A bold move to Ala Igbo - We don "Apaj"
There is a term for it: "Japa," which means to make a hasty exit from Nigeria. But for us, what we were looking for was to "Apaj" (the opposite). While many Nigerians dream of leaving, we have always felt the pull to return "home."
I have been visiting Nigeria almost every year since 2008. Every time I set foot here, I breathe out deeply, leaving behind the heavy stress of "functioning" I carry in Switzerland. The allure is not just in the air; it is in the food, the nature, the culture, and the people.
When we got married, we had an understanding: we would eventually move to Nigeria to connect our kids to their culture.
For Ezenwa and me, the idea of relocating had been simmering for years. Ezenwa, being the eldest son, felt an unwavering responsibility to introduce our children to their roots, especially after the passing of his father. This feeling was so profound that when we got married, we had an understanding: we would eventually move to Nigeria to connect our kids to their culture. If not, Ezenwa would have had to marry an Igbo woman. In the Igbo tradition, it is expected of the eldest son to bring his children home and continue the legacy.
Each year, instead of other vacations, we would save diligently to afford our cherished Christmas trips to Nigeria. But as our family grew and expenses mounted, these trips started feeling fleeting, barely scratching the surface of immersing our children in their rich Igbo heritage.
We could either wait for the "perfect" moment ... or embrace the present and leap.
Then Covid came, shuffling our deck of plans. Our initial strategy was for Ezenwa to start a business in Nigeria, ensuring a stable financial foundation. But the pandemic brought delays. Time seemed to accelerate, and suddenly, our daughter Ziora was approaching the end of her primary school years. Faced with a decision, we could either wait for the "perfect" moment, which might see our kids too grown, or we could embrace the present and leap. We chose the latter.
We began packing our lives into suitcases
Breaking the news to my boss about our move was nerve-wracking. But, to my surprise, they were incredibly supportive. With their blessing, we began the massive task of packing our lives into suitcases, subletting our Swiss apartment, and preparing for the journey ahead.
Yes, there are genuine concerns about moving to Nigeria. Safety, health, education, and even quirky superstitions about village folks, owls, and, believe it or not, lizards are among them. Here's the irony: statistically speaking, given the population of Switzerland and Nigeria, one is more likely to meet their end in a glacial crevasse in the Alps than in a kidnapping in Nigeria. And my personal fears in Nigeria lean more towards getting trapped in endless traffic or succumbing to an overdose of the irresistibly delicious local dishes anyway.
"Sometimes, the most unexpected choices lead to the most fulfilling journeys."
Administrative hurdles, convincing relatives of our decision, following our hearts against all advice, keeping our plans under wraps, and choosing our new home – village or city – were just some of the challenges we faced.
But we made it. Now settled, our children have seamlessly integrated into their new school. Every day is a lesson in adaptation, resilience, and gratitude. Sure, they miss some Swiss delicacies, but with stores like Spar and Shoprite nearby, we are never too far from a taste of Switzerland. It is a beautiful tapestry of experiences, and we thread our unique story into its fabric.
Sometimes, the most unexpected choices lead to the most fulfilling journeys. For us, that journey has brought us home to Ala Igbo.
Last but not least
I decided always to end my blog posts with an Igbo proverb or quote and a song (not necessarily Igbo) that speaks to my heart. Feel free to share your favourite proverbs or a song you are currently listening to!
Igbo quote of the week: "I no ebe ina awakwu ogodo ndi n'agba mgba wee gbaachaa mgba ma lawa." Translation: You kept tying and adjusting your wrestling wrapper (or gear) till other wrestlers finished wrestling and left.
Meaning: You took too long contemplating and preparing till it was needless †σ take action.
My song this week: "Nwa Nkwo" by Kellygzee
This blog is neither scientific research nor a social study; instead, it is written with much appreciation for the Igbo culture, from the subjective perspective of the author, based on personal experience. Generalizations must be read with care, as no truth is true for everyone. And most importantly, this blog is to be read with a smile and a pinch of salt (or pepper in this context)