US of America – Day 1: Lagos – Atlanta – Orlando

It’s almost midnight here in Orlando, Florida, so this will be a brief post (I’m sitting typing at the now-deserted CrackBerry stand, tired – hence the inability to think up a better title for this post)

CB

Barely three weeks ago I boasted (while moderating the launch of Chimamanda Adichie’s latest novel, AMERICANAH) that I’d never been to America.

[Read my 2007 essay, GOING TO AMERICA: A Primer, here. In it I imagine my first trip to the US of A]

Now I’ll be spending the week at BlackBerry Live 2013, at the Marriott World Center, reporting and interviewing and blogging. 

My never-been-to-America boasting has now been rendered null and void. Meaning I can now only boast about having never been to South America and Asia (Australia doesn’t count – for you to boast about not having visited someplace there has to be a possibility that you could actually visit).

I came into the US via a Delta flight from Lagos. 13 hours across the Atlantic. I lost five hours in the process, a first for me (before now none of my trips – mostly to Europe – had exceeded the 2-hour-timezone mark.

I was tempted to tell C, the young Dept of Homeland Security officer whose duty it was to admit me, to check me out on Twitter. (He asked all those questions – why are you here, how long are you here for, etc.) It was a bit underwhelming – no barbed wire fences in sight, no sight of potential immigrants crying and screaming and tearing their hair in pleas to be admitted to God’s Own Country. Just crowds of well-behaved persons and well-behaved officials.

There was no ‘Beware of PickPockets’ sign to welcome me (many thanks to Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport for the heads-up). 

My connecting flight from Atlanta to Orlando pleasantly surprised me, with its offer of free inflight wifi. For the first time in my life I tweeted from an airborne plane, thousands of feet above the ground (It was actually faster than most of what Nigeria offers on the ground).

I didn’t quite manage to stay awake on the entire ride from Orlando Airport to the hotel. But while awake, and as we rolled into the sprawling (we passed Disney World on the way) Marriott World Center a sense of deja vu struck me. 

Orlando. I’d seen this before. In an instant Orlando struck me as the place where the source-code for Dubai comes from. The over-confident concrete blur of criss-crossing Highways, huge Hotels and Holiday-AddOns; everything designed for The Visitor. (A quick online search tells me that there are about 2m residents in the Orlando Metropolitan Area (Orlando the City itself has less than a quarter of a million), compared to more than 50m visitors annually. It is apparently “the most visited destination in the United States.” Great. 

*

This evening there was a welcome reception for BlackBerry Live 2013! Delegates (More on that later).

Later tonight it’s Alicia Keys in concert

Goodnight. (Good morning to folks in Nigeria!)

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