Where you come from can often affect where you go. That sounds like a pretty stupid statement. But if you’re from Eldoret and you’re poor and you shine shoes for a living, it pretty much sums up the problems you’re bound to face with visa authorities the world over.
We cross borders and enter new countries with barely a second thought. But the Kenyans? They hold these passports that seem to shout, “We’re a flight risk. TURN US AWAY. NOW.” In January, Zakayo came this close to taking part in the Empire State Run-up. But the US embassy turned down his visa request. Despite the fact that he had a return air ticket, and an official invitation, AND a letter of support from a senator.
Then yesterday, Zakayo and his teammates packed up their bikes and headed to Changi Airport for a flight to Bangkok, only to be informed that they couldn’t board. Blame it on Nick’s travel agent. Blame it on bad info on the internet. But contrary to what Nick was originally told, Kenyans, unlike dozens of other nationalities, cannot get Thai visas on arrival. No amount of cajoling or explaining could change that. Hard to even begin to describe the looks on the guys’ faces when they realized there was no way they would be allowed on the plane.
So Zakayo will not be riding on Sunday. The team won’t be racing at the Tour of Egat. They’ve come halfway across the world, but they won’t be racing. The airport staff shrugged, half-sympathetic, when we tried to plead our case. It’s their passports. It’s where they’re from. And nothing anyone can do can change that.