After two proper sleeps and one overnight flight sleep I will be in Ontario for the first time in two and a half years. The flight will be the most expensive one I have ever experienced and lucky for me my parents have sponsored this visit; otherwise it would not have been possible.
It will have been six years since I have been home at Christmas time and at least eight since all four of the ‘immediates’ will be under the same roof. The last time I was in Canada at Christmas my maternal grandmother was there with us. Sadly she passed away earlier this year and I know I will be thinking of her as I sit down to my mum’s infamous turkey dinner.
My husband and I are planning on going to Canada next summer anyway, so when I mentioned I was coming some pals asked the reason. To be completely honest, I’ve had a difficult term. The Ebola scare situation in Nigeria meant that we lost three weeks in September that needed to be made up on Saturdays and by taking away the half term holiday as well as carving a week out of our Christmas holiday. It has been a term which involved a great number of changes and required super human adaptation skills. That is the nicest way I could put it, really.
It will be strange to be in Canada for a great number of reasons and my apprehension is probably on the same level as my sheer excitement.
I have been married, as have a number of my pals, in the time I have been away from the homeland. Others have had children.
Canada will be the same but it will be new. Canada will be familiar but feel foreign.
I remember the last time I was in Canada, being excited to tell people about Nigeria. I wanted them to know what it was really like; that there is so much more to the place than oil wealth, corruption and poverty. Plenty of my Canadian pals wanted to hear more and discuss the world issues I try and keep up with in my absence. I am grateful for their genuine interest in me.
No matter where I go when I talk about Nigeria there is always someone whose eyes glaze over and it is clear they are uninterested. It is difficult to know how to approach such a situation. While I find myself to be increasingly proud to have been raised in Canada, I guess I am different somehow and the few times I have returned I have not really known how to feel about being an outsider in a place that is so familiar.
The last two times I have passed through Canadian customs I have found the experience to be incredibly irritating. I have been asked to present other forms of identification and interrogated as to my reasons for entering Canada. My answer has been the same: ‘I was born and raised here. Lived here well into my 20s.’ The comment was usually accompanied by questions such as: ‘Doesn’t having a Canadian passport mean I am allowed to enter the country?’ and ‘Can you not tell I was raised here by my accent?’
This time I might need to give up and surrender my British passport instead, after all it has all of my visas and stamps. But there is something about the Charter of Rights lessons I had in high school that make me think I should not use the British passport, that I have every right to come and go from the country in which I call home.
Who knows what this trip will bring? My hope is that it will be full of wonderful memories with people I care a great deal about, despite having the Atlantic Ocean and Sahara Desert between us. That I will return to Nigeria well rested and recharged for what is bound to be another hectic term… federal elections are right around the corner here!