Photos to come shortly…
Nigeria has a rough reputation: dangerous, malaria-y, Ebola-y, unsafe. Before I left home, I was bombarded with all sorts of warnings about travel here. There were shots and pills and so much advice I could hardly keep it straight as to how to just be in Nigeria. It intimidated me. Not to the point that I wasn’t excited about the trip, but to the point where I wondered if this journey was one step too far.
The verdict, upon arriving at the final night of my trip?
Nigeria is a beautiful place, full of kind people, and currently in the midst of a really tough time in its history. The country fights with itself, struggles with how to handle the oil wealth, works against itself. There are disputes, arguments, things far worse.
But my experience?
Nigeria is a beautiful place. Workers clean the streets fastidiously. There is pride in the heritage. Sadness at where the country is now, but pride in the heritage.
There are a lot of guns, a lot of men with big guns. Guns intimidate me, as I suppose they are intended to do. But there are a lot here, too many. It reminds me of Mexico in that sense – there are just too many men riding around, walking around, carrying really big guns.
There are also a lot of women dressed in absolutely beautiful traditional Nigerian dress. Vibrant colors, unique styles, gorgeous head wraps. Nigerians are a striking people – truly beautiful. And their children? Absolutely beautiful, each and every one of them.
The health system could use some work, but they’re getting there. Health systems are complicated things – we’re all aware of that. But they’re trying and the staff means well and they’re doing the best that they can. Which is all one can really ask for, right? The best that they can.
The divide between the haves and the have-nots is growing. We drove past a house with a roof so large and tall I think my entire house would fit in it. In the ROOF. Not in the house, in the ROOF. There’s a lot of money, but it’s concentrated in the hands of very, very few. It seems to be a growing trend in the world, and I don’t think it will lead us anywhere good.
Despite all of the hardship, they dance. They dance when they receive the marriage license; they dance in the streets of their village; they dance. My two left feet and I could learn a thing or two from them in that regard. Dance.
So I thank you, Nigeria, for a quick but productive visit. For sharing your people, your culture, your land with me. For reminding me that in every single situation there is beauty to be found. For daring me to see that perceptions from afar may be just that: perceptions. To learn the truth, one must see it with one’s own eyes., which is not to say to ignore that problems exist. Rather, to acknowledge those problems and still, somehow, see the beauty in spite of them.
Nigeria, I hope to see you again some day.