4

Going Back to Nigeria After 13 Years

I am more British than I thought I was.

You see, when you have dual citizenship, you exist in this weird limbo of feeling like you don’t really fit in anywhere. Confused? Allow me to explain.

Whenever someone in the UK asks me where I’m from, my automatic response is “Nigeria,” because even though I’ve lived in England for most of my life now, I still don’t feel “properly” British. I always assume that this is what people are getting at when they ask where I’m from, because even though I don’t really have a Nigerian accent anymore, to the majority of them I’m still a foreigner.

However, everytime I’m on holiday abroad and people ask where I’m from, I tell them I’m British, because it’s when I’m away from the UK that I feel like people accept me more as British. And this has been shown to be true, because I rarely get the “But where are you really from?” response when I’m abroad.

I didn’t think this would be the case when I returned to Nigeria though, as I thought that the feeling of total belonging that I don’t have in the UK would be present when I was back in my country of birth. But the Nigeria of my childhood is no more.

So much has changed! On the up side, yay for progress, because things like cinemas and shopping malls weren’t many when I still lived in Lagos, and now they’re everywhere. Technological advances have also brought better phones, laptops, and WiFi access to Nigeria, another yay, but it made me sad to see that some of my favourite food places have waned in popularity because of the likes of Dominoes and KFC, grrrrr.

One thing that hasn’t changed though, is how much money talks in Nigeria. There are still huge disparities between the rich and the poor, and corruption is still a massive problem, as bribery culture is very much a thing. With regards to infrastructure, there is a lot of work that needs to be done, and it would go a lot quicker if government officials didn’t pocket a lot of the money…

I am more British than I thought because after 13 years of living the UK, the patriarchal society that exists in Nigeria is not something I can tolerate anymore. My brother being allowed to get away with more simply because “he’s a boy” is not okay or fair in any way.

I am more British than I thought because being away from the British polite culture and the extra-ness of queuing etiquette made me realise that I’ve been taking it for granted.

I am also more British than I thought because no matter how much I tried to show my family that my Yoruba has actually improved since I’ve been in the UK (shout out to grandma for insisting we speak Yoruba to her on the phone), all they did was laugh and tease me when I spoke it- apparently my accent still wasn’t right. Peak.

So where does this leave me? Well I guess I don’t have to be one or the other; I can be both Nigerian AND British, because no matter how far away I am from it, Nigeria will always have a very special place in my heart. It’s a part of me, and living there for the majority of my formative years has played a massive part in who I am today.

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Finally, TFC, I love you; I promise it won’t take another 13 years till we’re reunited ❤

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Nigerian Independence Day

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To celebrate 56 years of Nigeria gaining independence from British rule, I had an independence day parTAY in my new house! I wanted a chance to educate my new housemates on Nigerian culture, and independence day this year was conveniently on a Saturday, so it was the perfect opportunity.

I made fried rice, jellof rice, gizzard stew, plantain, and grilled some chicken too, so it was quite the feast! Massive shoutout to my gal, Alice, for helping with the cooking- her onion chopping skillz are on point! Starbucks Gal also came down for the weekend, and it was SO great to have her back; uni life is definitely not the same without her and Bangladeshi Bae, who unfortunately couldn’t make the celebrations, but sent his apologies.

Also, I have to give a shout out to lovely Aunty Ije, who helped me with making the jellof rice and stew. Aunty Ije goes to my church, and she also happens to be a caterer, so ofcourse I asked for her help with cooking, as I’ve never made food for more than 6 people.

My housemates are massive cuties for wearing Nigerian colours to support me, JUST LOOK AT THEM:

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Overall it was a massive success, and I’m definitely considering making it an annual thing! Anyway, enough from me. Here are some pictures from the celebrations:

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Special mention to Samirah for being the life of the party and getting everyone to dance! If she hadn’t been there, I definitely wouldn’t have had as much fun as I did. Here she is being all shy, what a QT:

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7

What’s In A Name?

Taiwo means “tasted the world first,” and traditionally, this is the name given by the Yoruba people of Nigeria to the older twin. It is a unisex name, so if you meet someone from Nigeria called Taiwo, they will have a twin, like I do.

Growing up, I knew many Taiwos, as twins are quite common in the part of Nigeria I lived in, so having people say, “Where’s your twin?” when I told them my name, was a regular occurrence, and I still get it now when I meet people familiar with Yoruba culture.

So when I was 11 and started secondary school, I think a part of me wanted to not just be “the twin” straight away, which is probably why I let my name be shortened to “Tai.” I was still Taiwo, but over time, only family and close friends referred to me by my full name. Of course I didn’t mind being called Taiwo; Tai was a nickname, and I didn’t know any Taiwos who were called Tai, so it was nice to be unique.

But this week, something happened that changed my view of things.

I was with a nurse in a clinic, and even though I pronounced it about five times, she didn’t address me by name. I use my full name on placement, you see, (#professionalism), and it took about an hour for me to realise she wasn’t saying it.

I was paired with someone in my year (I’ll call her Susan), and we both introduced ourselves every time a new patient came in. So the nurse would be like, “Okay fill in the patient’s details, Susan,” and “Don’t forget to wash your hands, Susan,” but to me, she would just gesture or say things like “Well done… you.” She said Susan’s name every time, but not once did she say mine. I was there for three hours.

Apparently my name is hard to pronounce, and that’s why she didn’t even try. Ouch.

In the almost 13 years it’s been that I’ve lived in the UK, I’ve never felt so “othered.” I felt embarrassed for having a ‘foreign’ name, and even regretted not going with “Tai” for the clinic. This lasted for about five minutes, and then I remembered this:

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It reminded me that my name is meaningful, special and has great significance in Yoruba culture. It’s not hard to pronounce (Tie-whoa), and even if it was, that doesn’t give people an excuse to ignore me.

So from now, I will introduce myself to everyone I meet with my full name, and people who don’t make an effort to learn how to say it won’t get to call me Tai.

My name is Taiwo.

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10 Years

Today makes it exactly 10 years since I relocated to the UK with my family, so I have officially spent more of my life here than I did in Nigeria. Wowie, how time flies! As I mentioned in this post last year, I may be “British” now, but that doesn’t mean I am forgetting my Nigerian roots. Sure I’ve changed, but that’s an inevitable part of growing up, and change isn’t always a bad thing because learning from the past allows us to be better people in the future. 9 year old Tai was a spoilt, naive and shy little girl, so I think I’ve really come a long way since those days (I hope!).

To celebrate 10 years of living in the UK, here are 10 well known and not so well known facts about me:

1. I am 6 seconds older than my twin sister, The Keen One a.k.a Kenny.

2. I am allergic to mangoes. Whether or not it’s actually an intolerance is a subject of debate amongst people I tell about it, and this has included dieticians and doctors. All I know is they make me throw up, so I’m not too bothered about the correct term for my reaction to them.

3. I have two piercings (my ears) and these were done shortly after I was born, as I have always worn earrings, and this is a common thing to do for baby girls in Nigeria.

4. My favourite books are Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’ve read Redeeming Love so many times that I’ve got 3 different copies of it, because the pages of the first two are worn out and torn… yeah.

5. As well as reading, I love watching films in my free time, and I go to the cinema a lot. In fact when I am feeling homesick at uni, one of the places I go to is the cinema, because the familiarity of Vue is comforting to me. High School Musical and The Lion King are my favourite films. The former changed my life (and how is a story for another day but seriously, it did) and the latter has a very special place in my heart.

6. When I am not in a good mood with someone, my speech becomes very formal, and I start using “big words”. This is a fact about me that I didn’t realise until last year, and even though I’m aware that I do it, I still can’t stop myself from doing so when I’m annoyed.

7. I am a dress person. I love dresses and would happily spend a ridiculous amount of money on a beautiful one. Dresses are the only thing I would do this for because I rarely splurge on things; they are my weakness.

8. I have been singing since I was about 5. Our tutor taught us at school and church and when we were 8, my sister and I recorded a gospel album that was sold around the world.

9. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people dance a pre-choreographed piece and sing along to the music. It really irks me for some reason, I just can’t stand it.

10. Finally if I wasn’t doing medicine, I’d probably do something involving the care of young people, like social work or even babysitting as a professional nanny. I used to be a Sunday School teacher, as well as a Play Assistant at my local playground, so I love kids 🙂

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Challenge of the Month: Learning How To Ride a Bike

I am 19 years old and until yesterday, I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle.

This was a fact that so many people made an unnecessary big deal out of; it really wasn’t! I’ve put up with years of shocked reactions when I mention I never learnt as a kid, as well as sympathetic comments like, “Your childhood must have been boring and deprived!” The latter annoyed me because I grew up in Nigeria, so those who were aware of this and made the assumption that my upbringing was disadvantaged, just because of such a trivial thing like not learning how to ride a bike, were silly. My childhood in Nigeria was a very interesting one but alas, that is a story for another day.

Anyway, this month’s challenge came about as a result of me wanting to prove a point to The Keen One a.k.a Kenny, who learnt how to ride a couple of weeks ago, and has been rubbing it in my face ever since. I was very shaky and fell over a lot, but shout out to my patient teachers, AJ, Louis a.k.a The Little Engine(er) That Could, and Q, who were encouraging and didn’t laugh too much at me, which I know must have been hard for them because I looked like this:

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 (mmm, dat helmet tho #swag)

AJ did push me off the bike ON PURPOSE “for bants,” which wasn’t very nice or funny AT ALL (yupp, still not letting it go, Ally), but he apologised so I guess he’s forgiven. bikeriding

And here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… video evidence of me riding a bike! Yeah I need to work on my turning, but this was after about half an hour of learning, so cut me some slack, okay? 😉

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Half of a Yellow Sun

I am very very excited because I booked one of my holidays for summer this evening! This isn’t my first holiday without my family but it IS the first time I’m going abroad without my twin sister, so this is all super duper exciting and a bit scary but still very very exciting, BUZZING.

Anyways I’m back at uni, and it’s like I never left because I’ve settled back into my #studentlyf routine. I’m done with lectures for the year so all I’ve got left is my clinical placement next week and my exams in a couple of weeks. I have even MORE free time than I did last term, so I made a revision timetable to make sure I make the most of it. I realised last term that I wasted a lot of time by taking naps, so that definitely won’t be happening this term. I revise by making notes and going through lectures, because I’m a reader/writer learner, so that’s what I will be doing. Fun fun fun!

In other news I’m reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie right now, and it’s made me realise that I really don’t know much about the history of Nigeria. The plot is based around the Biafran Civil war after Nigeria’s independence in 1960, and I came across the book when I saw the trailer for the film adaptation a couple of months ago. Before reading the book I knew nothing about this war, didn’t even know it’d actually happened, and that made me think, “Wait a minute, apart from the ‘big’ events like Independence Day, what do I actually know about Nigeria’s history…?” The answer? Not much. This made me feel bad because I claim to be proud of my dual citizenship, but I’m slacking in the Nigerian side of it even though I was born there! Absolutely TAI-rrible.

I guess as a kid I was never really interested in history (I was a pretty self-absorbed kid to be honest), and I left Nigeria just before starting secondary school there, which is when the curriculum really goes into the history of the country. So it’s not really my fault I suppose, I just feel bad for not caring back then because I really took having my grandma around to give a first hand account for granted. Found out that granddad actually fought in the Biafran War, which is pretty cool!

Half of a Yellow Sun is a really really good book though; it’s taught me so much about Igbo culture, which is very different from that of the Yorubas, my family’s ethnic group. I can understand how comparisons can be made between Half of a Yellow Sun and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, because both are about the Igbo and discuss the impact of British colonialism on Nigeria. A quote that’s stayed with me from the book is something Odenigbo says during one of his rants, “I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.” So so interesting.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is brill and her talk on why we should all be feminists is worth listening to.

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9 Years

On the 29th of August 2004 I left Nigeria for the UK, which was to be my new home. I was 9 years old and felt sad because I was leaving my friends and family behind, but was excited to start a new life in England.

My first impression of England on arrival was that it was very… clean. Coming from Lagos, with its litter covered streets, London was a whole new world. Getting used to constant electricity too took a while; I’d grown up with NEPA cutting electricity all the time, but we had a generator so it wasn’t too bad.

School here was also strange to me. You see back in Nigeria, I’d finished primary school and would have been in my first year of secondary school if I hadn’t relocated. So getting told that I’d have to be in Year 5 here wasn’t very fun. To make things worse nine year old Tai found adjusting to the British system a bit difficult. I went from being loud and confident to very shy and introverted. I didn’t have many friends in my first year, and I used to ask my teacher if I could stay in with her during break and lunch times, because I didn’t want to face the loneliness of the playground. Sad times indeed. However feeling sorry for my younger self isn’t the point of this post. Nine years later, I’m 18 and about to relocate to start university, so I’m writing this to look back on the last couple of years.

Well I can no longer call myself shy and I have theatre to thank for that, as getting into acting in Year 8 helped me slowly gain back my confidence. I think I’m over friendly now to make up for those days I spent without many friends. This is probably why I can never stand seeing people by themselves in social situations, and always go introduce myself to them if I can. Everyone needs a friend, right?

So I lived in Nigeria for nine years and now I’ve lived in England for nine years. I know my grandma worries that I’m losing my roots as she thinks I’m becoming “westernized,” but I don’t think that’s true at all. Sure I can’t speak Yoruba very well, (never could when I lived in Nigeria anyway), I watch more British TV than Nollywood, get annoyed at the “even though you were born first your sister is still your elder” comments and cringe at how loud my parents are on the phone in public, but that doesn’t make me less Nigerian or more British. That just makes me Tai. I’ve embraced England over the years but no I haven’t turned my back on Nigeria.  I miss it so much. My dual citizenship means I’m proud to be part of both cultures as they represent different parts of me.

Anyways, nine years. I’ve grown a lot, lost most of my naivety, went through SATS in year 6 then again in year 9, GCSEs, A Levels, accomplished a lot with God’s help, made some great and not so great friends, but deep down, this girl remains:

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I’m still standing, so here’s to the next chapter of my life, BUZZING.