Many times when people write about visiting Africa, it tends to be about a missionary trip. The term ‘Africa’ is usually synonymous with poverty, dirt, corruption and illness. Africa is often portrayed as an uncivilized mass in need of donations. Yes, just like any other nation, there are parts of Africa that could use some help. However, it would be a huge lie to say the entire continent is identical. The Africa I know is bursting with riches, culture, flavor, heritage and opportunity. My Africa is diverse yet united, and I was grateful to learn about it last summer.
As I stepped off the Delta Airlines plane and my foot touched African soil, the sweet aroma of fresh buns quickly filled my nostrils. My ears were engaged to the various languages and dialects Nigeria has to offer along with the infamous honking of cars. It sounded as if the drivers were musicians, and they were performing with the horns, their prized possession. My eyes were blinded by the bright colors and prints from the traditional attires, and my skin was glistening as the warm sunshine smiled down at me. I was in the real Africa.
After arriving in Lagos on that June afternoon, one of my uncle’s drivers drove us to his house. In Africa, any male older than you is your uncle and for females, aunty. Doing so unites us as a family. At his house we were greeted by the gatekeeper; notice I said house, not hut. African houses are built with bricks and cement for durability. The style of a home is selected by the owners, so the number of bedrooms can range from one to fifty. My uncle’s house had ten bedrooms, four restrooms, a built in pool and was completely fenced. Every African home is also equipped with a maid, driver and gatekeeper. The great part is this way of living is available to medium income families; one doesn’t have to be rich to live luxuriously. I believe ‘house’ is an understatement, and the term ‘mansion’ plays a better fit.
Later that week, my family was invited to a birthday party of a mutual friend at which I learned more about the real Africa. Africans love to celebrate every/ any accomplishment; what’s life without celebrations? When I reached the location, I was in disbelief. The celebrants rented a party hall called “Jade Hall” part of The Atrium in Port Harcourt. The hall was beyond magnificent; it was color-coordinated and fully decorated. There were DJs, entertainers, servers and about 800 guests; there also wasn’t a fee for admission. The catering was glorious; there were fried plantains (dodo), okra soup, assorted meats and fishes, a variety of rice: jollof, fried and white, pounded yam , yam porridge, amala, eba, asaro, akara, meat pie, and much more. My favorite was suya; it tastes like pork chop but with a ton of ground pepper and fresh onions. The people were varying shades of brown and had hair ranging from tight and curly to flowing and straight. The attire was also breathtaking; the women donned expensive gold jewelry with dresses that sparkled with shiny stones and shoes from Italy. The men showed off their designer accessories and advanced technology. It was completely different from what I expected.
My trip to Nigeria exposed the Africa that is never portrayed. A trip like this is needed for everyone In order to expand one’s knowledge from stereotypes. I witnessed a glowing and happy Africa. I witnessed an Africa full of prosperity and life. That is the real Africa; the one I call home.
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