I recently traveled to Nigeria.

I finally got to see it for myself!

I came away feeling like everything was more real and so many things about me became clear. I’ve been asked so many questions by friends in all the different areas of my life, and this has inspired me to blog and share it. I have decided it’s best to split it into a series because there is way too much to talk about in one post!

Okay, enough of my chit-chat, let’s get into it.

Feeling at home.

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Initially, I was not buying the idea of a family trip back to Nigeria.  I left Nigeria when I was 5 years old.  I was not in contact with family members from both my parents’ side – although my mum’s sister and her children have been a part of my life. I had not been in touch with any of my childhood friends since then. Besides, most five years old don’t remember their friends and neither does any grown adult fully remember friends they had when they were 5. Not unless they’ve stayed in touch over a long period of time? So you can understand my hostile feeling of going back to Nigeria, I just couldn’t picture FUN at all.

We landed in the Muhammed Muritala airport and all I could see was Africans! The first thing that came to my mind was ‘wow everyone here is black’. It was overwhelming. The only other place I remember seeing so many Africans was in the Nigerian Embassy in Dublin ( those of you who’ve been there know what that is like!) The change of weather was quite drastic; it seemed almost as if there was no air to breathe as if the air had ceased. I felt almost suffocated. There was a smell of sand, HOT SAND and I didn’t particularly like it. The passengers from the same flight suddenly changed their facial expressions to ‘no-nonsense face’, as we all made our way through the necessary emigration stations and then towards the baggage claim area.

 

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This part of the trip was one of those I found both amusing and pathetic. I mean, c’mmon, we were waiting for a good 40 minutes before the luggage arrived. I overheard comments like “this is how you know you are in Nigeria”. As if that was not bad enough, a random man tried to steal a passenger’s luggage while he waited for the rest of his luggage, yes I am for real! As I raised alarm to the owner, he pretended as if it was a mistake, I was like, “seriously? Are you kidding me?”

Nevertheless, in the midst of these overwhelming emotions, there was a feeling that I had never felt; it was the feeling of being around my own kind. There was no need to pretend. No need to try and fit in, to try and make sure I was understood, to keep my accent was still in check or in tuned to the majority. This feeling was very much the feeling of being at HOME. It was so beautiful.

Outside the airport, as we struggled to exit with over 10 big suitcases, was my mum’s sister, her husband and one of their children.

My cousin.

My first reaction was a pause because while I had met my mum’s sister and her husband, I had never met my cousin.

So many things were running through my head when I saw her! “Wow! She is so pretty!”, “She isn’t as dark skinned as I expected,”, “Are we going to get along? Do we have the same interests?” You can imagine – we had never had a real discussion up until this point other than the regular ” hello, how are you doing today?”. We lived in different worlds.

The trip from the airport to the hotel was interesting. In such a short period of time, we quickly saw both the developed and undeveloped side of Lagos city. The streets were still very much alive even at 12:00 am, it was full of people selling, buying, bargaining and chatting. We saw people selling ‘ suya’-  roasted corn – and much other food that I still don’t know the name of. I could not wait to get out and explore the nightlife. It was funny how all of a sudden I could picture ‘FUN’.

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There were many amusing situations during this trip. One was the fact that people were wearing thick clothes, jumpers, jackets you name it, and here was I literally stripping off layers of clothes!

Despite my negative attitude throughout the journey from Ireland; at this stage I was smiling, there really was a special feeling attached to this place. It truly was home!

Before when I would travel, I would feel homesick. In these scenarios I would miss home – i.e. Ireland. However, this time I did not feel homesick, I was at ‘home’. It truly made me feel more appreciative of Nigeria – my own people, my own roots.

Please leave your comments or questions down below. I would also love to hear from your own experience if you went back home recently. In my next post, I will be sharing the culture and my explorations in Nigeria!

See you soon

Florence.

Photographer: Faith Anthony, Instagram: faith_anny

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