Big moves can be extremely daunting especially when you are doing it by yourself. Many if not all of us have moved for work, school or family at some point in our lives and can relate to those first 24 to 48 hours. Everything seems both foreign and exciting at the same time, you are scared and stressed out but eager to fit in as quickly as possible. I was moving to a new country by myself at a stage in my life where I had built roots elsewhere.
I woke up on my last day in the place I had called home. I was excited, I really was, but at that moment in time, fear had taken over my mind. What was I thinking? I looked out the window of the taxi as it drove past familiar streets for the last time. There was really no going back now.
After 2 plane rides, 1 missed flight and several hours later, I finally arrived. And I was exhausted.
I got a taxi at the airport, but as we approached what was supposed to be my new address, we realized it didn’t match. All we could see was a huge park. And a lake? No building? This couldn't be it. We drove around for several minutes, but after a while the driver got frustrated.
...So he dropped me at the front of a police station.
Whyyy? Why me.
It was 1am, pitch black outside with the exception of the police sign in the distance. I could already see it- People would say, “Eya, such a bright young girl and she now went to die in America.” Getting lost, kidnapped or killed was not how I had imagined this big adventure.
Just to point out, this police dropping decision was not my idea. I was actually very opposed to it, but my opinion didn’t seem to matter to the driver. I guess I should be grateful, there are worse places to be dropped off, right?
I lugged my suitcases one at a time into the station. At this point I had blisters on my hands from lifting the suitcases from place to place. I approached the man at the front desk, described where I was trying to go and handed him the pile of papers I had printed to help in my navigation. I was prepared, or so I thought. The gentleman was very nice and was actually going to patrol the exact apartment building I was going to. Thank God! The kind man dropped me off at the entrance, and by the time I was done signing all the leasing documents it was almost 3 am when I finally walked into my new empty home.
Against all odds, I had made it. Ok you can tell I am slightly dramatic, but at that point in time I had never been so happy to be under a roof and to see a bed.
I spent most of the next day on the phone with family and friends and the rest catching up on one of my favourite TV shows. The familiarity of both kept me from the reality that I did not know a single soul. I started to feel hungry so decided to order some Chinese. After a few minutes, the restaurants' delivery man arrived, handed me my food and in exchange I gave him $20. The Lo Mein I ordered was only $11, so I waited for my change. As I stood there, my guy took my money put it in his pocket, turned around and walked out the door. I stood there in shock, no not shock, in a daze.
I was so confused, what just happened? No thank you?
No pretence to try and look for my change (we all know that delivery person that pretends they don’t have change so that you can give up and just tell them not to bother – Dear delivery person, we know you and we see you). What happened to the formality of giving me back my change and then I nod back to say “No, keep the change?” Was this the tradition in this foreign land that I had just moved to? If it was, maybe it wasn’t too late to carry my belongings and head back to where I just came from. I resisted the urge to run away and ate my Lo Mein with such disdain. Guess what, it wasn’t even that sweet. Hiss!
KNOCK KNOCK. Who's there? Efo riro.
A day after my Chinese food daylight robbery, when all the evidence had long faded, I was starving again. I knew I had to go food shopping but I had been told that I would have to wait 5 days for a specific bus to take me to the store. Their public transportation system was a joke, so my no car struggle was real!
As I was pondering how I would feed myself for the next week, I heard a thump on my front door. I was not expecting guests as I didn’t even know anyone.
First thing I did was run to take off my scarf.
I’ve found that night scarves tend to confuse unsuspecting viewers (some of my ladies can relate).
I opened the door and this average height, middle aged black man stood in my door way. I swallowed hard and plastered a nervous smile on my face.
“Tomi?” he said, in his unmistakeably deep Nigerian accent.
“Err...” I began.
“Yes sir” I said.
“Shey you eat rice, I’m cooking rice.”
I could not believe my ears “Yes! Yes I do” I literally shouted before he changed his mind and decided that I wasn’t enthusiastic enough and didn’t deserve to have his rice.
“How about Efo?” he asked.
“I eat everything,” I said.
The words came out before I could form posh.
He told me to wait a while and that he would come back to get me once the rice was ready. I was so hungry that I waivered the possibility that he was some psycho using food as a way to lure me. “Whatever” I thought, at least ill die full and happy. Just in case, I ran to my laptop and sent my parents an email. At least if I get kidnapped, there would be someone who knew who took me and where he said he was taking me to. I rushed the email so that I could get it sent before he returned. Now that the evidence of my potential kidnap was on the internet, I followed Efo man to his apartment.
Yes, I know this sounds like the beginning of a thriller movie, but desperate hunger called for desperate measures.
I sat down to a plate of rice and efo as I learnt more about my new friend, the ‘Efo man’ whose name was infact Elijah. He was married with 2 children my age and had made a similar transition years before. He worked at the apartment building and after seeing one of my correspondences recognized my name as Nigerian and decided to help me settle in. Elijah gave me great pointers on how best to survive the next couple of days. He wrote down his number and told me to reach out if I was struggling or just needed some Nigerian food (I later repaid the favour by sending him some cooked beans).
I was so thankful for this act of kindness because it showed me that God had and always has my back.
Elijah’s kindness really made my new home seem less daunting. Maybe I made a good choice moving here after all. I guess in life you get an ‘Efo man’ or two for every ‘Chinese food man’.
I had lived to fight another day and now felt somewhat ready to conquer this new world!