Monday, 19 December 2011

Tales from the diaspora.....

I wrote two pieces with this same title for a magazine earlier this year so I am adopting the same title.

These are some experiences out of many which I have chosen to share:

A place of beauty, a place of light.
Preserved monuments, glorious to behold.
A place known for love...
Covered with snow but still as beautiful as imagined.

Right in front of the Eiffel tower, staring at the different shades of light, the glow, the beauty, wonderful to behold.

Walking into the train station, we ran onto the train, almost missing it.
A lady was seated where we went to sit and as we sat in front of her, she stared with a an all so familiar look and left to sit somewhere else. My friend called her a silly thing right as she left without a care in the world.



A man so sad, complaining for everybody to hear how his life has been miserable, how he works round the clock and the worst part of it all for him is that he uses all his money for nothing but bills.
He suddenly stopped and stared right at us: 'what makes you both so happy? I've watched you since you got on the train'. We had nothing to say in response but listen and we got back to our story telling amidst laughter.

I went to the post office on this fateful day, I had just finished and was on my way out. Receiving a call and glad to hear from the caller, I was laughing when someone walked right in front of me and laughed in my face then called me 'negresse' (referring to a female, a male would be 'negre') meaning 'NIGGER'.
Shocked and dumbfounded, I stared right at her and walked on. I must have disappointed her, she seemed to be waiting for an opposite reaction.

I remember when I was looking for an apartment, one of the landlords gave me a very long history lesson of colonialism and how transactions would not be possible between Nigeria and France because Nigeria was not colonized by the French.
Who thinks like that these days when the internet has made everything so simple? Transfers can be done even from the comfort of our homes. What would have been wrong with saying the usual 'sorry, bla bla bla'?

PARIS, FRANCE



Gladys got in a day before me and everywhere she went, she seemed to be the only black person. She started to get scared of going anywhere at all with all the stares.
I joined her the next day and the tourist in me wanted to see all the possible attractions so our journey began.

Our hotels were not so close to each other, I had to take a train to get to hers. When I got to the station, I walked to the counter to buy a ticket. The seller could not speak English. I spoke to him asking for a ticket but it seemed to annoy him as he spoke on in his language. I tried to explain that I needed a ticket to get me around for the day but he began to make gestures asking me to leave because he could not understand me. I insisted and found a paper so I wrote the amount of the ticket,  paid for it and left.

Gladys was super excited to see me as I was to see her. 
Our first stop was the astronomical clock and on we went, it was a beautiful day.
At another train station, we made a friend, he was stunned that we spoke English so well and interested in our chat and wanted to be a part of it. We had so much catching up to do...well, at our final stop, getting out of the train station, I was singled out and my ticket had to be checked. It happened that I had a ticket and had validated it but this policeman was bent on wasting my time. Our friend came by and he and the policeman had a chat then I was asked to go on....I wondered because my ticket was valid.

At the end of the second day, exhausted but excited, I was on my way back to the hotel. It was pretty late. I walked slowly taking the cool evening air in and simply enjoying the view.
Suddenly, I heard people singing from behind me. A couple was walking in front of me but kept turning around, they had this disgusted look on their faces. I decided to find out what brought about that look. Turning around, a group of young folks were singing and lo and behold this song was directed at me, they did the monkey thing and made faces at me! Thank goodness I didn't understand a word of what they were saying. I had to speed up my pace so I could get back to my hotel in one piece.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC



I was out with a few people last week having dinner, it was fun...
We were doing a comparison of some European fast foods, some of us had the opinion that one was better than the other but miss A whose opinion had to be the final say, said to me: ''how can a Nigerian tell me that C is better than D?''
Out of respect for the other people who were seated at the table with us, I chose to let it slide because it may have turned into an argument which would have spoilt the moment.

She is sitting here in my country but has the audacity to speak to me like that?
I am Nigerian so I am not supposed to have an opinion?
Who else but us would have caused it? We are looked down on even at home?
How bad can racism get?

ABUJA, NIGERIA

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