Much of this year and practically all summer long I've been doing quite a bit of traveling. In fact, this summer will go down on the records as my most expensive. From driving to Charlottesville, Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia to a week long all expense paid trip to Disney World and weddings in New York and Philadelphia, just to mention a few. I've really been on the go. Can you even imagine that I've been in my new crib for a month and I haven't spent a full weekend at home yet.
As I've been doing these 'travelings', I've come to have a deeper appreciation for this boring state called North Carolina, and the South in general. Thinking about it now, I am still not quite sure if being forced to come to Charlotte instead of going to New York as planned was a bad idea. Actually, let me take that back, it was an awful idea and a horrendous plan that fell through on the first day I set foot at the airport.
However, I have to say that I can appreciate living in a 'clean', 'quiet' and 'relatively-safe' place where people don't drive like maniacs, where I can breathe in clean sweet smelling fresh air and drink clean water from the tap. I can appreciate being able to walk down Franklin Street in the middle of the night and not really be concerned that the guy walking towards me could be a mugger. I can wear my nice shoes ('Bisi' aka BCBG, as my friend says, and 'Chi-Chi Chiquito' aka Coach) and not worry about some muddy-oil stain messing them up. I was about to start wondering how women in NYC can wear their Manolos, Pradas and Guccis and not have these concerns, but many of them are loaded, so these shoes are like flip flops to them. Speaking of which, wearing flip-flops in some of these places is asking for trouble and all sorts of diseases. I won't be surprised if someone has contacted HIV just by walking on these streets.
I am sure some of you are like, 'Oh Please, didn't you come from Africa, what are you talking about?' You are right, in fact, I used to walk without shoes on the dirt roads and bush paths in my village. The soles of my feet were probably as hard as animal hide. There were many nights spent breathing in the pungent odor of burning refuse, and carbon-monoxide from public buses on the way to school in Lagos's constant traffic congestion. There were days when my nice shoes failed me before I got to school or to an event. There were days when I tested God and the elements, by wearing my nice shoes and 'white' (especially my white school shirt, tennis shoes or socks) before arriving my destination. One disaster after another would strike with the heels or the soles of my shoes coming off, the straps of my sandals cutting. socks getting dirtied by the red- sand or something staining my well bleached,'Robin-Blued' white shirt. There were even occasions when nails, 6 inches long, went through my 'platform(double) rubber slippers'.
Let me not even talk about living in a cramped apartment with 'mooching' relatives that cannot be chased away, constant disruption of electricity and having to fetch water when the taps go dry.
The above descriptions I would consider a totally different case, because that is pretty much expected and known to be a part of the norm of living in Africa. But there are some, who when told there are places in America that my village, with its half-current electricity, unpaved-pot-holed roads and one post office box that operates on palm-wine tappers bicycle, is better than, would discredit my talk as fabricated and say, "you've come again." They would not believe that there are places you would go to in New York that have a stark resemblance to Ojuelegba, that Atlanta is really the 55th African country or that you can fry an egg on the roads of Houston.
Parallels aside, lets talk about driving in these American cities. The entire Department of Transportation in Philadelphia, Washington DC and New York City ought to be fired and the whole roads and signs redone and re-drawn. Have you ever tried making a left or right turn in Philadelphia, you would probably go 2 miles off before you get to a place where you can make a u-turn or a 'legal' turn to get back to where you are going. Last year, in DC, after trying to find I-85 for 2 hours, I stopped in the middle of the road upon seeing a cop to ask for directions. All this while I had been crying about being lost, how much gas I had wasted and how late I was going to be to work.
Perhaps the problem is I've been spoiled living in the serenity of North Carolina that I am now becoming afraid of venturing outside this comfort zone. All that HYPE of wanting to live in a big, fashion forward, metropolitan city is dying as I am beginning to see the grim reality. I now feel like that small town country girl, you know, the 'villager-goes-to-town', 'amish-in-the-city' type thing. Miami is the only city that I think I actually like, despite the parking situation and all the plastic people. I wonder if Los Angeles or Chicago would give me some glimmer of hope that a BIG city is truly the place for me to be.