It had been approximately 7 years since the last time I'd been there. I'd been just seven years old and it had been about mid-July, right before or after my birthday. Now it was October. I was 15. I vaguely rembered some things that I'd encountered last time, but now I carried biased opinions and a more vivid memory. As soon as the plane got closer to the Nigerian ground for landing, I had to constantly remind myself that I was in a third world country as I looked out the window. Once we got out side of the Lagos airport, my whole perspective on the world changed. It was like organized chaos. The ground, which used to be black asphalt, was now burgundy from all the mud and dirt. Women had on wigs, braids, and weave – no natural or gray hair in sight. Outfits varied from traditional Nigerian wear to jeans and a T-shirt. All I could hear were two things: yelling and beeping. It was the "BEEP BEEP" of impatient drivers waiting to pick up their guests. Some were in nice cars. Some were in old, rusty, beaten up cars. Some were riding motorbikes. "BEEP BEEP!"
When we finally entered the an old red car with one of my uncles as the driver, we sat by the curb waiting for another uncle to arrive and relieve us of our luggage, which was uncomfortably propped on our laps. As we waited, authority tried to come and tow the car – with us still in it.
On our way home, it seemed like people were blowing their horns just because they could. There were huge potholes in the road. There were fires on the sides of the streets and people piled up and hanging out of cars. There was pollution, dust, smoke, and exhaust rising in the air and entering into the car windows. We couldn't close the windows because there was no air conditioning, and closing the windows would make the heat unbearable. Police checkpoints were everywhere. As it grew dark, the police would flash very bright lights into the car, making it hard to sleep. Right before we got to the city, we kept passing these tiny rows of huts and shacks.
It was painful for me to realize and remind myself that people really lived there.
The city was so crowded! Motorcyclists haphazardly rode in between the lines of cars. People yelled, played loud music, and jumped in the middle of the street in order to attract attention to sell their goods. There were no crosswalks there. If you wanted to cross the street, you needed to run because a car would not stop for you…
It was hard to find something positive about this place. Maybe it was the fact that even though so many people are so much worse off than I am, they still find a way to make every day count. That's something I've still been trying to do, even with all I've been blessed with. This trip made me realize that I should always be grateful for everything I am given, because there is always someone who doesn't have the same opportunities as I do.
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