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[A Personal Travel Narrative]

About this time last year, my friend asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding that was to take place in Nigeria.

Not thinking too much about it, I agreed. I remember, like it was yesterday, how nervous I was to embark on a journey back to Nigeria after a little more than 18 years of being away from my motherland.

My nervousness aside, I was filled with much excitement; excitement that was deeply couched in fears of the unknown. How would I assimilate after being away for so long?

I had heard horror stories and great stories of other people's experiences and now I was going to have the chance to experience it all for myself.

Armed with a healthy dose of advice from everyone--"take your malaria tablets, get a shot for typhoid fever, beware of armed robbers, don’t eat the fruit, don’t drink the water, don’t travel on the roads after 10pm, be mindful of Juju, be mindful of everyone, including family, don’t look too flashy"--I was on my way Naija.

Let's just say that I took to Nigeria like a fish takes to water. I was determined to immerse myself totally in order to get the full experience of Nigeria.

When I landed, I knew that I was home among my people. I met really nice Nigerian gentlemen on the plane--they allowed me use their cell phones and call my ride once I landed in Lagos at about 5.00 AM in the morning, after a seven hour delayed flight. FYI, landing in Nigeria between 11 PM and 6:00 AM is a bad idea.

My friends in Lagos, who were to pick me up, told me that there was no way that they or anyone else for that matter was going to leave their house in the name of going anywhere at that hour. So I had to wait at the airport till sunrise.

My new found friends were kind enough to wait with me at the airport, protecting me from the crowds of cab drivers, money changers, and phone credit hawkers.

My people, Nigeria is a hustling place; there is no other country in the world that you can show up to the international airport at 5 AM in the morning to find so many people eagerly waiting to earn your business-legally or illegally.

I spent a few days in Lagos and I just slept and slept and slept. Once in a while, I would go outside the estate and people watch.

No matter what time of the day it was, you would always see people jumping in and out of buses and motorcycles--okadas. I could not help wonder where everyone was going at all hours of the day.

Women dressed in suits would mount a motorcycle like it was nothing; they were still able to maintain an elegance and grace. Wow.

At the same time, I could not help but notice the little kids at play in busy streets, ages three and above. As little as they were, they had the finesse to bob and weave through aggressive streets. They played without the threat of being harmed and I saw no parents in sight.

I called my friend and asked, "Ah, these kids where are there parents now? Are they not scared that someone would take their kids?" I was quickly informed that contrary to whatever you may hear about Nigeria, our criminals have standards-they do not mess with kids and old people. Watch out though, everything in between is game. My time in Lagos was chill, but after three days I joined the mass exodus of fellow Igbo's to the East.

Nigeria is a country where the Igbos predominate the businesses in major cities. And come December, all the big cities clear out because my fellow Igbos all leave and go back to their villages.

As my cousin said, it is as if roll call is taken in every Igbo village during the month of December; we all go back to our roots to answer our father's name. It is such a big deal that the day before Christmas, the governments of Igbo states send free buses to the north to pick up people who cannot afford to come back to the villages. This is what I hear.

As you can imagine, the village is popping and the place to be during Christmas time because everyone is home. I had a good time, and the best thing was to be able to eat Odara, Suya and pineapples to die for...hmmmm tasty. My time was spent relaxing with family and friends.

And of course the wedding was beautiful in a very Nigerian way—this statement is loaded but I cannot get into it. Let’s just thank God that my friend and her husband are truly in love.

All in all, I made it back to America in one piece and with too many stories to tell. So, where do I begin if I haven’t already started? The one thing that I did learn was that I should stay out of Turkey and away from Turkish Airlines. This is the airline that ferried me to Nigeria and back.

Can you believe that they wanted to arrest me? Me? A calm, law-abiding citizen? So what if I cursed at the police officer who was just a tad bit too rude? To top it off, when it was time for me to leave Nigeria, Turkish Airlines would not print my ticket--see me, see trouble.

The poor fools were deceived by my Yankee accent; they had no idea what I had in store for them. At the end of the day, deep down, I am a village girl--it is just condition that has made me the way that I am or as the locals say, "Na condition wey bend crayfish."

From here on, you readers not familiar with the way we speak our refined English, will just have to excuse me. Some things need to be spoken the way we speak it Nigerian-style.

In my element, I shine sha. It is like these people wanted bribe. Well that was too bad because I had already decided that none was getting a kobo from me. I mean from the time that I landed, everyone was asking, "Madame, you will do Christmas for me."

Even if I am a financial institution, Lehman Brothers and the likes have all gone down--no be so. As for me, give bribe to get my ticket, over my dead body. I was ready for a fight and wanted to see how that plane was going to take off without me. Today was the day.

Long story short, after almost eight hours of going back and forth, my ticket got printed after a manager from Victoria Island, near Lagos, came to the airport to see about the fiasco. As you may or may not know, Nigeria is known for many things and customer service is not one of them.

This is a place where when room service was ordered and checked on a number of times, and after hours had passed, the kitchen's response was, "I beg Madame, we are too damn busy."

Anyway, after the debacle of the day, they gave me my ticket and expected me to just say "thank you" and walk away. I told them that the least that they could do was to not charge me for my excess luggage; 25,000 naira, which is about $150. They laughed at me. They laughed loud and hard. Then they heard it from me: "Oh, you people think I am a joker, you think this is funny, okay now wait I am coming, by this time tomorrow, I will see to it that you make the evening news, watch and see." Then, I stormed off...to the ATM of course. 

Just kidding, well not really. But first I placed a call to Turkish airlines; in Turkey! I told them a piece of my mind about their service, which made even Nigeria's service look like first class. No sooner, the Airline Manager came after me and upgraded my ticket to business class and gave me an invitation to the first class lounge.

Ahhh, this is what I am talking about. I did not pay for my excess luggage either. "Madame, please say nice things about us on the evening news when you get back to America, and we want you to fly Turkish airlines again." Sure!

Anyway, I left Nigeria just a little bit more hostile. You have no idea how it feels to just yell at people just because you feel like it.

It is so liberating; so much so that I am eager to go back for more. In traffic, I would yell out the window, "MY FRIEND COMMOT FOR ROAD, I SAY...MOVE DAT CAR", and clearly traffic is bumper to bumper so there is no where to go, but as they say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". How about when I was walking down the road with my friends and one of them was in the way of an Okada man.

The Okada was upset at this and instead of beeping his horn or asking him to move, he yells, "Baboon" so my friend yells back "Monkey".

Now, let me be very clear; Nigeria is not for the weak at heart. This is a country in which "only the strong survive." And for the not so strong, well, good luck. Over all it was an amazing experience to be HOME!!!

To see my family that I had not seen in such a long time. The village was slow-paced and wonderful. The weather was amazing--so much so that my skin cleared up totally and my dry skin was nice and soft.

I realized that I was not made to live in America; but what can I do? The music was hot, hot, hot, and people really know how to have a good time.

The whole month of December is like a holiday. No one keeps track of what day of the week it is because the whole month is like one long Saturday, with 2.5 million weddings and Thanksgiving parties. Oh yeah, thanksgiving happens all year round in Nigeria. For example, if you lose a slipper and then happen to find it, you gather all your friends and celebrate this victory and have a Thanksgiving.

We are game and down for a party; drinks and food. One last thing, my dreads were all the rage, people wanted to know, "Ehh, Madame you just made your hair, I have been looking for dis kind of rope, where did you get it"?

Me: "Oh no, it is my, hair."

Them: "You don't mean it, don't be silly.

Another one of them: "Come oh, dis thing is her hair".

Nigeria did spoil me a bit. I mean every Tom, Dick and Harry has a driver, a gateman, a cook and a houseboy.

I was so used to having someone else do the driving, I found it very hard to drive to work on my first day back here in the United States. It was cold and the roads were icy; so, what the heck---I stayed home away from work to recover.

Later that day, as I was in bed nursing my jet lag; I got hungry. Alas, there was no one there to ask me what I would like for breakfast. But I am managing and trying to get back into the swing of things.

So just to recap my experiences during me three week stint in Nigeria.

By the way, I was part of a rioting mob scene at the Turkish airport. I saw a man casually sweeping what you would consider the equivalent of I-95 with a broom and dust pan; he had no regard for the vehicles coming at him with high-speed, 80 mph+.

I got on an ITC bus. If you don't know what it is, this is a tiny bus that packs people on like sardines. I rode on an OKADA, or a motorcycle (I cried internally the whole time and prayed God to spare my life this time). I had a Nigerian policeman cock his rifle and point it at our car because we took a picture of him urinating on a very busy street. While hustling to fill my Gerri Can with petrol for the generator, I was told by an old man who was pushing me out the way to stop speaking my Japanese--and here I thought I had mastered the broken English. Robbers walked by our car on the highway and tried to jack up the car behind us (there was go slow aka heavy traffic) no one was alarmed or thought it was out of place and I saw a man traveling with three goats on a motorcycle and the goats where all calm. Also I saw the most amazing signs:




Well, I am going back. I am going back soon. I had a blast.

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