I’ve lived in various countries and many, many cities. I have worked across many of the workplace realms, at differing employment levels (from Social services, to Education, to hospitals, to catering and hospitality). And I have traveled to, and explored, quite a few countries also.
But never in all of my experiences can I ever recall days as disparate as the ones my eyes see and my feet tread here, in Nigeria. It is truly a fascinating, if not deeply heart-wrenching life I feel I am wrapped within. I often find myself spinning inside the spider’s web of confusion, intrigue, wonder and sadness.
Take for example this past week. I myself have been experiencing some health issues. As I am assigned a hospital through my workplace, I have been having tests with them. I have then been administered drugs to relieve symptoms. Yet for the second time in less than a year, the meds prescribed are ones I am highly allergic to (to the point of possible death)…
Somehow almost an entire year has passed since I have put pen to paper (so to speak) and here I sit wondering how on earth so much could have gone unscripted. Much has happened, many countries traversed, friends made, friends lost, and one thing is for sure, many illnesses and adventures have been had.
Right now I sit here in my apartment watching the kestrels flying above the treetops and waiting to see if my newly found friend, a wild Egret, will deem to sit on my balcony once again and just stare at me nonplussed for some time. (He is quite the amusing fellow I can tell you; looks at me with his earnest eyes as if wanting food, yet when I put flaked fish out for him, he is too hesitant to take it. However when any other Egret dares to breach his boundary walls, he becomes almost apoplectic and I become certain he will fall off to his sudden death…..Yes I know, a bird can’t fall, but you get the jist).
Whilst it sounds tranquil and somewhat of a nice way to begin the weekend, it is also beyond my choice. It is Stage Two of elections here in Nigeria, this time for the State Governor roles. I will definitely not make any comment on this, nor the Presidential Election, as it is indeed not my place to do so. But what I can remark, is that when these take place, the whole place gets put onto “Lock-down/curfew”. No vehicles are allowed on the road during the voting process and due to any potential safety issues, we are asked not to venture beyond our premises.
Lagos life is becoming reminiscent of my old London life; fast-paced, not enough ‘end’ in my week, long journey times to reach nearby destinations, and opportunities to do so much, that I couldn’t even write it all into my diary let alone fit it in.
Rainy season this time around has been like no other I have known, for this time of year. Having returned to Nigeria at the end of August, it seems like not a single week has passed when the skies haven’t darkened, day has somehow turned into night skies, and plans have been set aside due to heavy downpours. Even yesterday, as I traveled to the beach hoping to get some ‘fresh’ sea air into my lungs for a reprieve, we found ourselves amidst a full canvas of rains, leading us to be wetter than if we had simply jumped from the boat and immersed ourselves within the lagoon. Arriving at the beach house, shivering and having the sensation of being a drowned rat, my simple choice was to submerge myself under the pool’s water. Despite it generally giving me an initial chill to the bone upon entry, I found myself warmed and soothed. Better under the water than it crashing down upon me.
There is so much of this place that I love. Yet I am working all hours that I can manage, still I find I am behind in almost every deadline that I face, and thereby of course, I feel like I don’t see much of these loves….
So, I have now been here for two weeks and have just arrived in my third and final hotel. The weather has not been as good as anticipated; though I knew it was winter here, that had meant for me some very cool evenings but mostly fine days. Instead there has been a lot more rain within this than expected. Yet I admit, I have no reason to complain. I have been off from work, in beautiful surroundings and the wet weather has given me more chance to study.
I would like some more sun rays now though, for my last week here! That said, I have been delighted with stunning sunsets, and glorious rainbows.
It is indeed romance-central across the island, and though I had been pre-warned that much of the island’s draw as a tourist are the spectacular 5 star hotels it boasts, I could never have imagined this until I saw them with my own eyes. (My drive up the East coast yesterday opened my eyes to hotel complexes I have never imagined could exist). Meanwhile, I have now spent time in both the North and South of the island, and thanks to having hired a little car, I have also circumnavigated the whole perimeter of the island and feel I have a good semblance of how it varies from region to region.
I can certainly state that it isn’t an easy place to meet people as a solo traveler, as this seems to be quite unheard of here. And I would most definitely recommend getting a car if you are coming here, whether solo or with others. It takes a lot longer to get to places than I expected given the size of the place, and though the beaches and the hotels are the main draw, you cannot easily get to one from another without transport. Also, in times of inclement weather it is useful to reach another quarter of the island, as chances are where the rainbow ends, the sun will be shining.
This expat life is not the one I ever saw myself taking. I got on that plane years ago, because I wanted to live in Africa. I wanted to wake beneath the African sun, hear the songs of the African sky, and sleep beneath the African stars. Uganda was to be my forever home.
And then it was no more.
It has been a few years now since I have lived in Lagos, Nigeria, and at times it is hard for me to ever imagine living elsewhere, least of all the UK.
It has it’s ups and downs, of that I can be very sure! And often I wonder why I am still living there when it has caused much separation from loved ones and favored foods and places. Yet ultimately I land back upon the same conclusion. Africa continues to live in me. I do not fully know what the magnetism is for me, but it remains. And for now, this pole is centred within Nigeria.
Life isn’t always a beach. This is true indeed. Nor is it always plain sailing. Would we want it to be? Would we feel inspired, invigorated, challenged, awakened, aware…any of these things, if it were?
It is fair to say I have been feeling incredibly jaded. I have been reaching a level of emotional burnout, through the effect of various pressures, both externally and internally. And this takes its toll. Once stress is enabled to build-up within us, the effects become long-lasting, have damaging results health-wise, and our mental state feels the hit, hard.
Happy to say however, that though my pressures continue, I have turned some corners. With workloads and with facing some social anxieties head on, (by reconnecting with an old female friend), as well as treading the boards of my beloved dance floor once more. Is it fair to put the blame of all these stressors onto living in Lagos? Maybe. But not entirely.
So, the old adage clearly states, when in Rome, act as the Romans do. And I have been firmly brought up against this backdrop.
It is not for me to put my values upon you, when I am a visitor in your land.
Yet, does this really ring true in today’s interconnected world? It can be extremely hard sometimes, within the West, to find truly authentic experiences of culture, heritage and tradition. Whilst on the traveling scene, this becomes even more prolific, as countrymen scramble to market what they perceive to be the most likely money-spinner the tourists will jump on board with.
Time is faster than many of us would like and much of it is spent working in order to be able to afford the homes we live in, the clothes we wear, the activities we enjoy doing in those snippets of time when we are no longer at work. There is an adage that many of us are working so that we can reach death, whilst not having the chance to experience life.
This is not the way I want to be.
Taking Sannyasin many years ago was not an easy choice for me. I can get overwhelmed by anxiety within my own mind and I can feel reproachful and guilty for things that have long since been said and done. Most likely forgotten by others, but remnants that stay in my mind and heart. However, as part of my dedication to self-love and also a life of service, I consciously chose to ascribe to Osho’s teachings, practice and guidance. To be accountable for my choices and actions always, but not to be laden down by what has gone before. To grasp life in each breath, to continually make the best choice I can, in that very moment, and to trust that this may not be the same choice I make again, even in the next five minutes, let alone years later. To come from my heart always, and to live, fully, in every breath. Conscious choices, loving mind, practices of kindness, service and honesty. I am often heard repeating my personal mantra –
I will only die once, and in that I will most likely have little say. But I can live every moment, and in that I have all the say in the world.
I love the sea. Pure and simple. I am always so much happier when I am near it. I financially crippled myself for years to be able to afford to live near it. I nearly died once when I was in it. (Nitrogen bubble in my spinal cord). And the first thing I said when I was properly conscious again, was to ask when I would be allowed to dive in it again. It’s part of me. As much as the blood in my veins. I believe in reincarnation and in truth, I believe a fair bit in magic too.
Perhaps I was a mermaid in another life.
When I lived in Uganda, it was bitter-sweet for me most days. As I could see the Lake Victoria from the rooftop, where I would spend time practicing yoga, making skype calls, or simply drinking my coffee and watching the birds fly overhead. But that lake is filled to the brim with Bilharzia and so it was; I could see the water, but I would never be in the water.