The promised land

>> Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I've often thought about the tremendous gap between peoples expectations of the "Western world" and actual reality. Most people living in the "developing world" have no idea how hard it is to get a permission to stay in "western countries". I know mostly about Europe, so I can't speak for US and Canada but I imagine it's a lot of the same.

I know first hand, how strict and heartless the system is, having to spend three years of my life simply battling for my then-boyfriend to get the permission to stay here. The system failed us, and as a result we had to get married in order for him to get to stay. This is not how I had envisioned getting married, and I certainly had no plans to marry that early. I didn't want it to happen like that, and I feel like we've gotten an unfair, rocky start to our marriage. I was supposed to finish university first and so on. At least that's how little perfectionist me had it all planned out in my head. Don't get me wrong though, I have no regrets.
That aside, after getting the permission to stay, one can finally have a life, breathe and stop fearing what the next month will bring. Even gradually starting to make plans for the future. It's terrible to not have the ability to do that. But getting the permission to stay, doesn't mean the challenges of living here is over. There are still lots of obstacles to face, and I can tell my husband is finding it difficult to adjust. The culture is so different, the weather so cold and the people so emotionless. Going from a place where time is quite relative to a place where everything and everyone is controlled by routines and the clock is new. It takes courage to be able to integrate - keeping his culture but blending it with the new and fitting into society. I've come to find out I don't think anyone can really feel comfortable or satisfied living in a foreign country unless they find a way to integrate and make it work. Without that they won't get the freedom they need to feel happy. One will always be doomed to bad jobs without knowing the language for example. In addition to that, the racism and prejudice that already exists and makes a lot of things more difficult than it would have been for others. In other words, it's anything but easy.
Yet, when we visit Nigeria most people seem to think its a piece of cake. I can't blame them, since the only connection a lot of them have to the "western world" is flashy cars, computers and glossy movies with beautiful people. Of course.
This christmas, we were approached by a man from the village. He said: "My son is a great footballer. I am sure he can be famous. Please take him with you to live with you in Norway so that he can have a better life". It's so sad. I'd like to help anyone I can as much as possible but it doesn't work like that. The gap between the glossy image people have and reality is just too big. Yes, living standards and a zillion things are better or whatever, but a lot of people aren't happy and it's more complicated than that. I think every single person living in poverty should have the opportunity of getting a better life, but thousands of dreams are also being crushed every year as a result of misinformation. How many Africans die each year trying to cross over from Morrocco to Spain? A lot of people who do make it, say they'd rather never have went in the first place. FYI I'm talking about people who fled from poverty without an education in the first place to non-English speaking countries like for instance Norway. If you do get the privilege to stay, you're not really going to go anywhere else than McDonalds or selling drugs. If you want more, you need an education. As soon as you arrive, you either have to live hidden or you'll be thrown into a system and degraded to a filenumber, live a life where every part of your life is decided by others. I wish someone would do a survey and ask all the people if what they came to see matched their expectations. I don't know.

Anyway, this is now concerning me personally yet another time - my brother in-law suddenly got this idea that he HAS to leave Nigeria. We've been trying to convince him not to for months but he it's impossible to change his mind. When he set his mind for something, he's going for it. A good quality really, but not in these kinds of situations. He has absolutely no CLUE how the world outside Nigeria is and he's adjusted to and grown up in the less developed part of Nigeria, so living in a beurocratic society where you need permits and documents for everything you want to do will be completely new to him. There's only so much we can help him with especially since he's not coming here. Lastly he's been doing completely OK with a nice flat, car and everything he needs - considered "well off" by all his peers. Then WHY must he go I wonder. Of course I do understand but at the same time I think it's crazy. We offered to raise some of our money over time and give it to him so he could invest in a new business and relocate to Abuja and come and visit us here whenever he wanted to. But he has chosen to throw all that away to a future of uknown. If he had absolutely nothing to lose, then it'd be easier to understand, but he's throwing everything he has, everything he's worked for, to gamble with his future. I think he has suffered enough already. As soon as he leaves Nigeria (this Sunday) anything concerning him is completely out of our hands.
I am sad because this guy has been more of a brother to me than my own brother, he's always been there for me and helped me out with anything I might need. He's been so loyal and supportive, and I truly care for his well-being. With the state the world is in now I grow even more concerns. People everywhere are losing their jobs and a lot of companies aren't hiring because they are struggling to keep their head above the water. He seems to think he can just go to Canada without knowing anyone there, get a flat and a job and start saving money to build a house. It DOES not work that way.
I realise at this point theres nothing we can do to stop him and our best shot is to support him as well as we can, pray that he arrives safely and meets some nice people that will be kind enough to introduce him to the world over there. He's a man of his own and has the right to make his own decisions. Who knows, maybe he'll hit jackpot and make it after all, he's a fighter. If not, I pray he'll return to Nigeria safely and focus on building a life there.


StandTall-The Activist March 19, 2009 at 2:13 PM  

Well, I want to be optimistic and wish your inlaw the best.

Care to check my blog for what Writefreak said about you?

NoLimit March 19, 2009 at 2:46 PM  

Wow! deep sturve...people always think the sky is always greener on the other side...
It is not as str8 forward as that I tell you...
all the best to your BIL...I hope all works out for him in the end...

Adaeze March 19, 2009 at 4:41 PM  

@ Standtall - Thank you for your good wishes they are well needed :-) I did check your blog but I couldn't find Writefreak saying anything about me?

@NoLimit - I know, it sure isn't that straight forward at all..Thank you for your good wishes I appreciate it :-)

Nana Yaw Asiedu March 19, 2009 at 9:11 PM  

Very sad, really. But, sometimes, you have to leave the people you love to their own devices. If they learn from experience (i.e. the hard way) the lesson stays with them, and they benefit from it, for life.

StandTall-The Activist March 20, 2009 at 9:38 AM  

My bad. I must have left the message for you in Error.


posekyere March 20, 2009 at 10:08 AM  

A mature and balanced description of a situation which clearly is difficult for you but needed to be dealt with nevertheless.
The green pasture syndrome is the bane of Africa. Most of our brains (enterpreneurs, engineers, doctors and lawyers) are outside and not many of them are utilising their full potential. We need to deal with this problem from the foundation stages of the education system in our respective countries.
I really admire your tough love approach in addressing the adventurism of your in-law.
Bless Adaeze!

Adaeze March 20, 2009 at 11:58 AM  

@ Nana - Yes, unfortunately I KNOW what you mean...this is the approach I have now adopted. Thanks for reminding me though "They benefit from it - For life" - So true.

@ Posekyere - I love that you picked up on my opinion/thoughts on this global issue. It's personal for me right now, but nevertheless a global problem. The brain drain of Africa. Ultimately this comes down to the well-being and potential development of all countries. I agree we need to deal with this on the foundation stages. Your positivity and fighting spirit is so inspiring, and thank you for your sweet comments both about my writing and my tough love approach. Adventurism! That hit it right on the head. He's an adventurer, totally.

Funms-the rebirth March 20, 2009 at 4:19 PM  

ur so right, people belive the grass is greener on the other side, at least thats d pic thats been painted. I hope ur enjoying being married. As for ur brother in law, uve really tried ur best and most people never listen when they r so determined..... all u cak do is pray for him hoping he doesnt learn a very hard lesson........
thanx for ur comments on my blog dear. have a beautiful weekend

Enkay March 24, 2009 at 4:15 PM  

I had the opportunity to stay in the US for a few months and that was when I KNEW that the grass was definitely not as green on the other as I once thought.

The movies just give you one side of the story but meeting with real people with real struggles showed me that just because the system of a country works, that doesn't mean it's a bed of roses for ALL her citizens!

I saw an uncle of mine try to scrape by for his wife and 4 kids. He lived in a house he could barely afford (and it's not even a big one) and he worked 2 jobs!

I happily returned home to my job and life, grateful for the 'little' comforts I enjoy.

I really hope your B-I-L makes it out there. Sometimes the system of the developed countries we admire could be the same system that would swallow any unsuspecting victim whole!

Gee March 24, 2009 at 4:24 PM  

shuuu why is this blog in anoda language?
heyyyyyyy u frm YNC's blog!
ur married!!...i like married
and yes I agree...these pple r

aloted March 24, 2009 at 5:36 PM  

totally feel u on this post...sometimes it is good for people to travel and see for themselves how it is...

i wish ur inlaw all the best

Lolia March 24, 2009 at 6:10 PM  

lol @ Gee

I was just thinking the same thing...What language is your blog in?

And welcome to Blogger!

Like Aloted, I wish your in-law all the best...Let's see how things go xx

Adaeze March 25, 2009 at 11:21 AM  

Aww I'm so happy to get this many comments!

@Funms - Thanks..I think he's already learning a hard lesson. Guess that is part of life. Thank you for your advice though, sometimes one needs to hear it from other people to get stronger in mind.

@ Enkay - Wow thats a powerful story..I know there are MANY of those. Continue enjoying your job and life! It's great to have those life changing experiences that make you appreciate things more.I love your last paragraph - swallow unsuspecting victim whole. That's what happens 98% of the time.

@ Gee - Thanks for visiting my blog! Haha yes I am married! Wait a min though - THIS blog in another language? aren't you talking about my other blog? If something in this blog isn't in English I really need to fix it..It's Norwegian on the other blog btw. Hope you come back! Going 2 check urs too, just give me some time, lol

@ Aloted - Thanks for your caring wishes I really appreciate it :-)

@ Lolia - Thanks for your caring wishes aswell, I am grateful. And thanks for welcoming me. I think I'd have to search long to find more welcoming people than the people in Blogville! Will check urs out as soon as I get some work done :-)

Good Naija Girl March 26, 2009 at 4:40 AM  

I think what bothers me the most is that our family in Nigeria actually think that we're hiding something from them when we tell them (or try to tell them) the reality of living abroad.

Yes, the social infrastructure is there: fresh running water, electricity, paved roads, and if that's what they think will improve their lives then by all means they should hurry here as fast as they can. But when we tell them of the hours of work people here have to keep to afford a home (and the idea of a mortgage) or a car and other things, they just think we're exaggerating, trying to get pity when honestly, that isn't the goal at all. Like you, we feel for our family that is suffering; we just wish they'd realize that even the greener pastures have their weeds.

When I was in Nigeria this past November (after 15 years away) with my mom and sister, my grandmother and her sisters were looking at my mother's largely grey head and wondering why of all of them, including men much older than her, her hair was the greyest. We tried to explain to them that life here is more stressful, that people work two and three jobs to make ends meet, but you could tell that though they heard what was being said they didn't actually absorb or really believe it. Why do they think people drop dead of heart attacks or strokes so often here, and such a high percentage of the adult population deal with hypertension or heart problems? I'm not saying it's all stress but even when I was in Nigeria and everyone was telling me that life was not easy, I saw many family members enjoying life, being relaxed about their job (leaving the middle of the day to come back home, for example). I told them if I left in the middle of my job without it being an emergency, that would be written up in my file. Things are just so different.

Geez, look at me. Thank you for letting me vent, Adaeze! I wish your brother in law the best and I hope he thrives in Canada...and if things don't go as he hopes, I hope he decides to return to Naija sooner rather than later.

Adaeze March 27, 2009 at 4:11 PM  

Thank you so much for your nice and long comment ( I like long comments! ) You're welcome to vent anytime you like, hehe.
I think you know I already feel you on everything you just wrote.
I love the way you put it though "Even the greener pastures have their weeds"
Ah, Blogville! Teaching me so many good lessons.
Everything you said is so true - about hypertension etc. People never seem to get the point in Nigeria no..They listen and pretend they heard while they didn't really take it in..
Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

Good Naija Girl March 27, 2009 at 10:38 PM  

Thanks and have a great weekend!

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