Jamaican-British-German TB talks to us about her appreciation for Nigeria, her interesting trip to the country and her experience with ‘pure water’ and ‘Okada’
-So where are your parents from?
My mum is Jamaican and my dad is English and German.
-When did you go to Nigeria?
18th of Nov – 2nd Dec 2010.
-Who did you go with?
I went alone.
To visit my boyfriend.
-I know you have a couple of Nigerian friends so I’m guessing they also contributed to your interest in the country/culture?
Yes! Wura, who is Nigerian, and I have been best friends since we were 14, we even used to share a room in boarding school for a while, so it was only a matter of time before I was begging her for her Nigerian clothes etc. I also used to come chill at her house and met her parents who contributed to the ‘obsession’ lol.
-How long were you there for?
I was meant to be there for 5 days, but the impossibilities of leaving the ‘village’ (lol) made me stay for around 2 weeks.
-Tell us about your experience; the places you visited and the things you did
I flew into lag and was met by a friend’s sister. I had my first airport suya (stick meat) before we left for her house in Magodo, Lagos. When we got there the house looked beautiful, until she ushered me to the back… down a ditch to the (as Wura calls it – ‘boy’s quarters’). When i got there I was greeted by the world’s laziest house girl (maid) who needed to be shouted at at least 10 times for a bottle of water before she would get up off the couch.
The morning after I arrived it was my birthday, the woman who welcomed me, came into my room shouting absolutely naked singing happy birthday! since she was going to change my money for me and take me to the airport to go to Yola, what could I do but join in the singing?!
That day before arriving in Yola I almost got stranded in Abuja! I didn’t realise that the domestic planes stop off at destinations and then take off and continue to other ones like buses! I got off at Abj (Abuja) and had to run through the terminal to get back on the plane – my first panic! one of the men that helped me with my bags was then complaining about money which I didn’t have time to give, lol, he didn’t hesitate to ask me 2 weeks later on my way back though!
When I got to Yola before I was greeted by my boyfriend.
My whole stay in Yola was a bit of a blur but these are the most momentous events:
-Our car broke down on the way back from the airport and we had to wait on the side of the road with the goats and chickens.
– We went to somewhere called ‘The view’ which is a cliff which looks out onto gorgeous mountains. We went there to see the sun rise on my first night and were met by government men cocking their guns at us to leave! verrrrry frightening! We stayed anyways and hung out with a few guys who were living in mud huts! It was surreal!
– There was no water for quite a long time and so I had to bathe in ‘pure water’ (Unlike bottled water, the water comes in a sachet) as well as drink it (lol not the same water I was washing with of course, :/)
-One time my boyfriend and I were on our way out in the night and in the distance it looked like there was a crowd of about 60+ people dressed in white with their arms up walking towards the car in the headlights! At that point I just thought, ‘I’m not leaving this place alive’ lol, and my boyfriend even said he was about to tell me to cover my face and hide down in the car! I think that was one of the most frightening times of the trip! THANK GOD it turned out to be a large herd of cattle walking towards our direction in the dark! LOL!
– The rest of the time before my ultimate flight were just littered with house parties, chilling, swimming which was so much fun – although there was the stress at the back of my mind that I wasn’t going to leave that place and that my parents were going to find out! – yes! my parents didn’t have a clue that I went to Nigeria! they thought I was in Birmingham for a few days!
-On the day of my flight, which I, out of desperation, had to pay for on my dad’s card because I had an interview within the next 2 days and the only flight that I was able to get at short notice was one going through Ethiopia to London (28hr flight). I ended up using an okada (slang for bikes), lol! Basically I was trying to walk from the domestic terminal in Abj to the international one and I thought to myself, ‘either I die walking on this road or I die on okada!’. I told the guy I didnt have any money for him, but he still took me and wasn’t even bothered by my hands crushing his shoulders and abusing him to shut up til we reach the destination! It was crazy!!!
– I was late for my flight because I had had some issues with my ticket at the desk and that delayed me. What could I do but cry??
-I met an extremely kind gentleman who told me that he would help me and that I should come to Lag with him so he could get my flight that evening from Lag (Lagos) to London …NOW, I know that that is an EXTREEEMELY dodgy offer, but you’ll be surprised at the kind of risks you will endure to get out of a really bad situation – I know I’m not entirely alone on that one. Anyways, I went to lag with him and he was able to sort my flight out! I think the most frightening part was giving his officer my passport because lol… that was extreme vulnerability! However after waiting at his guest house while he went to a meeting, I was on board a plane to London…1st class! I couldn’t believe that I was the same person who was on an Okada earlier in the day, LOL.
-When i got home at 5am, I walked through the door in my sandals and my suitcase (it was snowing outside) and saw my brother getting ready for work. He just gave me a grunt and asked me if I had a good time in birmingham… LOL!
– Yes… later I was caught because my dad checked his bank statement (and found out I had used his card to pay for the ticket for the flight which I missed), but I’ll never regret the trip!
-Did being in Nigeria change your perspective on Nigeria/Africa in general?
To be honest I’ve always had a pretty good outlook on Nigeria… it is a land of possibilities! I don’t think I would have been saved like that anywhere else in this world! I’ve been before, so the massive gap between poverty and ‘aristos’ (rich middle aged/older men who patronize young females) wasn’t a shock for me. It’s a bit like Jamaica. Two of my best friends are from Nigeria, and they’re literally the most amazing people, so how can I even really begin to criticize the place they come from?! About 90% of the Nigerians I’ve met are just the funniest and easiest people to get along with; whether they were brought up there or here, they still have that same humour that makes you want to laugh your lungs out!
Also, I have to say that since the time I first went (about 7 years ago), Lag has improved! the roads are so much better and there are even traffic lights now! SHOCK! lol!
-What do you wish people knew about the country/continent?
For this question, I’ll take my mum as an example of the ‘normal person’s perception of Africa/Nigeria’. She thinks (like so many) that Nigeria is completely poor, and that there are just a very few people that hold the wealth in their hands and also that it is a land of hungry people who would do many things to better their position. This media really paints a bad picture of the place. I’m not going to be naive and say there is no corruption there, there is corruption everywhere! I just wish that people would open their eyes and see that Africa/Nigeria has sooooo much potential, and that the people (well the ones that I met) always put other people’s comfort before their own!
-So you’ll be willing to go back then?
Ah, I’m already preparing my visa for my next trip! Haha!by