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Notes from Nigeria: A Wrap-Up

February 12, 2007

::In my attempt to resurrect my blog I shall start blogging my newest adventure instead of sending out mass emails. I never really wrapped up Nigeria, and though I am now on another 3 month 4 country journey, I think that I need to wrap up my first experience to the mothaland. Please note that I cut and pasted the mass emails that I sent out while I was there with the dates I wrote them::

3 weeks for any American in Nigeria is bound to be an unforgettable experience. A month later upon reflection, my emotions about my experience are mixed. The spirit of the Nigerian people is indeed its best asset. I will be eternally grateful to the family I stayed with, and the people I met who showed me considerable graciousness and hospitality. Yet, the most memorable parts of the trip are not all the nicest. The desperation for so many people is as thick and dark as the diesel filled pollution cloud that looms over Lagos. If you are of a certain class and education with enough money to pay off government officials, then you can get along very well in Nigeria. However, for those who were not born into such luxuries, from an outsider’s perspective anyway, there is a mountain with a 120 degree angle to overcome.

It is one thing for a country to be enveloped in poverty; however it is a separate issue for a country be burdened with desperation as well. What I have learned from countries with less tangible material wealth is that one can be content with very little and live just as happy as they could anywhere else in the world. Americans have alot to learn in that respect. America is a very rich country resource wise, but socially and priority wise my travels have taught me how backwards we have it. We are all about working our selves in the hole trying to acquire “stuff”, that we lose sight of the today and the people who really do mean something to us. Somewhere along the line we came to believe actually enjoying life was for pussies because it means you aren’t driven or hungry enough.

I guess it was my mistaken naiveté expecting that I would receive a refresher course in such a lesson from my journey to Nigeria. As lovely as an introduction to the country I had by my hosts, I see why so many people kill themselves daily trying to flee. I have always thought that it was odd that everywhere in the world I go I have met Nigerians, and sadly it makes sense to me now why so many want to leave. Corrupt and defunct government, little to no infrastructure, lack of attainable (much less desirable) opportunities, no electricity, sewage filled water, hell I would want to leave too. I said to myself on several occasions during the trip, “No wonder they come to America and kick our ass in classes…….. if you can make out of here, then Organic Chemistry should be a breeze”. Every other place I’ve been, I have said to myself “I could live here. I could really live here”, and as down with the people, back to Africa, and Afro-centric as I thought I was, my trip to Nigeria put my American ass in its place. I really do hate to admit it, but being totally honest with myself I never felt so much like an American as the moment my plane landed in New Jersey.

This isn’t to say that I had a bad time or that I regret my trip, it was quite an experience to be in Nigeria totally immersed in the Yoruba culture and having those “ah ha” moments as a Black American. It really is true that there are still echoes and footprints of Africa in any community where slaves were dropped off at and America is no exception to this rule. However, the lives of the people who surrounded us in the village were never far from my mind and as someone from “the West” I know too much about America’s history and current foreign policies of steal first/come back and “fix it” later to pretend as if we and our comrades don’t have a hand the troubles of Nigeria.

After telling people about the difficulties of Nigeria, I have heard the responses such as “well hell I’m not ever going to Africa” (as if the entire continent of Africa can be summed up in one midwesterners version of Nigeria), and that was never my intention. I do not mean to give Nigeria a bad name because my impressions of Nigeria were no where near as bad as I had been told. But I cannot deny that as prepared as I thought I was, I was left agast by what I saw in Lagos. It is a place that can’t be sugarcoated and mainly because we cannot ignore our Western resposibility and ignorance to their dire situations.

I would not hesitate traveling there again or any other place in Africa for all you naysayers. It was quite an experience and an unforgettable introduction to Africa.

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