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I got a text yesterday from a professor at my University in Ibadan, wondering whether my experience in America has met up with what I expected. I wrote back that the experiences were mixed, but within me, I am convinced that besides the abundance of fast food, traffic lights and sometimes searing cold, I have not seen any major difference in America as a place to live and Nigeria. Okay, maybe that’s likely to be perceived wrongly. I have met with many more interesting people, not any different from the interesting ones I’ve known before. I’ve also met with some strange people, not stranger than the ones I’ve met in Nigeria. However, there is a sense in which everything seems mostly normal, even though different. America is interesting, and so is Nigeria. I can grant that because of its place in the world, I seem to have a front-row to life’s interesting drama when I’m in the US than when I’m in Nigeria, but so far, I have not had any cause to stand in a public square staring in awe at any spectacular sight only because I’ve never seen it before, even though that seem strange enough to the people I tell.

220920091366Whenever I tell my American friends that I’ve been here for only two months, they immediately ask for my opinion on everything I’ve seen and experienced. And, instead of going with a previously standard response of “Oh it’s nothing. Except for the cold, it’s not much different here from where I’m from,” I now have to go into a long discussion on my very many notable observations, wonder, amazement, dread, lonesomeness and all, just to avoid a long stare or an awkward moment of uncomfortable silence that have now begun to attend any seemingly self-confident response. “It’s okay to feel lonely at times, and miss home, you know.” My classmate had said to me once, and he’s right. I should desist from this present stoic, often impersonal response to this distance, and really break down into my true status as a lost stranger in a distant land. Maybe only then can I find another part of myself necessary for the true experience of travelling. The problem is, it’s not working out for me. I wonder if there’s anything wrong with that.

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One thought on “How To Be A Stranger

  1. In 2005 my wife and I went to Germany for a year. I couldn’t/still can’t speak the language that well. I am a white guy and the Germans are mostly white. But I still experienced culture shock. It hit about the three month mark.

    I wanted to go home for about 2 months. The only thing that helped me stay for the whole year was a change of perspective. It was a great opportunity. We are actually getting ready to move to Germany.

    Culture shock is not fun but it is a necessary process of living in a strange land.

    A good way to cope is to talk to people who have lived in other countries. Our family never really could help us because they have lived in the same small town all their lives. We would tell them about our experiences and they would want to change the subject. Once we found some other people like us we found people who wanted to listen. It was healing.

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