laughing at Kevin, Brandon was just looking around with big eyes, maybe to see what we were doing to deal with the turbulence. He came up with his own conclusions about the shaking of the plane. I could not see Tasha. Uche and Lezlie were directly behind me where they were just fine with the tremors of the plane.
Somewhere along the line I fell asleep and woke up to the pilot telling us we had about 20 minutes until landing. All the kids were still asleep. And I remembered we had to fill out the immigration cards. Knowing the kids did not know anything about the cards, I had to wake them up to get it done. Much to my surprise, they were very cooperative. In fact they were all into it, and wanting to ask what all the different terms meant.
I was usually on the kids’ backs about what will happen if they did not comply with other country’s rules when in travel, so I was given the nickname Mr. Responsible by Kareem Rosser himself. And everyone thought that was such a good name for me that I heard it every time I tried to let a possible danger be known. “Ok Mr. R” the kids would say.
This was my third time in London, so I was not worried. We had such a good time and I made sure that we went to see all the big sights. We were met by Sara who had all kinds of video equipment to film us with. She showed us around and suggested a great place to have lunch. It was a very typical place to eat in London. A very small narrow place we all had to cram our way into, and it did not have a bathroom. So unbeknownst to me, Kevin and Kareem went looking for a bathroom outside the restaurant. About 20 minutes had passed and no sign of them. No one else seemed to be as worried. I, however, could not sit any longer.
I noticed that Kevin was having yet another disappointment, this time with his food. Poor Kevin, reality was now settling in on him. He now knew that he could not obtain a Philly cheesesteak. We all had a good laugh about that one. But Lez knew that she was paying pounds and started to get upset as Kevin became pretty adamant about not eating the food. I had some room left in me so I helped Kevin eat the “wannabe” bacon and egg sandwich. By this time we were ready for the next six hour plane ride.
My level of comfort went right out the window when we arrived in Abuja, Nigeria.
Next Installment: Arrival in Africa!