It had been sixteen years since I last stepped foot on “the continent”. It’s so strange seeing those words written out, because even though that had been my truth (being away for so long), I had always prioritized my connection to my roots despite the distance. For instance, Sundays are always meant for cooking Jollof rice, morning commutes to work typically feature my “Good Morning, Lagos” playlist, I chose to take Yoruba in college for my language credit, etc.
My Nigerian identity is such a major part of who I am, yet there aren’t really words to describe what it felt like to be on the plane and see Lagos in the near distance. My throat got lumpy, I felt a series of emotions from eagerness to nervousness, from joy to anxiety. I was back home, but what if home was nothing like I remembered it? Perhaps I had crafted my own version of home in my head for the past 16 years? Would they be able to tell I was American? Would I be able to naturally switch between my Nigerian and American accents?
I was in Lagos for work, so as soon as I landed, my co-workers and I went straight to a tech hub in Yaba to get our week started (despite being jet-lagged and the time being 8pm on a Sunday). What occurred over the next couple of days was worth all the effort, sleeplessness, and has been the most monumental part of my short career. We were in Nigeria helping to build, grow, and support 25 entrepreneurs with 25 different ideas that would change their communities and thus, the country. It reminded me so much of why I decided to work in technology in the first place – because of its ability to change lives. Nigeria is the type of place where technology can truly manifest its possibilities. While some entrepreneurs in San Francisco are trying to build the next social platform, those in Lagos are crafting solutions to very real fundamental problems around them. The energy was unbelievable and the passion was evident. And I saw that energy (and hustle) everywhere around the city. Everyone in Lagos is always doing something, at all times. The city never slept, and I loved it.
As I had anticipated, one of the more emotional parts of my week was getting to see my family, specifically my grandfather who I hadn’t seen since I left for the USA at seven years old. He didn’t know I was coming and this photo below was exactly how I found him when I arrived: peacefully reading The Punch in front of his home.
Nostalgia hit while seeing him, going back to the house I was partially raised in, and being in the old neighborhood. Frankly, returning to Lagos made me realize that we all have the responsibility of writing the history books of our lives. The present so quickly becomes the past and I now have this pull to preserve as much as I can through photographs and writing. There’s so much I wish I could remember, and in ten years I’m sure I’ll want to remember exactly how I felt at this point in my life.
There’s so much I can say about my one week in Lagos: from all the amazing people I met, to the great food, or more importantly the seeds that I began to sow around creating a life for myself there. But, I’ll leave that for a second post. I had one of the best weeks of my entire life, being in Lagos as an adult, working on things I was passionate about, and helping others build what they were passionate about.
There’s something quite powerful about going back to where you came from – whether that was a few years ago or a couple generations ago.