“Sister Kala! Sister Kala” The cafeteria workers sang as I was walking. They were just finishing their shift at the alexander brown hall cafeteria and I was cooling off with my friend Lanre after a solid-paced 1.5 mile run.
“How far guys?” I said in my best pidgin English, translating to “what sup, guys?”. To my surprise, their facial expressions changed dramatically as they were able to see my face better.
“What’s wrong with your face?” One of the girls said horrified. Lanre and I both laughed and I explained that we just got back from a run. The girls nodded and abruptly kept walking.
Lanre explained to me that exercise isn’t very common here in Nigeria, and it’s often seen as crazy to run without a dire need to.
There are a lot of unexpected things that have happened to me since moving to Nigeria for my Fulbright grant. Another example is that I realized that I am unable to travel to Ghana to see my sponsor child, as I need to send in my passport at the consulate in the US to obtain my visa, which is not feasible. I instead have a vacation scheduled for Tanzania-Mt Kilimanjaro’s 11 day Northern Circuit route to be specific. So, I’ll continue to run with Lanre to train for the once in a lifetime hike.
Talking about my love for hiking and exercising, coupled with the fact that I’m American, get’s people calling me “oyinbo” or “white person”. Since I’m African American, this is one term that my Nigerian-American friends insisted that I wouldn’t be called here, so it comes as a surprise when I’m called it on nearly a daily basis.
I’ve completed almost 1/3 of my Fulbright grant, and if I’ve learned anything these past 3 months, it’s that things don’t go the way you think they’re supposed to go here in Ibadan, no matter how hard you try to plan ahead. Life happens and people react to who I am in different ways, whether by calling me “Akata” like the cafeteria workers say, “oyinbo” like my friends say, or simply choose to join in, like my trusted friend Lanre.
Life has a way of not going the way you expect it to, sometimes you get called funny names, get stared at, laughed at, or embraced. But, there’s only one thing I can do about it, and that’s continue to do me.
So, I’ll just keep running.
(albeit not gracefully)