Monday, August 30, 2010

Have Passport, Will Have Shared National Identity?

Dear Readers,

After a series of unfortunate mini-crises, I nearly had a meltdown. I really really need to have 1 day in Nigeria where no lecherous married man hits on me, no one tries to scam me and nothing breaks (I have a somewhat cynical theory that when a Nigerian tries to fix something, they start by breaking it more...).

Part of this breakdown is my newfound inability to communicate with my countrymen (Americans) about this experience (working in Nigeria, for Nigerians, with Nigerians...there are maybe a handful of foreigners in my temporary town).

Now, don't take this the wrong way, but it doesn't take much to be an 'Africa expert' in the US. I'd be curious to see how many such experts had spent more than 2 continuous months in an African country. I've only been to two--but I'm definitely the only American living in my town. Some pass through periodically, mostly oil workers and wayward academics.

The funny thing about being so isolated from other expats, is that I feel increasingly uncomfortable around my fellow expats--especially the ones who are just here to visit, or live within a cocoon (albeit a cocoon I sometimes envy--I'd do a lot for some real Chinese food, or regular access to decent bread and cheese).

I was asked by a friend who lives in the US, in the same wealthy suburb I spent one year of high school in (note to other expats, growing up moving around is great for kids--but please don't move them their senior year of hs), and I realized that I had no way to describe my experience to him.

This must sort of be what veterans feel--that even if people were interested and asked questions--you wouldn't know what to say. I can't even watch some US tv shows anymore because the ideal world depicted in those shows is so far from the reality...even the US reality, much less the Nigerian one.

Does embracing diversity of thought and culture mean that I'm actually more American?

I don't feel very Nigerian--I'm not. However, I do feel less and less in common with Americans, despite my passport.

I hope I learn enough here to be able to communicate back there.



  1. have been reading your blog for a while now .....can really feel wht u mean here ....cant say im in the same boat .....but one leg is definitely there .....i have been around in nigga for a while now and all i can say do wht u got to do to survive and don't let the place erode ur identity

  2. While I haven't yet spent more than a few months in Nigeria, I kind of get what you mean. After I got back people kept asking me about my trip as if it was some sort of vacation. How do you explain to your grandma what the security checkpoints are for?

    You're stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it'll be hard to figure out your identity. You sure as hell aren't Nigerian, but the ivory-tower-expats are a stretch as well.