I have traveled to many places, and have even more on my bucket list. And while for some an African Safari sounds well and good, it never seemed the right choice for me. I’ve had friends visit South Africa on vacation or places like Uganda with the Peace Corps and share beautiful stories and pictures. Excitement always filled the air, but never my soul.
The upside to moving to a big city is meeting people of extremely different backgrounds. Enter, Ngozika, my Bumble BFF. In a casual conversation one summer day, Gozi mentioned that her dad was from Nigeria, and they take family trips; this year, she might go. Of course, wanderlust Alexxis was like, “Yo, if you tryna go this year, I’ll go with you.” Two months later, I was on the phone with Gozi’s mom and a travel agent booking my ticket. **SOUL EXCITEMENT TO THE MAX**
Sometimes that is just how you have to do it!
A few immunizations later, passport and Visa in hand, I met Gozi’s family for the first time at the Newark Airport. We hugged, boarded the flight, and were off to the motherland! If I am honest, I did NO homework, research, language learning, or shopping. Okay, maybe a little shopping…. I had no idea what I was doing, and I loved every minute of it!! I made sure to bring something to cover my shoulders, my camera, and my journal. Every decision about this trip felt right, and I was ready.
We left December 22 and finally arrived in the Enugu State Christmas eve. We were greeted by their family members, some of the brightest smiles and warmest hugs I have ever received. What’s more, they never went away! In the next few days, Gozi’s father, Camellus, introduced us to his village of Nsukka and shared traditions and stories. We attended Christmas mass, given in Igbo, Latin, and English, where I cried an embarrassing amount!! The compound was center stage for the family Christmas ceremony where we all ate, danced, drank, sang, and laughed until nights fall.
We only stayed for about 4 days, but I swear it felt like a year. In a good way, of course! There was an endless, welcomed stream of family members, all ages and sizes, visiting and bringing gifts. The face to face engagement and curiosity of cultures led to countless conversations on topics like music, religion, dating, American women, Nigerian men, politics, and so much more. No internet. No social media. No distractions.
After Nsukka, we toured Abuja hitting the mall, a zoo, and one of the traditional outdoor markets. My favorite stop was the Fish Market, though. As we were walking up the stairs, my mouth instantly began to salivate at the smell of fresh herbs and spices. Think of a group of pavilions, where the inside circle has 20 grills, some grilling fish, some corn, and potatoes. The fish was whole on the grill, yes, head included. But, when in Nigeria….so, I did what I could. We ate with our fingers, which I had too much fun doing. A little fish, some potatoes, a swig of Star beer, repeat. It was the kind of meal when not one soul talks while eating. The sun was beaming. Distant music playing. Melanin poppin. Life. Was. Good.
Most of our meals were traditional, including fufu, jollof rice, yam, plantain, goat, or fowl. Not a whole lot of vegetarian options, but we made it work! I did try the fowl, and it was honestly the cleanest-tasting meat I have ever had. My experience ended in Lagos, where we rode horses on the beach for New Year’s Eve and danced at a beach bar through the night! Star Beer in hand, of course.
I don’t think this one blog piece will convince you to visit, and even if you could, I am not sure any 2 experiences are alike. My trip was unique in that I didn’t pay a tour company or have scheduled excursions. The Ezeugwu family opened their doors and welcomed me, gleefully and tenderly. It was some of the purest and kindest love anyone could ever experience!
I will be uploading a video to Instagram this week, so be sure to follow @TribeCalledLexx. Until then, enjoy this small gallery of photos.