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Story Story! Tales from the Other Side

“Sorry your name is beyond my phonetics range.”
“Where do you come from?”
“How did you get here?”
These statements and questions are familiar right? You might have heard or read stories like this countless times, here’s mine.

Circa 2017, yet another young Nigerian ‘japa’: 2,901 miles away from home, 3 bags and a burning desire to ‘make it make sense’, the education, unlearning, relationships and new lens to view the world.


Brymo once wrote:

…Plenty plenty stories
Na wen you go
You go hear the true stories…

Brymo – Brian Gain (from the Yellow Album)

It all starts with an introduction, meeting a new person, or reeling out your name where more than two are gathered.

My Name is

Olajide (Ọlájídé /ɔlaɟide) or Jide for short. I prefer the shorter version for everyday life, life is too short for 4 syllables. Jide /ɟide/ is just 2 syllables and shouldn’t be a tongue twister for anyone but I’m afraid, I’m wrong. 

In Nigeria, there is a very slim chance that someone will mispronounce my name. So, I moved here only to hear the divergent pronunciations of this bisyllabic name. When I know I won’t likely see you again, I want to ‘punish’ you for messing up my name, I confuse you with the longer version; I hope our paths do not cross in the nearest future 🙃. I had a silly rule, if you can get it right, I can’t remember your name as well: “what’s your name again?”

Sometimes there are elements of surprise when someone gets it right the first time. My name was rarely murdered during my time in Prague and for this, I scrapped my silly rule there. Besides, there are the inquisitive people who really want to get it right and I guide them through the pronunciation raising my index fingers to indicate the high tones: Or-lah-ji-de. Or simply tell them:

Think of it like you are singing, cos Yoruba is melodious.

Moreover, I met someone, it lasted 11 months but I remember saying “That’s not my name” more than “I love you”. Maybe people don’t know one another that well maybe boy-girl relationships are built on “patch patch” and compromises.  

Call me self-absorbed, but if you are not saying my name right, then you are just mouthing another meaningless word.

Okay Google! Play Four Ethers by Serpentwithfeets and loop on

“Your name is impossible to know” 

Scratch that, this is not possible yet.

Different

Remember, the questions in the opener? Those questions bother me a lot and I have always wondered how preconceived opinion or utmost ignorance perhaps superiority complex becloud judgments. There is no one way to look at or describe a group of people, there are many things I want to tell you about where I come from but please go on and be ignorant Ma. Talmbout,

Is Nigeria an English or French colony?

How did you come here?

Don’t let us by unfortunate, your question is smelly 🙄

Over time, trying to prove that you are an exception to the generalization will leave you breathless; it is tiring. I just do what I have to do and leave a spot like a pimple. You are probably the only person who looks like you in your class but associating with other Africans is also twice as hard. We may have similar ways of life, but we are a totally different set of people.

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You can’t help but notice that institutionalized discrimination and overt generalizations are prevalent. This brings about some sort of passive-aggressive behaviors from our host and our brothers who took the other immigration route are not helping matters.

Who wouldn’t be mad at people benefiting from your high taxes doing close to nothing? The flip side? That’s a lot of unskilled labour for jobs the citizens are too good to do. Win-Win! However, there’s nobody to blame but corrupt African leaders. I have been viewing apartments lately and I will paint you a picture.

Apartments owned by Foreigners

“What do you do?… That’s interesting!”

“If you can’t cook when you come back from work there good resturants around, that’s also a bakery and the people there are really nice”

“It’s not far from you workplace, it’s about 30 minutes bike ride” 🙄

“How old are you?… You don’t look your age”
(Ìṣe Olúwa kò s’ẹ́ni tó ye 🙃)

Apartments owned by ‘Our hosts’

“Where is your means of identification?”
(Brings out Resident Permit)

“Where is your passport?”
(Excuse you! Pẹ̀lẹ́ o, Immigration Officer.)

“If you don’t get this apartment, do not be disappointed”

Remember, it’s just a viewing appointment.

I have also noticed that my former Doctor spends far less time with me compared to other patients. You complain about a few things, he picks one and gives you medication for that and that only. What was usually more infuriating was his first question*:

Do you need a note that says you can’t work or take an exam?

Essir! If I don’t feel sick, you won’t see me here.

The Education

I am eternally grateful for the opportunity but the Nigerian, German, and Czech educational systems are not comparable. The major goal was the education, everything else is like icing to baked pastry, better still, Caramel topping.

Over the past 3 years, I have seen the importance of intellectual humility. You have no business explaining what you don’t understand. Back home, many lecturers are like Ọ̀rúnmìlà, the god of divinity; they know who will fail even before the exam. From my experience, I’m only an email or a 1×1 meeting away to get the help I needed. An environment like this breeds collaboration and innovation.

Imagine being dropped blindfolded into the middle of a jungle and the only thing to guide you home is a broken compass. This is what studying in Germany feels like coupled with the fact that your Nigerian education has only scratched the surface of that particular field. However, you are in charge of your own education, trust me, it can backfire when you are in survival mode and there are bills to pay.

New memories and realities

Like the proverbial rolling stone, I’ve always made a home out a new place I lay, not you Lagos! I found a new home in Tübingen and I love this place. I have also come to realize that you can make a home out of packing and unpacking suitcases as I did in Prague and recently, Munich. Well, I also found a short-lived love and new friends for life. While partially living your dreams, other ones inspired by your environment sprout. Prague always remind me of home.

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My experience in Germany has been a mix-bag, I have enjoyed the benefits of a functional system and a bit of the not-so-good. Listening to other people’s stories and experiences reveal that people have gone through and are going through terrible things in the diaspora. I love comparing my own experience, the next man’s experience is not a template for mine, albeit, the lessons are important.

How will I know you can make sweets from Semolina? Do you know Ladies’ Fingers? Or make a pact with one of your favourite persons in the world to taste as many as possible dishes from around the globe. Don’t let us talk about culture shock but wọ́n mu eríbú cigar níbí fa (the smoking culture is on Sàngó‘s level)

Everyday people

These are the sweetest set of people you meet outside the school environment. May God help you with your terrible German or Czech language skills the moment you leave the school environment; this tends to hinder a wholesome experience. There was this girl at the DPD parcel shop in Prague. In my head, we have started dating and having conversations aided by Google Translate.  

Thank you, Thomas! We never really had any tangible conversations; my German sucks and your English is too basic. He will take me in his car to the nearest train stop when I work late during survival mode. End of the day, we established that we both love music, and interestingly will love to know how to play at least one musical instrument. He is planning to start after retirement, I have no retirement plans yet but I would love to play the Keyboard. He introduced me to Bruce Springsteen music by the way.

The expectations 

John Doe has not spoken to you in ages, John sees you ‘fine ass picture’ on ‘socio medium’, slides into your DM asking for you know what. I don’t really have a problem with this since I can’t give what I don’t have. Now I don’t blame people who block or cut people off. I bet you don’t know what if feels like to be thousands of miles away from your support system.

Here I am, no plans to cut anyone off. What is life if we can’t keep in touch with people we shared amazing memories with?  How will I get in touch with Lekan to help me take a look at my master’s thesis data if I had shut the door to connections back home?

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COVID-19

Hey kids! Don’t drink and don’t do drugs. Who could have thought that the nursery rhyme by my Doctor would ever be useful? He would say:

Stay at home, drink hot tea, and a lot of water; your immune system would fight it.

News about a deadly virus emerged from China in late 2019; experts said a strong immune system can fight it off. Leaders around the world initially took it lightly but it would eventually change the world forever. The World Health Organization (WHO) would later declare it as a pandemic; international travels were halted, there were restrictions of movement, no large gatherings/events, you can only buy supplies online or in select stores. You can not go out unless it is absolutely necessary and we had to wear masks almost everywhere; similar to those apocalyptic movies you saw a few days ago. The world was on lockdown.

It was such a big deal that the disease has many names: Coronavirus, COVID-19, and SARS-CoV-2 (new mutations also emerged). Corona.help will probably be offline by the time you are reading this; check Wikipedia or Wayback Machine; the figures are scary right? In the first few weeks, I was really scared. I had recently moved to Munich which was one of the worst-hit cities in Germany. Like the tough man I am, I shook it off. I wasn’t bored but I want to believe I started talking to your Mum during this period. I would tell you more about the month of May.

Like we don’t have enough to worry about, during the lockdown, the world witnessed the gruesome murder of George Floyd. This sparked a worldwide outrage but it only remains to be seen whether we will continually be treated differently because of our skin colour.

In conclusion, looking inwards from outside, I don’t see the difference between tribalism and racism. I also think our situations will not change overnight until we start holding our leaders accountable for their actions and inactions. Why do I have to ship out enormous resources to get an international education if home is good enough? How will you expect progress in a land where people who have no business being together were forcefully joined.

Beginnings always hide themselves in ends.1

If there were no endings, there could be no new beginnings.2

There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one.3

1Mike Posner, Move On; 2Unknown; 3Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies

Tschüss!


* there’s a provision that if you are sick on the job or can’t go to work for a few days, you will get paid regardless. As long as you provide a Doctor’s note.

IMAGE CREDIT:
Ọlájídé Ishola – Muzeum Hořovicka entrance, Hořovice, Czechia.

Ọlájídé Ishola

Ọlájídé Ishola

A tech-savvy Linguist, lazy Writer and conservative Foodie.

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