Uncovering the Roots of my Identity - My Family Travels

Whenever I stopped at the side of Terminus Road – the main street of Plateau state, Nigeria – my eyes were always engrossed by the horde of little kids who would encircle our car. The streets were dirty and packed and the people were hustling various commodities. Everything was quite busy. To top that, almost everywhere I went was poverty-stricken. There were unpaved roads and vile gutters covered by planks. And wherever these places were, young and old people, begged for anything – a coin or a piece of bread. I would often wonder why the horde of kids would always harass us through the window of our car. What was their purpose? What did they teach me about my life and culture?

In the summer of 2006, I embarked on a visit to Nigeria. My mom told my sisters and I that we would be visiting for about two months. Her argument was that we needed to learn and experience how our people – Nigerian people – lived. At that time I was an upcoming ninth grader and I could not believe that I would be going to the place that had exposed me to the taunts of school kids who called me “African booty-scratcher.” From the moment we stepped out of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Nigeria, an aggregate of people ambushed us holding out their hands for money. I was shocked; this would never happen in America, or at least I believed.  

The airport had a delightful ambiance. The architectural structure of the area was the antithesis to the dusty, straw houses that media depicted of Africa.  Nevertheless, as we headed to my aunt’s house, the setting changed. It was as if everywhere was hit by a dust bomb. There was a sudden monotony of ripped and dingy clothing. The roads were accented with bottles, candy wrappers, and pieces of cardboard. As my eyes were transfixed on the many hands that awaited money, I began to wonder whether these people and the dirty roads were what my mother wanted me to see. How did they relate to my identity as a Nigerian girl?

My purpose for being in Nigeria, according to my mother, was to see how my people lived. As a visitor to Nigeria, I never took that into account, but as time progressed I opened my eyes to what Nigeria had to offer to my identity. I began to see everything in depth. I looked for the truth through my analysis of what I saw in my Nigerian society day in and day out. I discovered an anti-paradise. A place that was brown, brown, brown, and brown again: saturated in corruption, hunger, and dirt.

In retrospect, I think back to the time when our car stopped on the side of Terminus Road now that I truly understand my history. I realize that the horde of young and old people who ravaged the window of my car for anything – a coin or a piece of bread – was somehow related to me. Does that mean that I am interconnected to the poverty-stricken people who waited at the side of Terminus Road for a chance at better life? Do I want the dust, poverty, struggle, passion, and resilience? I think I did. Over the short two-months of becoming a Nigerian citizen, I fell in love with a new world–one that desired freedom from the grip of poverty. A world where I would soon dedicate my allegiance.



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