On the road to 2013!
Africa, here we come. Three of our producers are on the road, making it their priority to visit our partners, meet up with local youth and get freshly inspired for RNW’s 2013 programming. Tag along on the journey by reading their blogs over the next two weeks. And if you have local tips, tweet them to:
Serginho Roosblad in Lagos
Sandesh Bhugaloo in Kampala
Sophie van Leeuwen in Kinshasa
24 August 2007, 7.30 hrs.
Good morning, this is your captain speaking. We are approaching Cape Town International Airport. Those of you sitting on the right side of the plane, if you look through the window, you’ll see the majestic Table Mountain.
It’s 2007 and I’m about to touch down for what would be my very first trip to Africa. As the majority of the plane, mainly tourists, tries to catch a glimpse of what might be one of Africa’s most captivating mountains, I set my eyes on the left side: townships. Thousands of shacks cramped together in a very small space. Amazed, I have my first confrontation with the ugly scars of the country’s history: the remains of colonialism and apartheid. From one kilometre up, though, the place seems buzzing with energy and life.
The man behind me, with whom I had been exchanging chitchat during the 12-hour flight from the Netherlands, seems just as amazed as I am. “It looks just like back home, don’t you think?” I have no clue what he’s talking about and tell him that.
“Home, you know? Back in Nigeria!” he says.
For some reason I feel I must apologize: “I’m sorry, but I’m of Caribbean decent.”
The man gets his second shock of the day that has only just begun. “Oh, I thought you were one of us,” he answers.
“One of us”: these three words stay with me. During my stay in South Africa and in subsequent trips to the continent, I am often referred to as Nigerian. “Dirty Nigerian” by some who apparently are disgusted by them. “Brother Nigerian” by ‘real’ Nigerians. It’s been five years since I was first declared “One of us”. Ever since, I’ve been anxious to find out if indeed I am.
28 November 2012, 19.15 hrs.
Good evening, this is your captain speaking. We are approaching Lagos International Airport. We will be landing shortly. The temperature in Lagos is 28 degrees Celsius, with a mild southerly breeze.
It’s pitch dark. There are only a few pockets of orange light on the ground. Villages, I guess. And the hazy full moon that has been following us on the eastern horizon since flying over the Sahara. As we come closer and closer to our final destination, the small pockets of lights double, then triple. Suddenly, there is an abundance of illumination across the ground we are flying over. But still not enough illumination for me to see what ‘home’ looks like.
This time there is no fellow traveller to call me “One of us”. Instead, I stare at the ground, which, from up here, looks like a night sky. Hundreds of little stars, some big, some small, so far apart, but yet still close. Enough to make you see and feel that there is something out there. But there is not enough light to reveal the mysteries of the universe.
And like an astronomer, I am examining every dark corner of that universe they call Lagos, hoping for a sign of life. A welcome sign. Something that says: “Welcome home, Brother Nigerian.”