June 21, 2018

Canada is fine o, but the journey is looooong – Peju Akande

Canada is fine o, but the journey is looooong – Peju Akande

I enjoy travel.

And my candid advice is, if you can afford it, take that trip.

Travel is one of the best means of getting an education; it opens your mind to people, places, beliefs, cultures… I also think it can educate you better than the four walls of a classroom; when you meet people from other climes, you understand the world better…I believe.

Now you don’t even need to go abroad to get this kind of education, Nigeria is beautiful with many undiscovered sites; I know, because I’ve been around.

Months back, I took a trip to Canada.

Canada is far!

My travel was scheduled a few weeks before summer; I figured if it gets too cold, I’ll hate myself as I would be forced to stay indoors throughout my stay abroad, even those who live in cold regions don’t enjoy time out when the weather is freezing, they are mostly holed in until the worst of the freezing weather is over. And Canada is known to be extremely cold, sometimes it gets to -45 degree Celsius! Imagine that.

Anyway, I ‘borrowed brain’, like we say and decided it was best to go before summer; of course cost implication of travel also played a role here as you all know, during summer, cost of flight tickets can take you to the moon and back but before summer, tickets are relatively ‘cheaper.’

I had informed my hosts that I didn’t plan to sit around and sleep; I planned to see a bit of this massive space called Canada.

I will say it again, Canada is far. You just need to Google map it to get a sense of how far that country is from Nigeria. I traveled within four time zones in 35 hours; from Murtala Mohammed airport, it took more than five hours of flight time to Frankfurt, in Germany. I had about 4 hours stop over. From Frankfurt it was over 7 hours of flight time to Toronto. At Toronto, I also had about three hours stop over; (by the way, Canada operates within 4 time zones! One country, fa!) Then I connected to the Canadian airline, from Toronto to Saskatoon, it was some 3 hours flight time and finally from Saskatoon to Melfort, this took two hours drive time.

Nothing prepared me for the blast of cold and jetlag that almost crippled me at the final destination. I was exhausted, tired out of my mind. My face had become itchy and dry, my lips chapped and my eyes blood shot and unfocused, worst of all, sleep eluded me but I was mighty glad all of the flying was over…for that period at least.

Now in between flights, I gradually noticed I was becoming the minority race among the throng of flight passengers as we moved from time zones away from Africa where I was the dominant race.

At first, this was surreal. I’ve always taken it for granted that being black was all in but as soon as I noticed I was becoming the minority race in the sea of white faces, from Frankfurt onward, I desperately began to seek black faces among the milling crowd.

Funny, I realised the black faces also sought mine and we quietly acknowledged one another-with a smile, with an, ‘I see you’ look, and a nod. We acknowledged our difference in the midst of this common ground.

It was comforting.

Not so comforting though, was one trip i took to London. I was heading to see a friend outside London and the thing is as you move outwards, away from London itself, there are fewer black faces and mixed races to be seen. I got to the station that would take me to the next line of Trains outside London and here I could easily count the number of black faces around me.

Right there, a black guy was begging for money, his voice was loud, I turned as I heard the slight Naija inflection in his voice and across hundreds of whites face our eyes connected; right from there, he called out, ‘Sister, help your brother, don’t turn your face away.’

Fada! My eyes widened. He got me!

Then he switched to my native tongue, long strings of Yoruba, meant only for me, in a crowd of some two hundred or more  passengers.

I was annoyed with him. Switching meant I was obligated to give him money, after all, he’s my tribes man.

Iru wahala wo le le yin na?

I didn’t want to engage him in too much talk, wasn’t sure of his mental state, either, so I did the needful, I dropped a 5 pound note in his palm and walked briskly away to find another spot. I said a silent prayer that day, May I never need to beg anyone for money in a strange land.

What I didn’t realise at that time was that I had demonstrated what Nigerians living abroad dread among themselves when they meet abroad. They are always cagey, trying to figure out if being friendly with another Nigerian wouldn’t mean they would be harassed for money from these people, or be obligated to help a fellow Nigerian simply because they were far from home.

Anyway, back to Canada and thanks to my hosts, I saw Canada the way I wanted to.

We traveled 9 hours on tarred roads, from Melfort to Edmonton, without fear of attacks by Fulani herdsmen or extortionist policemen; I drank in the huge rural land owned by farmers who practice mechanised farming.

By the way, I got the first taste of what true mechanised farming is all about; from sun up to dusk, the lone farmers are hard at work, ploughing acres of farmlands as far as the eye can see. One farmer!

They have huge size cows, horses that looked like houses and barns and silos that can hold an entire state in Nigeria! Every thing comes supersize around there.

On another trip we traveled 11 hours driving from Edmonton to Calgary and Fairmont Banff Springs, where we viewed exotic sites like the Two Jacks Lake Viewpoint, the lake was frozen when I visited.

I marveled at the majestic Tunnel mountains that loomed so large, it got scary staring at them at some point; we took a Brewster Tour bus and rode the cable car called the gondola and from heights unimaginable, we were able to get up close to truly appreciate the snow capped mountains and the town below… the view was simply breathless!

Canada is huge and the potentials it offers are enormous. However, I found that opportunities exist in blue collar jobs and yet, many young Nigerians mostly think it’s beneath them. They fall under the assumption that their certificates qualifies them for bigger jobs with juicy pay packets.

Nah!

Here, you work haaarrrdd for da mani!

There are no free lunches, so if you want to live in another man’s country? Get down and dirty!

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