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The day I heard that children were being kidnapped was one of my happiest days as a 11year old. Not because I wanted to be kidnapped! No! My parents might have delighted in embarrassing me (they didn't see it that way and I couldn't tell them either because I still valued my life at that time) but because we were told to no longer talk to strangers. I was no longer the weirdo kneeling to greet every elderly person I passed by for fear they knew my parents and would tell them how rude I was (the ultimate offence a Yoruba girl can commit!).
Living in the East, we were the weirdos who ran down the stairs at breakneck speed as though the hounds of hell were on our feet as we ran to open the garage door for our father to park his car and to carry whatever he had brought home even if it was just his purse (yes, the strange man used a tiny bag we called a purse rather than a wallet).
The other parents had to get out of their cars to open the garage doors themselves and carry their own packages up to their flats (they had hands after all) while their children looked down from their balcony to say "welcome" (when they remembered and to smile at their father when their mouths were too busy with more relevant activities) after which they continued whatever life changing activity their parent's arrival had distracted them from.
We were also the weirdos whose parents spoke a different language. Our mother had a "Yorubadar". Yes, she had a radar which told her whenever a Yoruba person was within 20feets and she always made sure they knew she was their "sister". My mother is not a loud woman but whenever her Yorubadar pinged, a metamorphosis occurred. It was as though she wanted everyone to know she was around and had not forgotten her language. Jeez! She was trying to destroy my life!
Yes, I was asked if I was from "Yoruba" and if I would be going to Yoruba (my supposed village) for Christmas by some of my Ibo classmates. At the beginning, I tried correcting them. Telling them Yoruba is the language as well as the tribe but it is not the place or village. At first, I didn't understand that they were just asking because they were excited to be travelling themselves and not because of any particular interest in knowing about my distant village. When i realized this, I would smile, say yes and ask if they would be going to Ibo for Christmas as well. I got blank stares which didn't help my case in not appearing to be a weirdo but it made my heart glad.
There was a spot called Balla Suya where it seemed all the bike men in the state gathered, waiting for commuters. Many students passed by that spot on their way home and the bike men guessed at our names. Their calls of Nkechi, Ada, Ezinne, Chidinnma etc always made me laugh because mine was a name they could never guess right even if their lives depended in it. Go Yoruba gal!
One of the best parts of growing up as a Yoruba girl in the East is the instant assumption by many that I do not understand Igbo. True, I might not have an Igbo accent like my bother or be able to speak the dialect like my sister but I understand Obere. I never correct their assumption and smile to myself when they switch to Igbo when they do not want me to understand. Is it me they are doing?
The things that annoyed me as a child amuse and comfort me now. I never want my parents to speak English to me in public when I am in the East. I delight in being different and in not being understood. Yes, they still embarrass me, not because they speak Yoruba but because they still treat me like a child so better to do it in a language many won't among understand.
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Nice job, and thank you for sharing with us!
PS: I have met several Nigerian people here in The States - they were all wonderful people with dynamic personalities which I enjoyed experiencing.
― Steven Wright