creatively sharing inspired thought one word at a time
So I made it back to Port Harcourt for Christmas but I never originally planned to make this trip. The only reason I did was because my parents badgered me over the phone back in April and emotionally blackmailed me into buying a ticket. The main reasons why I wouldn’t have come of my own accord were crucial factors like costs, the amount of days needed off work & the small matter of a promise made to myself in 2013, of not embarking on another visit to nigeria until I had a husband to tote along. Forgive me for the flimsiness of that last reason but the insult had become too much – I repeat, too much… and at the end of the day, I’m not immune to the feelings of frustration certain artless queries can bring. However, I forgave all previous slights and bought my return ticket 7 months in advance of the planned visit. And as the date drew nigh, I found my unwilling self start to feel excited at spending Christmas in Naija. How could I resist when home was calling?
That excitement makes you blurt things aloud to others and causes one to break one’s cardinal rule about these visits – thou shalt not spread word of thy travel plans for fear of carrying “load”. I am still praying that one will one day experience the delicious stress–lessness of traveling to Nigeria without literally staying up all night before one’s departure due to packing, re-packing and weighing suitcases with the sinking realisation that you’re not even going to be able to fit in your own clothes into the cases stuffed with other people’s consignment (in fact, you’ll be lucky if a couple of jeans, some flimsy tanks and one pair of strappy can make it into your hand luggage… and kindly remember one’s chosen airline has a set weight limit for hand luggage). So the excitement quickly turns into intense irritation and the foully asked questions in your mind – “why did I even agree to make this trip? For goodness sakes, wouldn’t I have been looking forward to a more relaxed Christmas if I’d just stayed back in Aberdeen and holidayed in my quiet little corner?”. And then the mad rush to the airport, only made possible by the amazingly dependable friends who generously offered to wake up at the ungodly hour of 3am to drop you off and wait to see if you need to leave anything behind. Uju and Ada, some dry fish will surely be returning from the riverine city in an effort to thank you for your awesomeness.
Then the connecting brouhaha and your awareness of how bloody tired you are because you’ve now been up for almost 24 straight hours, bar the fleeting nap taken on the short hop from Abz to Frankfurt. And your handbag weighs a ton because of the necessaries you’ve had to stuff in there plus you probably look like a crazy homeless person, after stopping off at duty free for some last minute gifts that are now swinging from your hands in multiple carrier-bags and you’re wrestling all of this with your carry-on luggage and only two hands. What a sight. Is it true that you once considered yourself to be a babe?
The heck with weight limits for hand luggage, just chuck the lot into the carry-on anyway. If dem wan vex, make dem vex… Somehow, you finally manage to get your weary self into your carefully selected seat on the Naija-bound plane & a front row one, no less! The assurance of leg room means you can now promptly settle down for an 8hr nap (thanks to passenger offloads plus crew changes in Lagos) but alas, this is not to be as an unfailingly polite member of the cabin crew wakes you from the initial stages of your doze to ask if you would mind changing seats with a lady traveling with a baby and toddler, who is seated much further back. Ah, na wa. You’re not a winch now, so how can you refuse?
Seat changes now completed, you finally settle down for the brief rest promised and before you have time to count enough sheep, you’ve touched down in Lagos! Then Port Harcourt!! And, oh my God, the chaos!!! This is the reality of Omagwa airport – a dark and cramped makeshift tent set up to welcome passengers because of construction work being done on the actual building. I don’t know how to describe the complete disorder that erupted as luggage started getting dropped off from the plane (forget carousels and such other luxuries of organised airport administration) I can only tell you that I was looking at the chaos almost in tears, realising that I couldn’t physically juggle the retrieval of all 3 checked-in suitcases before any one of them disappeared into the crowd pressed around me, while also hefting my carry-on and without a porter or trolley in sight for assistance. The tiredness combined with my frustration just made me start to crumble… and then a hand touched my side. I turned around to see my father standing there and don’t think I’ve ever hugged him with the joy I showed that day, absolutely grateful to have somebody there for me.
That was when my actual homecoming began and after my father took over proceedings at the airport and ferried me home to my mother who was waiting with a warm embrace plus hot food, I began to reflect on the truth about having people. Life spent in the West continually teaches me lessons of total independence and coping alone. Never expecting anyone else to look out for me… But that reality is a little unnatural (as was my earlier desire to spend a quiet Christmas on my own in Aberdeen) because humans need each other and our own Nigerian communities are a very vivid indication of that. The country is a mess but the people keep each other going in a way that proper societal machinery hasn’t been able to in a very, very, long time. And I think my own value systems no longer feature this truth so this visit home is definitely the jolt required to rebalance me, which is a more than welcome realisation. 🙂
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” – Robert Frost, 1874-1963. It feels really good to be home.
Photo credits – Takeonegirlandacameratoo.wordpress.com