I spent the greater part of the last five months with a wonderful young Finn called Lari Panaanen. He was in Nigeria for an exchange program and I found it interesting the ways in which he formed his views of Nigeria, moreso the views themselves. I’ve asked him to write about his trip and views of Nigeria and he so graciously did. Read, comment and share!

 

Lari Paananen (Kuopio) writes:

It’s April 2013, I’m reading my school e-mail at my place-of-work, in Kuopio, Finland which is where I study, work and live at the moment. Then I realize there’s a mail from a leader of this international student exchange program: basically, the person congratulates me for having being selected to travel to Nigeria on the summer of 2013. Nigeria… like most of the Finnish people, I know only the basic facts of that African country: densely populated, lots of different ethnicities, large landmass etc… Let’s compare Nigeria and Finland a little bit: Nigeria has about 170 million people, whereas Finland has 5.5 million inhabitants. Finland has four seasons in a year and only during our three-month summer the temperature is expected to rise over 20-degrees, in Nigeria people very rarely experience temperatures less than 20. There are lots of diversities in Nigeria, people come from different backgrounds and have different views of the world – in Finland we are controlled almost completely by the government and in every aspect, we are a very homogenous country: I don’t complain about this because this is the reason we don’t have poor people in Finland and all the children go to school. The more I read about Nigeria, the more I began to understand that there’s really nothing in common between the two countries. Actually I knew that already, that was one of the reasons I applied to Nigeria in the first place: I’ve been traveling, but never to an African country and I wanted to experience something totally different. So I immediately started making arrangements for my trip to Nigeria and more than six months later, having left Nigeria approximately three weeks ago, I can honestly say that going there was the best decision I’ve ever made!

Couple of days before traveling to Nigeria, I was still enjoying Finland’s summer while I could. I’ve been asked to write a travel blog for my union in Finland (Union for health care professionals; nurses, paramedics etc.) and I’m trying to think of something of interest to write about Nigeria in my first text – actually it wasn’t hard to come up with anything interesting: there were lots of news about Nigeria even in the Finnish newspapers, but the only thing was that they were mainly news about Boko Haram attacks, national strikes and everything that had a negative vibration in it. Trust me that I never had doubts about going to Nigeria but I was almost alone with my thoughts: even my educated friends said that there’s nothing but corruption, crimes and poverty in that country… “Don’t travel”, was the most-used instruction before my departure. Thank you, Western media for those opinions! My family was very supportive and they never had doubts about my trip – maybe they knew that I wasn’t going to change my mind anyway or maybe they are used to having family members around the world: one of my sister’s lives in Australia and other one travels whenever she has a change – she’s going to Burkina Faso this December and just arrived from Hungary.

 

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But truthfully these people who had thoughts about my trip… they really had a point – when there are so many bad news coming from one country, it’s obvious that there is definitely something wrong with that nation. Even the whole process of entering Nigeria has been made too difficult: I had to go through various medical check-ups and I was given five immunizations… one of them caused my appendix to burst and it was removed less than two weeks before my trip. Visa application was irrelevantly thorough, I had to write completely meaningless and personal stuff there and eventually I was issued wrong visa which, according to the embassy, didn’t matter. I can sincerely say that the last few weeks were very frustrating for me, and I didn’t even know if I would be able to conduct my studies in Nigeria because of the ASUU strike. But no matter what, I wanted to give Nigeria a fair chance…

(End of Part 1)

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