Face after face. Sannu, you are welcome. Another face. You are welcome. A hug, a kiss, a name. Sannu, you are welcome. There was an uncomfortable tug at every inch of my body that made it hard to concentrate. Blurry, lost, exhausted, thirsty. Another face. Sannu, sannu, sannu, welcome, welcome, welcome. It repeats. A visit too long overdue yet a visit perfectly on time. A different world. An unknown culture. So much left to be discovered.
Family waiting, anticipating, expectant. The nearing end of far too short a visit lingered over every conversation and invitation. A globalizing world becoming seemingly smaller, yet pushing our family further. The ironies that attach themselves to life.
Is this what it means to know where you come from? Each family member, each joke, each memory. Is it painful or joyful? A quick glance at grandma, a smile from an aunt, curious glares burning into my back from cousins too young to understand, yet wishing they knew. Who are you? Where did you come from? Why are you here? Maybe I know the answer to those questions a little better now.
At times we sit in tangible content silence. An understanding deeper than words. One of feeling instead of talking. Choosing to accept the unspoken facts and cling to a hopeful future. With each family member, each joke, each memory, I begin to realize that experiencing this part of my identity was answering questions I didn’t know I had.
We walked down the dusty road winding through the village. I hear you are the one who can help. You can bring your family back. You can encourage your family to embrace Nigeria. An uncle I’d never met, assigning me a task I wasn’t sure how to accept. It is strange to be a visitor to a foreign place that some family members have forever called home. This complicated, beautiful, irrational, joyful, frustrating, and wonderful place I experienced.
Will you be back to Nigeria? I hope so….Sannu. You are welcome.
I wrote this piece while I was in Nigeria with my dad in June 2008. In many ways this was the trip that awakened my desire to travel and see the world. I was too nervous to share it back then, but I reread it and experienced a nostalgia for the 18 year old girl that wrote this. It was time to put it out there.