Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel back home to Nigeria. When I left Nigeria in 2001, I never expected that I would only be back twice in seventeen years. As I write this post, I still can't believe it took me so long to go back to my original home country. I spent three beautiful weeks in the country that gave me a great childhood where I lived for fifteen years.
On this trip, I spent time in Abuja and Calabar, two cities that were new to me. The primary purpose of my trip was to celebrate my friend's marriage. I experienced many firsts on this visit.
In this blog post, I'll take you on a reflective journey of my trip to Nigeria after twelve long years.
How did I prepare?
In the months coming up to the trip, we spent time thinking of small things we could do to make the trip special. We created a list of food and snacks that we wanted to enjoy. It was essential for us to reserve something fun for ourselves. I can report that we were successful with the food goals we set.
What was my first impression?
Going back, it almost felt like I was in a new country. After a very long journey with the best travel companion ever, I was very excited to be in Abuja. The airport ordeals were very familiar. The additional luggage and immigration checks we had to endure, reminded me of past experiences. Also, hearing people speak Hausa made me feel at home immediately.
What were my highlights?
Spending time with my mum as an adult was very special. Until then, I had not spent longer than a few days with my mum over the last twelve years. We learned a lot about one another. Another highlight was experiencing my friend's wedding. This was the first Nigerian wedding I was very involved with. There were many valuable lessons learned to say the least.
What surprised me the most?
Nigeria is a very different place from the country I left seventeen years ago. Globalization is very evident. It feels like almost everything is available now. Staying connected was much easier than I remembered.
What was the same?
I still felt at home with family and friends. Being able to enjoy meals with family and close friends whom I hadn't seen in many years was special. Not that I had any doubts, but the food was as amazing as I remembered. I enjoyed sugar cane, furah, waina, and some fantastic suya.
What was very different?
The last time I visited Nigeria, I was twenty years old trying to find my place in the world. On this trip, I became more aware of how my perspective of what is important to me has changed. I was able to navigate uncomfortable situations better and enjoy the small good things even more.
What did I enjoy the most?
The simplicity of life in Nigeria was a welcome break from my life now. Partly because I was on vacation and not working, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. I was constantly reminded of the importance of enjoying life and being present in the moment.
What didn't go so well?
The story won’t be complete if I don’t mention the not so good things I witnessed during my visit. The main thing I didn't enjoy was the pressure to be married. Especially from extended family members, I met. There was detailed questioning about when I was going to get married. I attempted to redirect questions to share the fact that I was happy with where I was in life and very successful. I'm hopeful that we can change the view of what the vision of success is for a Nigerian woman.
What do I wish I did?
The two and a half weeks I spent went by too quickly. I would have loved to visit Kaduna, the city I grew up in. That's definitely on my list for my next visit with my sister. Hopefully, my next trip would be in less than twelve years :)
What was the most embarrassing experience?
There was a common theme of these moments. Meeting people who knew me but I could not recognize them or remember their names. Am I the only one who doesn’t recall everyone they met more than seventeen years ago?
What was my most significant learning?
On this trip, I was reminded of the importance of the people in our lives. I enjoyed reconnecting with people I haven't seen in many years and building new memories with my special companion.
In my recent blog post How growing up in Nigeria prepared me for life, I summarized the top 10 principles Nigeria taught me that prepared me for life. Let's wrap this post with the principles that were confirmed on my trip
Read more of my journey as part of the "Her Relocation" series.