A terrifying dream
By Femke van Zeijl
‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.’ The tweet rolling over my screen last Saturday evening was not meant for me especially. But it hit me. Let me be honest: my dream every once in a while frightens the hell out of me. Bidding farewell to my safe, luxurious country to settle in a city with almost as many inhabitants as the Netherlands but not even one percent of the facilities, to settle in a country that to most people in the West unjustly only means bad news: written down like this my plan to move to Lagos, Nigeria does sound like a bit of a crazy undertaking. Meanwhile I haven’t looked forward to anything as much before in my life.
Besides me and the cabin personnel the all but packed Boeing 747 to Lagos carries hardly any white people. Am I imagining things, or am I being gazed at in curiosity? Are my fellow passengers also wondering what an oyibo like me is going to do in Nigeria?
The pastor in the seat next to me asks me directly. ‘Are you married to a Nigerian?’ I smile. It is not the first time I get that question. As if love would be the only reason to move to Nigeria. Would it have been posed to me had I been a man, I wonder?
The next weeks it will be all or nothing. Will I get the dream job I’m hoping for? Will I find an affordable apartment in the centrally located area of Surulere? Won’t the ever stricter Nigerian laws of immigration prove to be an obstacle – although in spite of myself I’d consider it poetic justice if a European were denied access to Africa for a change?
The coming month I’ll be in Lagos to make big decisions. One thing is certain: the control freak in me will have to let go. That at least is what I told myself this weekend when I was almost panicking about the fact that two days before leaving for Lagos I still did not have any certainty as to my accommodation. Sunday evening I got word that everything had been taken care of. ‘No wahalla‘. Still need to learn that.
If it is not love, then what brings a Dutch writer and journalist to Nigeria, the pastor in his brownish green polyester suit wants to know. I hear myself explaining that after ten years of travelling back and forth it is time for me to settle in Africa. That Nigeria is one of the most influential and promising countries on the continent. But as the polyester pastor dwells on the prosperous careers of his children (doctors, lawyers and teachers in the US) and his richness (seven cars), I realise what makes me return to Nigeria is the people. It is Nigerians (plural, either gender) who stole my heart.
I do not ask the religious man why he is flying economy class if he really is that wealthy, but enjoy the warmth with which he welcomes me, that is genuine, just as his enthusiasm when I tell him I am addicted to moin moin, which I prepare myself. That combination of bravura and warmth is what brings me to Nigeria. That and the unlimited Nigerian entrepreneurial spirit make of Lagos my dream location.
Femke van Zeijl is a Dutch writer and journalist preparing to move to Lagos. Follow on Twitter @femkevanzeijl
The blog is also syndicated to Oneworld.nl in the Netherlands.
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