April 2006, Nigeria: Meeting the Fam

“i made it. my dad is real. my family is real. i wondered how i would know him but i just did. he was in the same white traditional clothes as he is in the picture that hangs on the wall in my room. there was the whole immigration fiasco-“

i was detained by nigerian immigration because i didn’t know my dad’s home address by heart and you have to know that before you can enter the country. i spent a long time chasing this official who insisted on holding my passport, and who berated me for not trusting him to give it back to me. i don’t have the energy to go into it, but he was an uncompassionate jackass and made me cry.

“but then the guy led me outside. and i saw dad and he saw me and we smiled. and then we hugged. i didn’t cry like i thought i would. and i didn’t cry like i did with the immigration police minutes before. it’s like this: there’s all of these ill feelings tied up in my fears and insecurities about childhood and meaning and life experience and going and getting there and meeting him. but when it came right down to it, when i saw him, when we hugged… that’s it. everything else is gone. it’s just me and my dad. and it’s normal. it’s fine. it’s good.

“oh the sight of him was crazy though. a picture come to life. and so familliar. i’ve never had that experience before where you see someone for the first time but it’s like looking in a mirror. well, not exactly a mirror for us but the resemblence is clear. our eyes. the vein in the middle of our foreheads. the undereye circles and our cheeks. it’s crazy.

“so i met him and he took me out into the street overflowing with people. we went around some driveway and headed toward mommy (my stepmother) and my brother and sister. that was crazy, too. my pictures i have of them are at least five years old but they look exactly the same. just like the pictures. funke was the first to say hello. it was so exciting that i couldn’t really hear or talk. she introduced herself and it didn’t really make any sense and then i got it. and i introduced myself as if all that was necessary. then i hugged biodun. he looks the most like my dad did when he was younger and he’s super hot but mini. it’s crazy. then i said hi to mommy, who was very vocal and welcoming. she kissed me on both cheeks. then they had the kids take my luggage and mommy and daddy each held and hand and we walked through this crazy mass of people and cars to get back ot our car. that was quite a surreal feeling. plus, people were looking at us. i’m much lighter than them so i’m sure that’s the reason for all the double takes. but bajeebees i felt like a princess or ms america or something – my feeling inside. like, look at me – how lucky am i? i’ve got mommy and daddy and my brother and sister and i’m taking my first few steps in the country from where my blood comes.

“we drove home and i just wondered how people don’t die every minute there. i’ve heard about the traffic of course, but this was seriously come crazy mess. it was what i would consider a highway but there were people everywhere on foot, and too many cars and no clear lanes and little motor bikes cruising between the cars with just a couple inches leeway on either side. people climbing over dividers and running across the road and piling into busses. what the heck? and the horns are not for emergencies only. it reminds me of this multiple choice question that i never forgot on my drivers test – what do you do in order to switch lanes? c. honk and point in the direction you’re going. it was seriously like that and the horn is an integral part of driving. but then i think of it in terms of chaos and rollerskating and how if you’re used to it, people rarely get hurt. and it’s often the new person that throws a wrench in it and gets hurt. i vowed never to drive in nigeria. so wow.

“we drive toward home where we see this market area. agboyi in alapere. our neighborhood. complete chaos to my american eye. little crazy shops on the side of the road selling fruits and veggies and produce and stuff. i don’t even know. motor bikes lined up along the side of the road. i asked my brother about these and he said these bikes are commercial and take people short distances where the busses can’t get to. and the side roads are ludicrous. potholes two feet deep every couple of yards. crazy stuff. but at the same time i try not to judge – thats just how it is here. whole different set of standards. it reminds me a little of tijuana. a whole different world but it is what it is. i’ll never appreciate it if i look through my american lens. so i try to just see what i see and form an opinion later. gosh theres just so much, how will i ever keep up?

“ok, so eventually we get home. we have to pray first and formemost. which means first we sing. they sing nice siongs in that african call and response form with the like… the ups and downs of the notes that is typical in african songs i’ve heard before. it’s pretty. i can’t yet sing along so i just close my eyes and listen. then mommy leads in prayer.”

after that, they cooked me this huge dinner and i sat with my dad and chatted about family and started showing him my pictures. after dinner, my dad started asking me about my “problems”. my pandora’s box of problems. but that’s another story.

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