Sunday, August 21, 2016

Aqil's Chicken

My Cuban hostess: "Would you be willing to carry a suitcase full of chicken back to Aqil in Seattle?"

Me: Okay.

* * * * *

My friend, Aqil, is a 19-year-old University of Washington sophomore who hails from Malaysia. He's spending the summer here in Seattle, working at his new on-campus job and catching Pokemons. 

His Malay mommy, chef extraordinaire, is currently living with the rest of the family in Havanna, Cuba. 

So when I paid her a visit this month, the question was put to me early on.

Of course I said yes. Who would deny a hard-working student his mother's home-cooking? 

And this is how I found myself at the U.S. Customs counter, deep in the bowels of the Miami Airport, declaring a suitcase full of frozen meat. 

Immediately, my passport was whisked off to a special agent and I was led deeper and deeper into the labyrinth,

passing various gun-packing personnel who waved me forward,
following sometimes green dots and other times yellow,
entering a series of Do Not Enter gates, and
eventually reuniting with my suitcase. 

As I finally took my place at the special declarations counter, ready to defend my case, I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the basic rules for dealing with any legal authority: 

Tell the truth.
But only answer the questions that are asked. 
Resist the urge to say more. 

And then the interrogation began:

So you're traveling with some meat today?
What kind?
Did you buy it at the airport?
It it cooked?
Yes. (Some of it was technically only half-cooked. But that's still a yes.)
So what is it, rotisserie chicken?
*Stares blankly at me, clearly stumped for more questions but wondering what the heck is going on.*
Okay. I'm taking the chicken home with me to Seattle for a hungry college student. I was just visiting his mom in Cuba and she made it for him.
Ohhh. Home cooking! Very nice. Have a good trip. 

* * * * *

Sadly, my foray into Customs ate up several hours of my layover and I ending up missing my flight. Waiting at the airport till morning for a new connection, I was on pins and needles, imagining my precious cargo defrosting in the heat of the Miami night. Once safely returned to Seattle soil, I rushed home to deposit the payload into my freezer and called Aqil to arrange delivery.

By midnight, my mission was complete. Aqil had his chicken.

And by the next afternoon, the first plate full of Mama's home cooking was ready for lunch. 

* * * * *

More stories about my friend, Aqil:


  1. Hello Diane.
    Thank you for this blog post. We just wanted to apologize for having to make you go through all the trouble of, not only bringing all the chicken to Aqil, but also of having to stop at the Customs counter to declare the luggage and go through something that could be risky. And we're sorry you had to sacrifice time with your family because you missed your flight! It must have been quite scary having to wait in the airport alone.

    But all in all, we really appreciate your efforts and willingness to bring Aqil the food, and to make sure that you and the food have all arrived safely. We hope everything has been going well for you since you arrived home. :)

    Thank you.

    1. Nayli, there is NO need to apologize! I loved my crazy chicken adventure and I had the experience of a lifetime on my special trip through Customs! I thought it was all great fun, and wasn't scared even one tiny bit at the airport. I texted with my family all through my long layover and they kept me company and laughed with me about my crazy adventure.

      And every moment was worth it when I saw Aqil's face as I gave him the suitcase. He was thankful indeed. :)


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