Things Haven't Changed | Visiting Nigeria
This isn’t a curated post… far from it. These are my honest feelings, emotions, thoughts and experiences from my trip home. These images are from intimate moments with friends and family taken with my iPhone with love and laughter. I sometimes stare at these images, smiling and transported to the moments that live within them. I went home to find myself and what I brought back with me was something more than I expected. A new me.
I wrote this post in increments- times when the need to document my emotions was at an all-time high and moments when I struggled to find the words to describe situations. I wrote on sheets of paper, in the notes app on my phone and one time, on my cousins palm (she hit me haha). Four years after leaving home, it seemed like I simply did not have the time or space to take everything in, it still feels like that. I spent 27 short days in Lagos, Nigeria. At the time, 27 seemed like too short a time and as I look back, no time would have been enough. I want to be clear again and say this isn’t a travel itinerary and neither am I giving you tips on how to survive Nigeria- this is me pouring everything I felt on that trip on the internet and sharing it with just you. It’s our secret how I felt back home and I hope you keep it between us. Shall we begin?
The First Day and A Surprise
It had been four years since I had seen my brother. Four long years in which so much had changed but I knew we hadn’t changed, I hoped we hadn’t. I hoped we would always be us. I still laugh that he cried when he first found out I had landed- you see, it was a surprise. I had been planning this trip for months (you all knew) but he didn’t. I would never forget the joy on his face when he saw me- he is my best friend and I am his. My first interaction with family was everything I dreamed of. Things hadn’t changed a lot with them, besides my brother having a fiancé, I would say- home still felt exactly like home and at that moment, I didn’t know whether that was a good or bad thing. Although, soon after leaving the airport we were stuck in the infamous Lagos traffic for about six hours that night- fairly typical of Lagos in December. My mum and brother laughed at my frustrations and yelled at me for yelling out at the cars- I have the worst road rage- and when I look back at that moment in the car, frustrated and angry that we weren’t home yet, I can’t help but smile at what is now my fondest memory of being home. Home seemed far away for sure that night but when we finally did get home, I was too exhausted to take it all in but I do remember one thing though, we did not have light. Typical right?
Days to Follow and A Scary Time
I don’t remember resting. I don’t think I even let myself rest. I had things to do, people to see and events to network in. It seemed like everything simply had to be done ASAP! My second day back, I spent the morning with family and the night at an event that I got to be a part of through @tribecalledena. This would become my typical day in Nigeria- mornings with family, nights with friends. It worked for me and it let me spend time with the people I cared about because I hadn’t seen them in so long. I wanted to make sure I spent my time with family because the babies I left years ago were teenagers and toddlers were grown. It seemed everyone had grown up quickly since I had been gone and I wanted to make sure I spent as much time with these “new” people because family has always been everything to me.
I also had something else, something really important to do- renew my U.S Visa.
I am writing this post from the comfort of my home in Virginia, U.S.A but at one point in December, for a second it felt like I wasn’t gonna get the chance to come back. I struggled with whether or not to share this part of my trip but as an international student studying in the U.S. this is my reality and as a part of my Odd family- seems like its yours too. There were two reasons why I went back home, to see family and to renew my student visa so I could travel freely during my studies in the U.S. It is truly a complicated topic that I don’t want to get into in this post (maybe another?) but I knew I had to get my visa or else, I could not come back. For any returning student, renewing your visa should be fairly easy and as I thought going into my visa interview, it should also be a breezy process, boy was I wrong. I remember staring at the immigration officer as he began to ramble on about a “situation” and needing to hold on to giving me my passport and a visa till “something” was corrected. I remember walking out of the U.S. embassy that morning confused and scared, it felt like I was in a trance. The thing that was supposed to be routine and fairly easy had gone wrong.
My mum cried that morning and prayed. She tried her best to hide it from me but I noticed her red eyes and the worry lines on her forehead and for the first time since I returned home, I regretted my decision. I just wanted to be back to school. I remember asking God to please let me go back not because I didn’t want to stay home or hated the idea but simply because I knew I wasn’t finished yet.
I got the email to pick up my passport five days later. I had gotten my U.S. Visa. I still don’t have all the answers to why I wasn’t told immediately what the problem was and how it was fixed but I am grateful things are okay now- for a vacation, my time in Lagos started really rough uhn?
The Vacation Begins
If you followed my Instagram stories then you know how much fun I had. As my Yoruba people would say, “Mo J’aiye Ori Mi”- I had the most fun. I was an “IJGB” in my own home now and I had to accept that. An IJGB- the acronym for “I just got back” is used to describe Nigerians in the diaspora mostly the UK and the US who are returning home for the December festivities- which is a lot of us. I resigned to this designation after my first week home. After being away for so long- the Lagos heat, traffic, and life was very different. Things had changed in Lagos for better or worse and I was fairly new to it all. I had to accept that quickly and once I did, the igbadun (enjoyment) began.
I went to concerts, blogger events, resorts, clubs and much more. I tried really hard to make the experience worthwhile (its all on the vlog) and I won’t lie to you, I had a great time. Below are a few pictures from a few of my adventures.
I fell in love in Lagos. I laughed. I cried and most of all, I found happiness. All this in a span of three weeks. I went to Lagos to find myself and sure enough, I found me and more. Everyday was a Saturday in Lagos and everyday was a new adventure and I revelled in it all. Lagos in December took me for a wild ride and I won’t lie- I loved the thrill of it.
Four Years Later
In the midst of it all- I will be remiss to say that it was just all fun and games. I simply can’t glamorize it no matter how hard I try. I love Lagos with all my heart but I can’t live in Lagos anymore. Lagos in December isn’t Lagos everyday. Its cushioned and its romanticized. You can’t ignore the generator sounds ringing loud in the background because “NEPA” (the power company) did not “bring light.” You can’t forget the looks of the little children who should be in schools chasing after your car on the roads begging for money to eat. You can’t forget the daily struggle a typical Nigerian faces everyday in the country. My beloved country still faces the same problems it did years ago and some might even argue worse problems now. I think we pretend and cover up our shortcomings in December when everyone is back home and we try really hard to laugh away the problems.
The hustle and bustle in Lagos is not for the fainthearted. To all my IJGBs, I implore you to explore Lagos outside of December. Find the beauty outside of the glamour December presents to you and fall in love with the rawness of my city.I miss home already but I will also acknowledge I miss home from abroad.
Lagos, I will see you soon. I won’t wait another four years to come back home again because now I know how much I need you.
Thank you so much for reading this post! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I also shared my vlogs with you so if you want to follow my adventures- here are my Lagos vlogs!