We had come into town late that night and smack in the middle of one of Britain’s worst storms. The plan was to spend the first night in a hotel, calibrate and then move over to my girlfriend’s house the following day. The kids and I had picked a fine time to visit London.
It was a rare time together, the children’s first in London and seeing as many of the sights was top on our list.
As it turned out, we ended up going nowhere that day. That’s what happens when kids connect —one minute introductions were being made, the next they were getting on like a house on fire— literally. Six kids between the ages of 4-15 all under one roof can get very ‘interesting’.
As we were being dropped I off at the tube station, they made a very revealing comment… ‘Mommy’ … they said, ‘we completely forgot we were in London’.
Apparently, until we drove out that morning, they could have been in our house or any relative’s house back home in Nigeria. Not surprising. Location aside, the traditions, the norms, the rules and regulations, the chores, the demand on the kids to be respectful and obedient — all applied. It was an awakening.
For some reason, perhaps as a result of all the shows they watch on TV, they seemed to think it was a different ball game entirely. I was grateful for another opportunity to point out to the kids and re-emphasize what it meant to be Nigerians, and therefore did certain things in a particular way regardless of where we were in the world.
Getting to Ireland brought it even closer to home because this time we were staying with relatives, so all that initial protocol saved for ‘guests’ flew straight out the window from the word go.
It was heart-warming and provided a certain sense of security and continuity to know that regardless of where we go and who we become and what we accomplish; at the centre of it all, there are certain core values that will never change.As we sat there, in that warm beautiful house in Dundalk Ireland I was reminded that ‘home’ is not a place, but a feeling. As long as there was community, transparency, trust…
It didn’t matter that our conversations were being conducted in four different languages: Yoruba, English, German and broken; and everyone in that room spoke an average of only three; there was no break in communication, all you had to do was wait a while and whatever was being said would invariably get round to you in a language you understand.
And that first plate of white rice and stew in that far flung place felt like the warmth of a security blanket… those are of some of the good things that define us as Africans, Nigerians… family, hospitality, generosity, discipline, respect, family values…. And to think I had to travel all the way to Ireland to be reminded.
It just re- emphasized for me just how much has been eroded here… and all at the altar of what? Socio-political and economic growth? Development is supposed to be a good thing, heralding progress and prosperity… but; enough of the belly aching. Let each man do what needs to be done. In our homes, where we work, where we teach, what we preach… .
Simplistic… most answers are.