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Coming To America By Mark Okonkwo

March 4, 2016

Anyways I made it to America and got into a taxi, actually a Toyota Highlander XLE 2010 Model, a preserve for only “Chairmen” and folks that have “Connect” back home. Then my real reeducation started.

Coming to America was nothing like the famous movie, absolutely nothing like it. I do not know how the first conquistadores felt setting foot in this continent, nor the first black slaves. But my feeling was very awesomely nice and depressing all at the same time. I have spent over a quarter (yea that’s right, that’s one vocabulary America has taught me “quarter”, I could say 25 but that would be “Un-American”). Before I digress so much I am over 25 years and have never left Nigeria. I was born and bred in Nigeria. So things I saw and felt on stepping on JFK airport was literally chilling and heartwarming at same time. It was freezing with snow; I was so cold that I can’t put it into words. I don’t have such literally skills. I would have to exhume Chinua Achebe to help me do that. It was that bad.


My reality check on taking off Murtala Muhammed Airstrip started with landing in transit at Abu Dhabi International airport, it was there I had a sudden realization that Nigeria had no airport. We have local and International airstrips but not an airport. I must apologize that I can’t explain most of my thoughts. No one can achieve that literary feat. You have to experience it. How do you explain an Ocean to a man born blind and deaf? Where do you start? Any ways I managed to make it to America all the while stoned in the awe of the Airbus 380, I was certain that’s how Jonah felt in the belle of the big fish, but without the wonderful in-flight entertainment. But the in-flight meal was hell, I was just too local for such posh meals and proudly so. Anyways I made it to America and got into a taxi, actually a Toyota Highlander XLE 2010 Model, a preserve for only “Chairmen” and folks that have “Connect” back home. Then my real reeducation started.

I am a man. Men love cars, almost just or more than women (every pun intended). Just like some women does it for men, so does cars and Mercedes sedans does it for me, I can flirt with other brands but I always come back to Mercedes sedans. Any day that I can’t get it up, forget about Viagra, get me a flagship Mercedes Benz sedan. I had a hard on from the airport till I got to my destination. I had seen more sexy looking cars than I have seen power failure in all my entire life. The cab guy was a fellow Igbo brother and I asked him why all these nice cars and it’s like there are more millionaires than regulars folks in America. He laughed and said these are all regular folks. The entire place was just one big Maitama, it was surreal. In less than 24 hours I had a forgiving spirit. The kind Jesus asked us to have. I forgave all my relatives and friends who left and never came back to Nigeria. I would have proudly joined the league if not for my both parents still alive and my sibling with them in Nigeria.

Several times at Ihop and Wendys I have had abominable thoughts. Very evil thoughts that I never would have had back home. I remember the first time I had that thought. I was having breakfast with my wife. Two cops walked in and it’s like my mind stopped working. I was day dreaming in broad daylight about being a police officer! These officers were fit, well dressed and armed, there presence/looks was a crime deterrent. They looked like they could take on any criminal even without the pistol and other God knows other stuffs they had on their waist. Back home I would rather dream of becoming a native doctor than a policeman! The presence of most of our “friends” in black/blue or whatever colour they wear these day facilitates crime and not deter it. My dream took deep roots when I saw the cars used be cops in execution of their duties; I swore I was going to become one. But the deep rooted fear of the job still got the best of me.

It wasn’t all rosy thoughts. I went to bed having nightmares from converting money paid for eating out and buying some necessary stuff needed by me to survive the cold. With the dollar to naira at N380, when I calculate $10 meal, I mutter “blood of Jesus” till I sleep. I almost had an epileptic seizure in Footlocker buying a Nike flip flop for $27. Brethren in very simple words I bought a rubber Nike slippers at Footlocker for N10,260, instead of N500 I buy at Oshodi market. In fact I didn’t buy it, I dropped it and left so fast I forgot my wife in the store. She had to drag me back and insisted on buying it for me. As any married man will tell you, there are times you don’t argue with you wife. That was one of those moments. I left that store angry and swore I must get value for the money spent on the stupid slippers. I wear it all the time even to bed. I am very sure if am Moses and God tells me to take it off that I am standing on a holy ground, am sorry but I won’t.

Talking about God reminds me about home. I have never felt I am a good Christian. But I am afraid am getting worse or better am not too sure which one. The fear of hell was a deterrent to committing some sins. But now hell holds no iota of fear for me anymore. The biggest thing coming to America did for me was to learn to love God without fear of hell. I came into America and realized that even though Nigeria is not hell, but it’s obviously not too far from it. Possibly it’s within a trekking distance, after all we were not given the exact coordinates of hell, but I am willing to bet I am correct. I have lived near hell all my life a big thanks to our leaders, why would I be afraid of hell as preached in our churches? Maybe a few years from now the fear would return. But for now if you have spent your entire life in our dearly beloved land, do not be afraid of the hell preached in the altar, because you are living in one already. The ignorance of this is bliss, until coming to America shattered it all. I still love my country dearly. It’s like coming from a dysfunctional family, you know it’s messed up and you hate it but you can’t stop loving it. For all my disappointment and hatred, for our airstrip for not being an airport, I still can’t wait to see it again. I still can’t wait to be coming to Nigeria. It sounds strange but I miss the darkness. The intense feeling albeit disappointing and frustrating you get when NEPA, PHCN or whatever they call themselves takes the light in the middle of an interesting football match. I miss the strong quality of our drinks, Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Beer etc, America sucks when it comes to drinks. I miss the sweltering heat and madness. I miss the ladies and guys and the effusive companionship you can have with perfect strangers you met a minute ago, gisting away like you were lifelong friends. I miss my country.