Last December, I had the privilege of taking the trip of a lifetime. My family and I went to Nigeria, located in the western part of Africa. My parents grew up here before immigrating to the U.S. in the 1980s. I first traveled to Nigeria in 1998, when I was four, so when my parents told me that the family would be going again for two weeks, I had mixed feelings. I was very hesitant to go since so much time had passed since I first went.
On December 19, 2009, we left for Nigeria. It was a tedious and exhausting 16 hour trip. When we finally arrived, it was too dark to drive to the village, so we stayed in a hotel. The next morning, we headed to the village where our parents grew up and where we had built a house to stay in. On our way to the village, we passed by many people who were carrying baskets on their heads, selling items to make a living for themselves and their families. These people are called “hawkers”. Due to government corruption and greed, countless people suffer daily, with no help from anyone. These observations opened my eyes to the reality of the living conditions in Nigeria.
After a long drive, we arrived at our destination—our house in the village of Achara Ihechiowa. We immediately started unpacking and unloading things into the house. A few minutes later, visitors started trickling in to welcome us. One of my aunts was among the group of people, and she stayed with us the whole time we were there. Since we went during the Christmas season, several festivities took place. We attended church on Christmas Day, followed by a village gathering, and later to some of the weddings in the area. On New Year’s Day, we watched the masquerade, a popular performance in the village that consisted of fireworks and tribal dancing as a way of bring in the New Year. We stayed for a little while before retreating to the house.
The days were winding down after New Year’s and it was almost time for us to go back to the U.S. I was able to see my grandparents and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins again during these last few days. On the last day, my emotions took over. I went from being anxious to come to reluctant to leave. Everyone came back one last time to see us off, and it was a very sad moment.
At first, I had my doubts about going back to Nigeria. I cried the first week, pleading with my parents to cut this trip short, but after a couple of days, I became more comfortable after meeting everyone. I realized how blessed I was to have this opportunity. It meant a lot to know where my parents came from.
I personally gained a lot from this trip, and I can honestly say that it changed me for the better. I don’t take much for granted anymore, especially after becoming more aware of those who are far less fortunate than me. However, one of the few challenges I faced was communication, because of the language barrier. I learned some of the language so that I would be able to better converse with everyone the next time around.
Nigeria is a beautiful country, with an interesting culture and a complex history. The people are hard-working, with strong morals and values, which will teach one a lot about life in general. I would recommend traveling to Nigeria, and I would definitely visit again in the future.
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