Femke becomes Funke: Frigging Snow White

How delightful it is to be able to switch on the light without thinking, to drink water straight from the tap and to know if you get ill you will be provided for.

‘Gba oju e.’ She scribbles the Yoruba words down on a piece of paper. Any time I hear them, she tells me, I should turn around and walk away. Literally it means ‘I slap you’, but the words are slang for scamming someone. I am at my Nigerian sister in law’s place near Rotterdam. Her Yoruba mama has sent for me. She wants to speak to me on my last weekend in The Netherlands before I leave for Lagos. ‘By God’s grace’ I will be fine, she assures me. After all, I have a family there. But, she quotes the text written on many property walls in Nigeria, ‘Beware of 419’.

My last nights in my country. I have said my goodbyes. It is just my body that is still here: I breathe, dream, and think Lagos. I follow Nigerian news more than Dutch developments and when I talk to people, it is of Lagos. Last night I had an interview on national radio about Nigeria and why I am moving there. After midnight the taxi took me back home over silent motorways through the overly organised Dutch landscape, but in my mind’s eye we were driving over Third Mainland Bridge (before repair works started) on a Lagosian late night, when the roads are so empty it is hard to imagine that the next morning they will be loud and crowded and congested again.

The lease to my Utrecht apartment ended last month and I have been staying at my mother’s place the past two weeks preparing my departure. Living in my parental house that I left at seventeen is an interesting experience. When I sit by the pond in my mum’s garden with a cup of tea, lemon coloured butterflies land on my lap and little red robins flutter above my head. Cycling through the abandoned village – the schools are on summer holiday and everyone seems to be away – I find bunnies and squirrels on my way. I feel like frigging Snow White.

The gym I go to here gives me a fascinating glimpse into my life that could have been, hadn’t I escaped the village. If I had married a local boy and stayed. It would have been a good life, I am sure. The women my age working out in the gym look prosperous and happy the way good food and peace of mind make you look. They probably do not realise the luxury they find themselves in.

How delightful it is to be able to switch on the light without thinking, to drink water straight from the tap and to know if you get ill you will be provided for. The fact I am aware of this, of course, is caused by me living in places where these basic human rights are not a given.

People ask me why I give all of this up to go and live in Nigeria. It is hard to explain, even to myself.
My Yoruba mama understands though. She lives in London but envies me: had she been 50 years younger and healthy, she would have gone back home.

All I can say is that life is not a fairy tale and apparently I was not designed to be Snow White.

After two weeks in the village, enjoying the bath tub and being spoiled by my mother with asparagus dinners and strawberry deserts, I am restless and anxious to travel.

It is time to move. My next entry I will write from Lagos. Finally.

Comments (6)

  1. Thanks for the warm welcome everyone. I arrived in Lagos last night. After preparing for this for such a long time, it is so great to finally be back!

    And Debo, it is definitely love and not money calling me to Nigeria, but maybe not the kind you have in mind. My Dutch cousin whom I grew up with like a brother, married a Nigerian. That's where the Yoruba side of my family stems from. :o)

  2. Welcome Femke! There's a delightful ring to the piece. I'm here imagining if this piece were to be written by a young Nigerian making this kind of trip the other way-Lagos to Utrecht- they'd probably be hysterical. Nigeria'll get there, and beyond, someday (hopefully). Wishing u a nice stay. Cheers!

  3. Hmm, finally, I get the gist by knowing you have Nigerian in-laws. I wondered what would make you move to an African country with such a passion: love or money. Love in this case.

    Well, I wish you the best with your relocation to Nigeria and hope you find fulfilment and inspiring purpose there.

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