Life twists and turns in so many ways, and almost a year ago to the day, I interviewed for, and made the final decision of, a move to Uganda, East Africa. Now, in 2017, I move forwards to another moment in time and find myself landing upon a new lily-pad – this time by the name of Lagos, Nigeria. This was a highly unexpected and unforeseen move, for various reasons, yet here I found myself, treading the waters of footsteps that have gone before me …. even those of my late grandfather, who worked in this country (though further along the coast) as an engineer over 60 years ago. In this change of an un-designated and thus un-mapped story of my wanderings, I walked forwards towards a new wabi-sabi; discovery of beauty in imperfection; the acceptance of the cycle of light and death.
The Christmas period was a melee of my beloveds, both in Brighton and across the seas over to the Spanish mountains, and my heart brimmed full of love tinged with sadness at the meetings. I cherished the opportunity to spend a baby’s first christmas with two people I hold deep within my heart, I adored being with some other best friends back in what has been my UK home for over ten years, and I soaked up glorious (albeit a little held-back due to my knee brace) time with my family and my mischievous nephews.
I sat by open fires, I ambled along mountain paths, I laughed aloud with friends as we devoured sumptuous home-cooked (restaurant-standard though I must add) meals; I sang and I danced, I wept, and I learnt. My heart was a humdrum of activity, through the reunions, through the reminders of how much I had missed people and how important they are to me in my life, and as I felt the pangs of separating myself, for now, from Uganda. I gained some excellent medical care, and gained a new robotic-style attire to aid me to walk without crutches, in the interim period before I go for a double surgery. And I was even blessed to be able to stand out in the moonlight as snowflakes fell to my eyelashes and caressed my face with their icy tendrils.
However, before long, it was time to make the goodbyes once again. So many goodbyes over that time period, and this time it was not only for England but also a further farewell from Uganda. Thus, without further ado, I put one foot in front of the other and began many internal mantras, such as …
I didn’t shed a tear this time, though I definitely felt the rhythms of my heart dance to some sensational beats, and despite some very last-minute changes of plan, I walked into London Heathrow with a sense of serenity and a smile deeper within. A toast with one of my beautiful soul sisters, a very warm welcome from the ground staff to support me in my limited capacity, and off I went. Time for more coddiwomples indeed.
The new job brings with it many opportunities that I would not have been able to have had in Uganda, at that time, including the opportunity for frequent returns home (whether that be UK or in fact Uganda, which is now so clearly a home in my heart that even I find myself confused when I hear myself refer to “home”). With an operation pending, what is of utmost importance at present is my well-being and my physical welfare. It is the intention that this new adventure will provide me with that sanctuary.
Admittedly, with the apparent dangers of this new country and also through its make-up and terrain, there is a part of me that cries out for my Ugandan paradise, so that I can once again plan out different explorations at the weekends, never really knowing what I am going to find or where I will end up. That said, I am now in a new land, in fact I am on an island. New sights to see, new people to meet, new music to move to, new food to sample, new wares to find.
So here I am Lagos. Pleasure to meet you. And my first real sighting once on the land itself … something that literally made me laugh aloud and thank the spirits for their playfulness to me:
(Lagos airport is a little hectic for sure, but someone really should have told this guy …)
Scooped up and sent on my way, I found myself being set-up with my Nigerian SIM, being taken shopping for home-basics, being given a salary advance, and being left to mesmerize out loud at the sizable apartment that apparently belongs solely to me. I kid you not, I have three bathrooms, each attached to a bedroom; I wondered aloud to myself if I may simply move around all of them each night so that each day I wake up afresh and forget where I am! (As if I am on the road staying in guesthouses anyhow, despite not really travelling so much for the near future!).
Having left the UK under a dusting of snow, I rapidly moved around the rooms turning off all of the air con, and then I sat. I sat and soaked up the warmth, the silence, the surrealism of all of a sudden being in my next new life. I was invited out for the night for welcome drinks, but having flown through the night to get here, despite my best intentions, I opted for sleep instead.
Thus what originally had been foreseen as a sleepy Sunday, became a frozen cocktail on the beach and a great catch-up with a new friend (I realise the impossibility of this phrase, yet somehow this is exactly what it was, and I felt like I had spent the day with an old friend instead. A singing heart yet again).
Jump to more than a week later and I feel like I can barely recognise myself in the wintry pictures of less than three weeks ago! I have since been to various markets around the islands of Lekki and Ikoyi, to check out the similarities to Uganda and to get a taste for what is available to me here. I have visited the National Theatre on the mainland, in preparation for regular visits to events there, much as I did in Kampala, and made some new Nigerian friends as a result. I have enjoyed canapes and aperitifs with a new friend/colleague, to celebrate their acquisition of a new position, and I have prepared for the imminent arrival of my wonderful mother!
The play I saw, was exceptional. Named Itan, meaning story in Yoruba, it told the tale of the clash of traditions-vs-modernity. Told in a similar vein to that of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, there were dances, songs and performances from the past, present and future, giving me glorious insights into some of the Yorubu culture and beliefs. I found myself swept up in a group of students from the University of Lagos, whilst they did their study analysis of the play, and later I found myself backstage, being introduced to one of Nigerian’s top comedians, who goes by the name of Saka.
I have learnt Yoruba, Iyobi, Hausa and Pidgin English are the four main languages I should try to learn, and I have begun to learn a little of the first and last. Using the phonetic alphabet, daya daya means the same as Lugandan’s mpole mpole, i.e. little by little, slowly slowly. I have learnt that by no means do I ever want wahala, aka trouble, and that if I want you to relax, I will you to farar-ba-ley. I have also picked up that if I am asked the phrase, “how far?“, I am in fact being asked how I am feeling – who knew!
I am definitely in an adjustment period, as I adapt to what is pretty much a concrete jungle, where everyone travels with their drivers as there are so many traffic robberies and kidnappings, certainly on the mainland anyhow, and where the price of everything seems to change almost every day due to an incredibly unstable economy. Yet at the same time, I feel fine. My new job is amongst really open and warm-hearted individuals, with the lagoon as my backdrop and colourful Agama lizards walking past me as I move about on the paths. I adore being back in the heat and having the opportunity to use a pool each day (my energy and very sore leg providing). I miss the sound of the call to prayer and watching the sun rise over the hills of Kampala. But I adore chance to extend my eyesight onto new sights once more, and through the added bonus of meeting a lovely man named Daniel, I am beginning to be taught how to cook Nigerian food when he comes to my home.
Another adventure, another day, another moment that I have not created nor did I need to. It is happening. Now. New in Nigeria. Not new for long.