After talking about it for well, forever, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and planning a trip to Nigeria for early next year. I haven’t booked flights yet as I’m hoping to convince a group of friends / bloggers / relatives to join me on my quest for a joint self discovery mission. Nigeria is somewhere that I’ve held in a near mystical reverence slash fear from as long as I can remember. It is this unknown entity with many unknown languages, cultures and traditions, all of which I’ve only been able to have small glimpses of through other family and friends but which have never felt have belonged to me. I don’t know if I’ll feel like I belong after the trip but I’ll hopefully understand so much more.
There is only so much I can learn through literature and second hand experiences. The lush greenery, the social tapestry and the rich history of Nigeria is well described in books I’ve read from the likes of Chinua Achebe and Chimanada Ngozi Adichie- they’ve set the scene and now it’s time I play my part in the play.
A bit of history
My name might be a bit of a give away but I’m half Nigerian. My parents are originally from Nigeria and Dominica but met whilst both living in the UK during their teens. My mum went to a party with a group of her girlfriends as one of them was dating my dad’s brother. (The idea of my parents with wet look hair and skinny jeans, hanging out in Stoke Newington all cool as F still makes me cringe slightly) My uncle and mum’s friend didn’t last very long, but my parents hit it off and years later, married and started a family.
I was born in Nigeria. I’m not particularly sure on why, though I’m sure it’s been spoken about in passing on many occasions during my lifetime. But I think my dad went to Nigeria for a job and my mum missed him so ended up following suite. I also think she was quite afrocentric and wanted to get a slice of the motherland, as going by the few photos I’ve seen, she seemed to leave north London behind her and fully embrace Nigerian life, clothes and all. We moved back to the UK quite soon after I was born and although we visited a few times in my infancy, I don’t remember anything about where I was born.
We never learned to speak Yoruba, the language of my dad’s family, as it was instead used as the secret parent language, whispered and laced with English between my parents when they wanted to talk about adult topics in the presence of us kids. I didn’t much mind as a child or teenager, but now I begrudge being kept away from a language of my ancestors. I’ve thought about taking lessons before my trip so that I don’t look so much of a fish out of water, just enough to be polite, say please and thank you, that kind of thing.
Things I’m looking forward to eating
Like really, this is half the draw of this trip. I love Nigerian food, my dad has a small but classic repertoire of Nigeria dishes ranging from okra stews to moin moin. I loved trips to my aunt’s because through them I learned about the heavenly miracle that is puff puff (so having these at my wedding) and amala, a brownish coloured staple made from dried yam flour. I would eat these everyday if given the chance. When I was pregnant, I would drive down to the now closed Obalande Suya restaurant in Dalston (now a Tesco Extra!) at least once a week for some chicken suya with jollof rice and a side of moin moin. I could have made it myself but it would never have tasted as delicious, plus I’d have missed out on the opportunity to soak up some ‘Nigerian-ness’. I’m not kidding.
On my list of eats:
- Real suya
- Amala with anything
- puff puff
- Fried plantains
Where in Nigeria should I go?
I posed the question on my Facebook feed recently and I had a few suggestions from friends. Most said Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Port Harecourt and Lekki Island where worth the journey. I’ll try to do them all and also do some research into other places to visit. If you’ve been and have somewhere you feel I need to visit, let me know. I’m planning this trip well in advance so I have enough time to figure out hotels and transportation. As I mentioned, I’m also hoping it’s enough notice for other people so that I can convince them or YOU to come along too! What next? Honestly, I’m not sure where to start. I’m going to talk to family and get their recommendations. I’m going to find out what flights and accommodation will cost so that I can figure out how much it’s all going to cost. It’s all about preparation right now. It’s exciting. I’m going to learn about a whole new side of me on this trip. Nigeria watch out now!