Saturday, October 3, 2015

Here, There and Everywhere Else

I grew up in Lagos Nigeria, the largest and most populous city in Africa. The best part of the year was visiting the beachside in the summer, which was almost all year round. Rather than the trees and natural forests we enjoy here in Washington, all Lagos had were lots of people and small buildings. There seemed to be someone around every corner you turned. As populated as Lagos was, everyone knew each other because we had strong family ties. This was life, as I knew it.

As the first of four children, I got to experience everything first. I was the first to be allowed to stay up late, the first to attend college, and the first to learn how to drive. But being first wasn’t always a good thing. It also meant I got the blame for everytime my siblings got into trouble. Unfortunately, I was also the first to go over the age of 21. No, I’m not talking about the alcohol consumption age. Going over 21 meant that my Dad, a US citizen could only file for my siblings but not me. My siblings moved to the US in 2002 leaving me behind. I had to wait for 8 years before I finally got my green card to travel here.

Coming to America finally became a reality in 2010 but I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. I had been a driver for 8 years before arriving in the US but there were no STOP signs in Lagos or traffic lights. So it took me six trials before I finally got my drivers license. See in Lagos, the cars have the right-of-way so I didn’t understand why people chose to walk graciously when crossing the streets.

Before arriving in Baltimore, I had seen a lot of American TV shows. The people always seemed so happy on shows like Family Feud, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Price is Right and the likes. However, everything seemed far from right the day I saw an American citizen panhandling on the streets of Baltimore. It was difficult to tell from the movies that the weather could be sunny and chilly all at the same time. See, the more I traveled the less I knew. Then came the language barrier. Even though I spoke the English language all my life I found it difficult to communicate in college because I spoke in a different dialect. I soon acquired the “east coast accent” from a friend Nic Kelly who always picked on my accent.

My road trip to New York during the spring break of 2011 exposed me to a whole new culture. The cultural diversity in lower Manhattan alone was overwhelming. Everyone seemed to be a tourist. People were taking photographs of every building and I even saw people taking pictures of other people taking pictures. No one knew who I was. I felt lost, but free. If this was the American dream, I was determined to live it.

On June 19th, exactly one month after graduating from college, I seceded from Baltimore to Seattle. I thought I had experienced it all on the east coast but I wasn’t prepared in the least for the fun and “high” spirits the northwest presented me. Everyone in Washington seemed to be from someplace else. I have since signed a two-year lease because this is home for now. Through all of my journeys, I have discovered that home is wherever you choose to make it. Here, there, and everywhere else.

-Toastmaster







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