Lost in America – Coming to America!

I don’t know why I came to America. The year was 1982. Nigeria was a world super power, our embassies all over the world routinely denied white people visas to come to Nigeria (yes, we did!). Sisi Clara at the embassy in Washington DC would take one withering look at the pale jelly fish quivering in her presence at the embassy, stamp a lusty DENIED! on his passport and shoo him off with the sage words: “Gerraway jo! Olosi! Your father will not see Nigeria, your mother will not see Nigeria! You will not see the yansh of Nigeria! Olosi! Olori buruku! Moose from Alaska!” And the wimp would slink off wailing: “I want to go to Nigeria! Waaaaaaaaah!” Those were the days. The Naira was stronger than the American dollar and university graduates were paid N300 a month. That was a lot of money in those days. I would know. So, my friend Fat Stanley and I were really enjoying life. We walked around telling people that we were university graduates and people gave us things for being graduates; their money, their daughters, their chickens and their goats. Sometimes they tried to give us their wives. Life was good. The Gulder was flowing, the suya was on the barbecue grill everyday, man, life was good.

 So, I don’t know why I came to America. I am a Nigerian in America. I have been a Nigerian since escaping to America. I have been trying not to be an American since I came to America. The harder I try, the worse it gets, this Nigerianness. There was no reason for me to leave Nigeria. It was 1982, Nigeria was a world super-power, richer than even America. My best friend was Fat Stanley and we were members of a posse of irresponsible Nigerian youths. We were irresponsible because there was nothing to be responsible for and about. Anything we wanted, our parents gladly gave to us. But we were miserable; America was calling out to our restless souls. In Nigeria, like most Nigerians, I did not enjoy being a Nigerian. I wanted to come to America to be an American. Fat Stanley wrote me long letters about the heaven called America and the nightclubs and the women. He wrote about enchanting evenings with American women spent on a strange American activity called a “date”, a ritual that seemed to involve spending dollars. But not to worry, Fat Stanley wrote, the dollars are there. He wrote me in the winters of his exile and my despair and sent me pictures of himself, plump, well fed, leaning on his Cadillac, his winter jacket draped in the dreamy white of snow flakes. He complained a lot in his letters: about the stress of having so many girlfriends, white, black and brown! White girlfriends! He complained about the sex, sex, sex, too much of it, because, you guessed it, he had too many girlfriends! He complained about the food, the chicken that you could have all to yourself, how boring! And the turkeys, he said were of the mutant varieties, giant birds that would make our Nigerian turkeys look like distressed pigeons. I cried and refused to be consoled until my family, actually, my entire village came together and stole enough gofment money to take me to America.

And then I came to America. It was great to see Fat Stanley. For ten minutes. And then I found out a few things about Fat Stanley and America. The Cadillac was not his. Fat Stanley loved taking colored pictures of himself posing by other people’s cars in the parking lot of American shopping malls. Even the winter jacket was not his. Fat Stanley no longer liked us holding hands with me for long walks, any walk, even like we used to do over and over back home in Nigeria. He said it was too gay, whatever that meant. Fat Stanley got one thing right though; there were lots of huge women. I vividly remember my first iyawo. Her right arm alone weighed more than all of my skinny little self and she ate like a starved elephant. Fat Stanley’s Nigerian accent was no longer his. He spoke like a masquerade – through his nose and with his tongue tied in several alien knots. I loved that part about him. I loved his new accent. I simply could not wait to sound like him.

When I first came to America, whenever I opened my mouth, Only Fat Stanley could understand me. Americans avoided conversations with me; they would bribe me with hamburgers not to talk to them. My lecturers promised me top grades if I didn’t raise my hand in class; it was just too stressful for them to decode my guttural sounds. My situation was very stressful to Fat Stanley. Each time, I opened my mouth, Fat Stanley would whine thusly: “Abeg arrange your mouth! Dem nor go understand you!” Fat Stanley told me I had to take accent reduction classes if I was to survive in America. I took the accent reduction classes in Mazi Okezie Ekene Dili Chukwu’s one-room “apartment.” Mazi Chuck as we called him had been in America for twenty years; he spoke like a Made-in-Aba American. I liked that. I took his classes and now no one understands my accent. Not even me.  Whenever I open my mouth, Americans coo “I love your accent! Is that British?” I find this habit racist, definitely aggravating. The people that irritate me the most are the Nigerians that come to the restaurant where I work. They step into my fast food restaurant and even though my name tag says JEFF (not my real name, long story, you won’t understand, trust me!) these bad belle messiahs would go “Nna men, na where you come from?” I always say Pittsburgh! They don’t like that. But who cares? Fat Stanley and I are still here, middle-aged dreamers luxuriating in the wretched promise of America’s love that never shows up. Fat Stanley is now simply Stanley, gone scrawny from shoveling snow and America’s bullshit off his driveway and his dreams. But who cares? We are Americans!

30 thoughts on “Lost in America – Coming to America!”

  1. Thoroughly satiric and babarically intresting.i loved it absolutely though there were a few grammatical errors

  2. Hehehe! Pa Ikhide, you don start again. I had to laugh. Why not post a photo of Fat Stanley? I hope he was not as the fat people of Missishippi or Tonga?

    How fat was your first wife? As fat as a hippo? There is too much cheap food in America. A Naija man told me that his white American friends used to ask him why he chewed the chicken to the bones? He opted to eating in private although he was not a fat man.

  3. Correction: I hope Stanley was not as fat as the obese people of Mississippi or Tonga? Ha ha ha! Some people call them fat bast*rds. No offence. Hehehe.

  4. This made me smile all the way to the end, usually i read your posts with all seriousness to the end- refreshing this is.
    A reflection of us, My husband looked through his over 500 friends on Facebook and only less than a 100 live in Nigeria. his conclusion- A whole generation of Nigerians outsourced everywhere in the world.
    Our dreams is to end up in the land where our talents may be offered better remuneration, children can have better education, quality health care and some sort of stress free life.For some it will be a easy ride and some a hard ride that Nigeria may have been the best choice.
    In the bid of having all these- we want acceptance, we don’t want to be different or stand out like a sore thumb.We want to forget and remove every trace of the land birth. We want to be the white himself. We want to pretend we are not from the land known for Malaria, Hiv and Poverty
    A battle of a black man in a white man’s land…….. to remain yourself or gradually become the shadow of …..

  5. Hilarious. Sadly, many young people in NIgeria still want to go to America. Nothing wrong with this. But they have rose colored glasses on. They get there and become dishwashers, morgue attendants and waiters. When they could be CEOs and successful entrepreneurs here. The sad thing thing is that the longer they stay in America, the more difficult it is to come back home.

    1. Often repeated fallacy – those who travelled could have become CEOs if only they have stayed back in Nigeria!! But alas, they are all now Dishwashers and washroom attendants in the great old USA!!
      There are so many faults with this kind of reasoning it’s actually quite hard to deal with or respond to, you know!

      1) if only those who formed America stayed back home in England…after 300 or 500 years, they would have all became kings and queens in England by now right?
      Still, since you have white people who are the descendants of these people also doing dishes…maybe doing dishes is and will always be a legitimate job in all societies for generations to come?

      Why are the millions of jobless Nigerian graduates who did not leave nigeria or could not leave nigeria ain’t all CEOs…or it’s just those who left who lost out for a chance to be great!?

      Why do we readily accept equally struggling white immigrants to America as legitimate Americans and the blacks who were not taken there as slaves as somehow inherently unable to be Americans!!
      Do real Americans not work as cooks and dish washers in America too??

      Maybe the reason the nigeria dishwasher in America is not living the best life he can live in America is because he sends most of his hard earned cash home to help jobless relatives become CEOs!!?

      … just maybe??

      In about 100 years from now and nigeria becomes developed and rich…some people will still continue to travel out because its the nature of man to do so…get used to this simple fact!

      Thanks

      1. Perfectly said my brother. What Lola failed to realize that there are many Nigerians who are CEO’s and Presidents of top American companies. There are also a zillion highly placed Nigerians in public and private agencies in the USA. In the political field, Nigerians are mayors and legislators in major US cities.

        Lola should have done her homework through google, if there is internet or electricity available, before repeating this old fallacy.

        Another sour grape fallacy is that Nigerians who were unable to secure admissions into a Nigerian University headed to the USA for further studies.

        Below is my response to Pa ikhide’s Lost in America – Coming to America.

        We promised papa that we shall return to Naija after masters degree. Jobs plenty for Naija. ..you get a car + allowance to gas and pay for the car, a house + allowance to pay for the house, you get chauffeured in official cars during work hours, every two years you get promoted if oga likes you, you get a bigger official residence, a permanent chauffeur, cook, steward, butler and gardener. It was sweat to be a Nigerian graduate until The Army Boys took control….and my papa wrote “For your security, I advice you to remain where you are because the military regime is cracking down on professionals. Jobs are drying up fast and unemployed graduates are driving okada and joining armed robbers. Look for a job there, anything is fine until things return to normal here in Nigeria”. This was 1984 and things never returned to normal. The Naira was N1 = $1. Our generation became the unluckiest Nigerian generation ever. *I beg make I sleep joo*

    2. We promised papa that we shall return to Naija after masters degree. Jobs plenty for Naija. ..you get a car + allowance to gas and pay for the car, a house + allowance to pay for the house, you get chauffeured in official cars during work hours, every two years you get promoted if oga likes you, you get a bigger official residence, a permanent chauffeur, cook, steward, butler and gardener. It was sweat to be a Nigerian graduate until The Army Boys took control….and my papa wrote “For your security, I advice you to remain where you are because the military regime is cracking down on professionals. Jobs are drying up fast and unemployed graduates are driving okada and joining armed robbers. Look for a job there, anything is fine until things return to normal here in Nigeria”. This was 1984 and things never returned to normal. The Naira was N1 = $1. Our generation became the unluckiest Nigerian generation ever. *I beg make I sleep joo*

  6. Excellent Post. I particulary enjoyed this part as a Black American living in the U.S., “Fat Stanley and I are still here, middle-aged dreamers luxuriating in the wretched promise of America’s love that never shows up. Fat Stanley is now simply Stanley, gone scrawny from shoveling snow and America’s bullshit off his driveway and his dreams. But who cares? We are Americans!”

    I too have been luxuriating in the wretched promised of America’s love and promises for college educated folks as well. I am just beginning to open up my eyes and wash my face from all the mess that is.

  7. Ikhide,Laugh wan kill me die.This is very hilarious, a strong antidote for high blood pressure,and well written .The bit that “fat”has been removed literally from Fat Stanley’s name put me in stitches.Fat, sorry, ordinary Stanley and yourself should comeback to our country.On arrival, at the Airport our Customs will stil greet you with “wetin una bring” and Police with “wetin you carry”.Nothing has changed, nothing de happen.

  8. @Zainab, I hope you can see your own error. Welcome, Ms Know All aka Too Know in pidgin English. Did you mean Pa Ikhide’s?

    Why not highlight the errors as a proof reader? Sorry but I can only pay you peanuts. I cannot see errors unless they are used to lampoon the blog post. Come on! … Aboki for that matter?

  9. Stop complaining old man. You are suffering the nostalgia of old age. You should be happy you didn’t miss that boat joor.

    Why didn’t you warn us when you were almost in England. We would have come out of the country village we are hiding in to visit you in big cosmopolitan London. Anyway sha. Well done. Keep flipping them burgers. Will see you on the other side of the pond soon

  10. […]  Sisi Clara at the embassy in Washington DC would take one withering look at the pale jelly fish quivering in her presence at the embassy, stamp a lusty DENIED! on his passport and shoo him off with the sage words: “Gerraway jo! Olosi! Your father will not see Nigeria, your mother will not see Nigeria! You will not see the yansh of Nigeria! Olosi! Olori buruku! Moose from Alaska!” And the wimp would slink off wailing: “I want to go to Nigeria! Waaaaaaaaah!” (permalink) […]

  11. Pa got carried away by the dreams of another man, painted for him as his reality. Alas, America is not a bed of roses. It’s still the dream of many to feel it soil, though. Lessons for us all.

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