Before I came I really thought I was fairly well travelled. I’ve gone travelling alone – backpacked round South America by myself with no Spanish in my vocabulary. Jumped headfirst into new cultures with their music and food and language (where I can) but nothing….nothing could have prepared me for the organised chaos that is Lagos.
Everything works on its own frequency here – you really have to understand how each interaction works on its own terms. English is taught in schools but isn’t necessarily spoken at home so conversations flow as a mixture of languages. The main three spoken are Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa but even those can then be broken down into their own dialects depending on where you come from. Within that a word can have completely different meanings depending on the context it’s used in or the way it’s pronounced.
I always knew this would be a journey of self discovery mixed with work which is partly why it’s so overwhelming but I didn’t realise quite how little I knew about where I come from. When I arrived at the airport I was asked, where are you from? Britain” I said. No! I laughed. Ok, Nigeria. “Yes! Where?” I’m Yoruba I said, wanting to claim my Nan’s family and thinking I could do it that way. He looked at my passport, looked at me and said, “No. I don’t think you know where you come from.” Jheeeez, talk about a kick in the gut – but where was the lie? You’re right I said, that’s why I’m here.
Four days later I have a National ID number, I know I am Igbo from Delta state which I said with pride in the market buying material from my state brother who gave me a discount and told me, welcome home. It would take a lifetime to feel like a true Nigerian – in the market they first laughed when I said I’m Igbo – one man said NO, you’re a liar!! 😂
Some look confused; as far as they can see I’m a white woman – my hair is loose, it’s curled like a weave. My skin is pale, devoid of the melanin mark of a true African. So wild to think how marked I feel as na black person in the UK and how marked I feel as a white person in Nigeria… The life of a mixed race person! At least people are still friendly here, despite me being an outsider – which isn’t just based on my skin but also the way I walk and talk, I am so very very fresh and it shows. But this is just the beginning, the first step on the first trip of which there will be many many more.