As my journey continues into the heart of rural Nigeria so did my transformative experience that opened my eyes to the rich tapestry of culture, food, and hospitality that defines this vibrant nation. My adventure led me to a small village tucked away in the lush greenery of rural Nigeria, where I immersed myself in the local way of life.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted with open arms and warm smiles by the villagers. The hospitality of the Nigerian people is truly remarkable. Despite having very limited resources, they shared their homes and hearts with me, making me feel like a part of their community from day one. The genuine kindness of the villagers left an indelible mark on my heart. In fact, the villagers will often greet me with “ije” meaning welcome or welcome back.
The village’s cultural richness is evident in every aspect of life. From the vibrant traditional attire worn during special occasions to the rhythmic beats of the local drums that resonated through the village, I was immersed in a world of tradition and heritage. The locals eagerly shared their customs and beliefs, allowing me to witness ceremonies and rituals that have been passed down through generations.
One of the highlights of my journey was the opportunity to savour authentic Nigerian cuisine. The village’s culinary traditions are a true testament to the resourcefulness of its people. The making of local “garri” made from dried and naturally and organically processed cassava used in soups like egusi, orkra soup, ogbono soup. The process is quite fascinating, and the end product can last a few months without refrigeration. I was introduced to dishes like jollof rice, a flavourful rice dish with a tomato-based sauce, and egusi soup, a hearty soup made with ground melon seeds and leafy greens. The use of aromatic spices and bold flavours left my taste buds dancing with delight. Each meal was a communal experience, with locals and visitors alike gathered around large pots, sharing stories and laughter as we enjoyed the delicious fare. The spicy food is not for the faint of heart and can be quite hot for newcomers. I would recommend only if you already have a taste for hot and spicy food. I would also recommend filtered water because most of the drinkable water is fetched from wells and boreholes or trucked in by contractors.
While the beauty of rural Nigeria is undeniable, it comes with its share of challenges. The tropical climate, with its sweltering heat and frequent rainfall, creates a lush landscape but also provides ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The locals usually take a concoction of malaria drugs that gives at least three months of protection from the disease. Despite diligent precautions, I had my fair share of mosquito encounters. There really isn’t any structured garbage collection and most locals simply throw their garbage on the street, through vehicle windows, in random street piles, which contributes to clogged drains and more mosquitoes. However, the villagers’ resilience and adaptability in the face of such challenges are truly commendable.
Farming is the lifeblood of the village, and I had the privilege of participating in the daily activities. From tilling the fertile soil to planting crops and tending to livestock, I gained a deep appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the farmers. The knowledge and skills they possess are passed down through generations, ensuring that the village remains self-sustainable. Most work is done manually with minimal advanced machinery.
My time in rural Nigeria was an eye-opening journey that allowed me to see beyond the stereotypes and preconceptions often associated with this part of the world. The village taught me valuable lessons about resilience, community, and the power of human connection. It was a reminder that despite our differences, the bonds of shared humanity can bridge any divide. My heart will forever carry the warmth, culture, and hospitality of rural Nigeria, and I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this extraordinary community.
Subrina Hall-Azih is a Trinidadian educator.