Landing in Nigeria is so many feelings at once. Especially for those who haven’t been home in years. It’s you trying to stretch out those kinks that have comfortably found a home into your bones during the 7 -15 hour journey. It’s you trying to simultaneously wipe the sleep from your eyes while shoving your swollen feet into your seemingly smaller shoes. It’s you second guessing your outfit (pulling it up at the chest and down at the hem) to make sure some female Customs Officer doesn’t take offense and cause you any additional wahala. Then it’s that jolty landing, you rolling your sleepy eyes as Nigerians to the left and right of you break into a clap, deepening your embarrassment! As if frantically buying all the inflight duty free items like they will never be given visa again and making obscene requests mid air (“can you please find three seats together so Kelechi, Ada, and Ikechukwu can sit beside each other” – mid air o), was not bad enough. Then the scramble starts, as if the air hostesses said only 30 people are allowed off and everyone else must return to whence we just came. The war for hand luggage from the overhead bins and bright yellow duty free bags being flung over shoulders as men crowd out each other and children are herded along to hurry up and join the line that won’t move for another 30 minutes anyway. I’m sure the seat belt sign is still on self.
You finally de-plane and the heat hits you. You see excessively large outdated air conditioners and wonder why they won’t “on” at least one. For heaven’s sake, the ceiling fans are a good 35 feet above the ground and do about 6 rotations a minute. How is that one going to combat this heat? But this is Naija, and you’ve been hustling to get home so you let that one go. One blue and white customs form later, you gather around the miraculously-still-moving conveyor belt and wait to claim your baggage. If you like don’t elbow your way into good visibility. Bags move faster than they appear to. And if they get past you, there is no guarantee they will just come back around when the conveyor belt curves behind that concrete wall. The only thing moving slower than the ceiling fans is the conveyor belt, and as it creeps –one dusty round after another you shoot up prayer after prayer that your bag is here – because if it is not – nothing for you.
15 – 20 minutes later the older lady with the bad weave-on that stole your window seat and your arm rest – more commonly known as “Aunty” hisses her way over. “My dear, are you finding your luggages? They had better be here o. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for my own? Not even one yet o, and I have 6!” You shoot her a sympathetic face and mumble an “ohhh sorry” to the inconvenient stranger and hustle your way back to the front as you catch a glimpse of your bag. Without any regard for those nearby, you make a grab for the overweight bag, and swing it on to any dusty floor space you find.
2 bags later a purple uniformed porter comes to your aid. Slugging your bags onto the luggage cart he confidently walks in the direction of the last checkpoint before the exit, hardly glancing back to see if you are following. Talking your way through the last hurdle that separates you from excited expectant family, you burst outside searching for a familiar face in the crowd. Of course they find you first as they have been waiting a good hour or two, and after arguing with the porter over giving him X additional Naira cuz “you parked far Madam” you set off slumped down in the passenger side down the masquerade lined badly lit roads for home.
Home feels strange. The small changes your mom has made to the decor keeps throwing you off, getting used to the oddly wired light switches, being aware of the sound of every rooster, prayer call, and knock-out that sounds through the night. As you eat your dinner of whatever soup you specially requested (in my case – Egusi) and wash it down with some funny named brand of juice) all you can think is bed. You’re exhausted! Yet 6 a.m. comes and you turn over in your bed, awoken by the sound of the a.c. adjusting to some voltage change and realize sleep has cleared from your eye – f* up. The realization hits you: you’re not happy to be home. Not yet.
But you shake it off as you toss and turn because you know it’s only a matter of time. All you need is a sim card, a BIS activation, a shot of that duty free liquor you’ve already stashed in the freezer, some Yahuza chicken, and your first night out and you’ll be feeling like you never left. With more friends and family around than you can identify, the days pass in a blur. Before you know it, time is up and the reverse of your arrival becomes your departure. All of a sudden you remember why the hell Naija means so much to you, why you hustle for homecomings, and why those stuck in airports in England and America are so frustrated. Between the go-slows, the mosquitoes, the painfully slow internet, the badly fixed local lace fronts, the good food and the five fun loving friends finding fun with Fanta – it’s definitely HOME and nowhere under the sun is quite like it. Home is where the heart is, and yours rests in the giant of Africa – Naija.
I just got home. Safe journey to everyone else in transit! Cherish these moments, take anti-malarial and happy new year!
Photo Source: http://www.gatewaynigeria.tv/relocate/page/2/