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Monday, March 25, 2013

Young Woman from Nigeria is [Literally] Flying

Tariye Orianzi, a young Nigerian woman from Nigeria, had shared her personal journey of becoming a pilot in a previous W&A post titled 'Young Nigerian Pilot Student Shares Her Story' [Part 1]. In this second part, she continues to narrate the story to you.

Tariye Orianzi (Photo: Orianzi)


Here we go again.Ten months went by. Once again, I applied for a South African visa. This time, I applied for a 3 months visitor’s visa, hoping to change it to a student visa when I arrive in South Africa . I was told it took 15 working days to process the visa. I went back after 30days and it still wasn’t ready. I began to lose hope again. Two months after I submitted my application, I got a call from the South African embassy. The person on the other end asked me to come get my passport. When I got there, my passport was given back to me with a visa in it! To say the least, I was the happiest person earth. Immediately, I called my mother share my joy with her but we ended the call on a sad note.

The accident. My mother informed me that my dad's health was in a critical state. The day before, my dad was involved in a domestic fire accident. My happiness turned sour. Three days later, I rushed home to meet my dad in a far worse situation than I had expected. Both his legs were badly burned from his thigh to feet and his right hand too. Being the only child at home at the moment, I had many responsibilities. My other siblings were out of the country. They couldn’t do much. I had to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner, slept at the hospital and washed my dad's clothes. Once in a while, I received some help from my relatives. The experience was interesting because I discovered my dad in a way I had never imagined. We shared jokes on the hospital bed, cried together, and even gossiped! He shared with me ancient folk tales. Something he never did because growing up, he was always very busy. 

Sometimes, I felt as if this was the worst season of my life. Not because I didn’t want to be my dad's caregiver but because I was running out of time. Two months were already gone. I was issued a visa only valid for 3 months during which I had to pursue a 3-month course. We finally left the hospital few days before Christmas. I considered leaving my dad and travelling to South Africa but how would I ask him for the money and how would he sign a check for me with his burned right hand? 

 Letting go. On the morning of January 2nd, my worries came to an end. My dad called me and soberly said to me : “I have to let you go”. He asked a distant relative to stay with him. And somehow, he signed a check for me! I left Nigeria 4 days later but the separation was tough for me. That was the most heartfelt and painful goodbye I had said in my life so far. I arrived South Africa with so much joy yet so much sadness. Joy in the sense that I was finally going to start flying. Sadness in the sense that I had to leave my beloved father alone for the first time in 2 months. 

Tariye Orianze away from studies (Photo: Orianze)
The owner of the school picked me up from the airport and took me to school. My luggage still in the trunk of the car, I had my first briefing immediately which lasted about 45minutes. After that, we had to go look for accommodation; my new environment was shown to me. We found a place I liked. So, I dropped my luggage and then headed back to the airport to go on my very first training flight. As you may guess, I was super excited!

Unfortunately, half way through the flight, I found myself nodding off. The accent of my instructor,a white South African, didn't make things easier eiither. He sounded like he was singing me a lullaby. I barely heard a word he said. My dad called me at least 2 times a day for the first 2 weeks. He needed to know where I had kept his drugs, how many tablets to take, and how I was doing .Sometimes he had nothing to say but I could hear it in his silence that he really missed me.

 Everything I hoped and more. Days passed by, and I loved flying more and more every day. It was everything I hoped it would be .. and more. I knew I was on the right path. Exams came. I did extremely well. I applied for my student visa and it took exactly 14 days to get my 2-year visa. The challenges, however, began to crawl in. At the time, I was the only girl in my school. So, I had to prove all the guys that I could do what they were doing. The goal at hand was to be able to take off, fly and land safely a Cessna 150 aircraft, alone without an instructor on board. It took most of the guys between 15 and 20 hours to be able to do that. 

At 25 hours, I still wasn’t even close to my solo flight. I was miserable once again , at the verge of giving up. I looked at my Computer Science degree and thought of the jobs I could get with it. After each one hour flight, I would go to my bed and cry my eyes out. I remember my instructor telling me each time he flew with me, he felt like I take one step forward and five steps back. I wasn’t making any progress. He also once said I needed to go register in a gym as I didn’t have enough physical strength as I am quite petite.

My first flight alone.  My hopes kept being dashed day after day after day. As a Christian,  I did what I was thought to do in difficult times. Pray, pray and pray some more. My counterparts at school seemed to be forging ahead, while I was stuck at one point. After much practice and some determination, I was finally sent solo on my 35th hour. My flying skills have improved a great deal but I still face certain challenges. In fact, as I write this, I’m going through what I feel is the most challenging challenge of my life yet. When I overcome it, I’ll tell you all about it.

 What does not kill you, make you stronger! I have written all this not to make you feel pity for me but to encourage you. I have learned that challenges are inevitable. Whether or not we plan for them they must come. We must just learn to persevere and surround ourselves with positive things and people. I believe when you set your heart out to do something, you can achieve it no matter how big or difficult it may seem. I’ve met countless women whose challenges in the aviation industry and beyond,when compared to mine feels like a childs play. They overcame theirs. So can we! One of my favorite bible passages that has kept me going is Romans 5:3-5.I hope you have enjoyed reading my personal story as much as I enjoyed writing it!

This story was originally written by Tariye Orianze
Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria on 31st January 1989, Tariye Orianze graduated from the University of Port Harcourt in 2009. She moved to South Africa in 2012 to start her flight training. She is the young board member of PAWA ( read 'power') or the 'Pan African Women in Aviation.' Some of her hobbies include flying, bowling, and acting in her local church. Follow her on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/tatanzi