I stand at the airport nervous as I watch my bag pass through the screening machine and flashes of scenes from Banged up Abroad and UKBA pass through my mind. I wonder if the Ori (Shea Butter) in my bag will be found illegal and confiscated or if they will mistake the bean flour my mother made me take for cocaine and I will have to go through a drug test or worse, bend my butt and spread them cheeks for a closer inspection in a private room. I think one of the airport’s security guards notice as he asks me if I’m alright and tells me to ‘please’ remove my muffler as I pass through the metal detector. I notice his beautiful green eyes and I’m suddenly unable to trust his politeness.
I’m waiting for my next flight and the same sharp headache I’ve been having for days return but this time with different thoughts. A girl in purple and blonde braids and a British accent approaches me to make inquiries about her flight, I reply her with my Nigerian accent and she gives a knowing smile and proceeds to say, “How you dey nau?” which leads to further discussions.
I finally arrive at my destination and my new pal with the spasmodic British accent proceeds to show me where to exchange my dollars for pounds. The lady at the counter exchanges it for less than what I expected and I stare at the coins she’s placed alongside the neatly packed notes. My Nigerian instinct kicks in and I make a mental note to stash those coins somewhere since I won’t be needing them (or so I thought). My new pal goes ahead to help me arrange a taxi and I am touched by her kindness, however, I notice how she communicates in a British accent with the driver and every other person who talks to her but the accent disappears when she speaks to me. I am disgusted at her switches and it reminds me of the character Ifemelu in Americanah. I sit in the Taxi and let my mind wander. Will my hosts like me or will they just not give a damn? Will I be able to move out within a few days as planned or will I have to do a little ‘nyash licking’ to stay a while longer? I make a silent prayer to get a nice place to move into. I arrive at my temporary residence and my hosts are nice and accommodating, I breathe a sigh of relief. My mother calls and she blesses my hosts but noticed that I sound unhappy, I tell her I am fine just not comfortable and she says “You shouldn’t be.”
My quest for an accommodation begins almost immediately and I am left unimpressed by most of the house viewings. I finally find myself a suitable accommodation where I don’t have to share the bathroom with strange men who have tattoos, long hair, crooked laughs and piercings all over or with strange ladies who like to cook with garlic while making fun of their fellow housemates and store chilli peppers in disgusting jars.
It’s moving day and I am excited. I rush home from my first block of lectures and call for a taxi. Minutes later, I receive a text saying my taxi is waiting so I say goodbye to my hosts, one says she will miss me and I am touched. I proceed downstairs to meet my taxi but when I get downstairs, my taxi isn’t there so I call again and the operator tells me my taxi was here and is gone because I didn’t show up on time. I am baffled but I ask if I can get another and she says “Alright, you’ll have to wait for 10-15 minutes”. I don’t mind so I agree and I wait. And I Wait. And I Wait. No Taxi. My palms are cold but I refuse to go inside for fear that my taxi will come and go again.
“You alright?” Comes a deep strange voice from behind and I turn to see a boy with skin like mine and a thick black jacket. I start to wonder if I look strange standing out here with boxes by my side. I will later come to know that a person could mean several things by the question ‘you alright’.
“Yes, I’m fine”. I say with a frozen smile that looks forced (because I am actually freezing) “Just waiting for my taxi” I add. He suggests I come into the reception and wait but I refuse and tell him my fear. He nods and says, “They won’t be coming back again, you will have to call with a different number, I can do that for you”. I am surprised at how certain he is but after waiting for over 30 minutes, I am forced to agree with him and let him help out. My good Samaritan proceeds to call and while we wait, contacts are exchanged ‘I need all the friends I can get now’ I say within myself.
I move into my new flat and my flat mates drop in to greet and welcome starting from my next door neighbour who is from the Carribean and misses home, his family and his wife’s cooking so bad that he is determined to finish his 1-year law programme within 6 months. We stand in front of my door talking for several minutes and I listen to him explain how he understands how I must be feeling and missing home (even though I never told him). Though I am exhausted and I want to end the conversation, I cannot tell him because I think it will be rude. He get’s the hint from my yawns and permits me to disturb him whenever I feel like talking.
Just when I am about drifting to sleep, 2 boys come knocking, they are my other flat mates 1 looks Asian and the other British but they act alike and they look at me with wide eyes when I tell them I am post graduate student and wider eyes when I say I’m taking a finance course. I guess that statement eliminated my name from their party list because when they had a house party, One of them approached me in the kitchen and said, “I’ll be having a small birthday celebration here but I guess you’re busy with school work, doing your masters must be so tough.” I interpreted that to mean “Please permit me to use our shared living area for a party even though I will not like you to come because I think you’re too old for such gatherings and make sure you don’t pop up to take donuts or pepsi from the fridge while my guests are here”.
My mother calls just before I doze off, she says I sound better and happier, I agree and say I like my new place and just before she wishes me good night, she says “Remember to pray, you are so far from home and God is the only familiar voice you know.”
As I close my eyes to sleep, I think of my aunt and her newborns and I wish I could see them learn to crawl. I am sad and whisper a prayer for my country and it’s educational system because maybe if it were better, I wouldn’t have to sentence myself to this Exile.