As I type this it is almost 2 am London time and I’m sitting on the floor of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 (loooong story). Regardless I finally feel inspired to write something again and to shake out the tumbleweeds that have been blowing through the blog lately.
I’m currently in transit on my way back to NYC after 3 and a half days in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital and I really wanted to share my reflection about the city and my experience. In the past few years I’ve heard so much about Nigeria from friends who have been (especially those who have gone to Lagos) and recently, after devouring nearly all of Chimamanda Adichie’s books I have been itching to experience the country for myself.
When I found out I was going there for work I was ecstatic to be given the opportunity to see a tiny slice of arguably the continent’s most infamous country for myself.
For the most part I was swamped with work and I got to see very little outside of the hotel, office and conference venue. In between work and dealing with the time difference I stuffed my face with fried plantains and Nigeria’s awesome hot and spicy food; suffered serious caffeine withdrawals; discovered that in Nigeria no one will exchange 20 USD notes that are older than 2006 and got caught off guard each time a greeting exchange ended with “you’re welcome”.
But the most enriching part of the experience started on Thursday night when I met Chika – a young Nigerian journalist who was raised in the US and returned to Nigeria six months ago to live and work. Aware of my desperation to see a bit of the city life before departing on Saturday morning, Chika invited me to join her and her friends for an evening out on Friday.
What ensued was one of those amazing, rare experience that happen when a bunch of like minded individuals find themselves thrown together by a twist of fate, some random chance. We ended up being a group of 10 or 11, a mixture of foreigners working in or visiting Nigeria for a limited time, and Nigerians raised abroad who had returned in the past three years. It was especially fascinating listening to the dynamic young Nigerian women who had all decided to move back to the country after growing up and living most of their lives abroad. Hearing them describe how they came to their decision was incredible, as were the tales of their experiences since moving back.
After attending a book reading by local up-and-coming writers (organized by the Abuja Literary Society) we headed out for a bite at Salamander cafe and then to Blake’s for live music and dancing in a great spacious venue, and finally to one of the local clubs for some more dancing.
I don’t want to make any pronouncements or generalizations about Nigeria based on what was my very limited experience. There’s a huge tendency for people to reduce the countries they visit (especially in Africa) to a few narratives or images (for example “it’s so beautiful here” or “everyone is so friendly”). All I will say is that never did I think is spend a Friday night dancing away to Abba being performed by a local band in Abuja with a group of people I had only met a short while before.
To end off – a short video clip of the beautiful call to prayer from a local mosque that I heard on my first night as I was snapping photos of the sunset. It was so unexpected and so beautiful: http://youtu.be/sMOvDTXxVlg
The photos were all taken on my iPhone, many of them out of moving taxis
Apologies for any typos in this post – it is almost 3 am now and I’m typing on my iPhone