In August 2017, my cousins and I continued our annual family tradition of going back home to Nigeria for at least a month. We started the yearly trip back in 2013 and vowed to never break it. We usually fly out in December -otherwise known as the ‘party and celebration’ season in Nigeria – but due to so many family gatherings and events, the choice this year was between August or not at all. With summer in London barely reaching 16 degrees and Nigeria being on average 38, we didn’t hesitate to book flights.
From Heathrow to Lagos, it took us around seven hours in the air and, as the plane began its descent, the heat had already hit everyone so fast that people began undressing. As always, passengers clamoured to the front, always eager to get off first. Here’s the first thing you should know about Nigerians: we’re impatient.
I love everything about Nigeria, absolutely everything…
One of our favourite places to go is Ogun State in south-west Nigeria which has the nickname ’The Gateway State’ as it’s river, Ogun River, flows through it from its northern part all the way through to the southern and enters in Lagos State. My grandma, known as ‘mama’ by everyone, lives in Sagamu in Ogun State.
Although she visits the UK regularly and stays with us, there’s just something so soothing about seeing her in her natural element, living life and enjoying Nigeria. One beautiful thing about the country is that there is a nice balance between the hectic life and the stress-free life. A common phrase many people say is ‘mi o le wa ku jare’ which translates to ‘I can’t kill myself’.
When things get a bit too much and stress is bound to take over, they can automatically de-stress themselves by reminding themselves that they will not die over anything that doesn’t need to stress them out. Some may deem it as a lazy way out of doing things, but it honestly is a true statement that many of us, even in the UK, live by. More importantly, it always lightens the mood!
I love everything about Nigeria, absolutely everything. From the fresh ripe fruits cut and peeled right in front of your car window, to having your own personal driver and being treated like royalty because you are “an oyinbo from abroad” as they like to call us. Nigeria is literally a stress-free getaway – well, only when you have money, of course.
Although being called an ‘oyinbo’ is offensive to some people and makes them feel out of place, I’ve never been bothered when people would make fun of our accents and the way we reacted to things, such as insects or choosing not to eat certain meals.
Our upbringing and traditional communities and surroundings back home in the UK fortunately gave me a strong sense of culture and makes me feel comfortable there – especially when they speak Yoruba to me and I can reply back! The shock on their faces is absolutely priceless and then they start to nod and smile or ask how you are able to understand.
Many people in Nigeria carry negative stereotypes and assume that because you were born abroad your knowledge of the country is either watered down or non-existent, but it’s nice to show them every year that, although we are six hours away by plane, we are very much in-tune with the culture.
Nigeria is always full of surprises, and coming from a big family allows us to literally meet 10 new cousins and countless new aunties and uncles every other day in August. Some people may see it as strange or unrealistic, but when you are part of the culture you see things differently, and that’s what makes our trips so special. Every year we just anticipate what the next surprise will be.
A whole month filled with love, noise, family, food, events and the hot sun blazing every morning. I wouldn’t want Nigeria to be any other way.
Words and images, Sarah Oladokun